Wednesday, May 23, 2018

ARC Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe
Author: Preston Norton
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (June 5, 2018)

Description: Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he's so enormous-6'6" and 250 pounds to be exact. He has nobody at school, and life in his trailer-park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother's suicide.

There's no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there's only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he's in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS, Cliff feels like he's part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn't as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they've completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.

Razor sharp, moving, and outrageously funny, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is an unforgettable story of finding your place in an imperfect world.

My Thoughts: NEANDERTHAL OPENS THE DOOR TO THE UNIVERSE was an engaging story about a young man finding some purpose in his life. Cliff Hubbard - called "Neanderthal" by the other students at school because he's 6' 6" tall and weighs 250 pounds - has been lost since his older brother Shane's suicide nearly a year ago. He's angry and uninvolved beyond hating everything and everyone at his school. His home life is also falling apart as his unemployed drunk father is taking out his anger on Neanderthal and his mother is not intervening.

When one of the kids Neanderthal hates most - Aaron Zimmerman , high school quarterback and popular kid, recovers from a near death experience and says he has a to-do list from God which will make things better at their school, Neanderthal is in. Maybe this is the purpose that will help him come to terms with his brother's death.

As Neanderthal and Aaron try to right wrongs and change things for the better, Neanderthal begins to find friends and even a girlfriend. They deal with the worst bully in the school who really isn't such a bad guy, the local Jesus Teens who are led by a fanatical girl, and try to track down a computer hacker among other things. Neanderthal's faith in others is tested but he always manages to keep at least a hint of hope.

This was a great story about friendship and making small changes to make a big difference. I liked it. However, the language was often crude. It was hard to find a family-friendly quote. If you can overlook the language, Cliff was a thoughtful and articulate young man who reads and thinks deeply. The book is filled with quotes from the books and movies that he uses as life guides.

Favorite Quote:
"Wait. You didn't steal it from them, did you?"

"'Steal' is a strong word, I prefer 'permanent borrowization via stealth tactics.'"
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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