Monday, February 25, 2013

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

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TITLE: Being Henry David
AUTHOR: Cal Armistead
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Albert Whitman Teen / March 1, 2013
SOURCE: For Review via Netgalley

Goodreads / Author's Website

I will read nearly anything if it references another book or literary figure. I'm pretty sure it's obvious why I requested Being Henry David. "Hank" wakes up one day in Penn Station, he has no idea who he is or why he's there. He only has the clothes on his back and a copy of Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Of course there are some tense adventures,but this is mainly a coming of age story as Hank tries to figure out who exactly he is. 

Being Henry David is one of those books that had me reading it almost completely in one sitting without even realizing it. It's definitely not your classic coming of age story. This one is about a character who can't remember his own name. But you know what, I'm glad it is what it is, it was something different and I ended up really enjoying it. For one thing, male protagonist, I rarely read YA from a male POV. It was a nice change up. 

The book opens with Hank waking up in Penn Station, not knowing anything about himself, but convinced that Walden must hold some meaning. Not going to lie, the beginning didn't grab me. Hank running scared in New York city just wasn't my favourite part of the book, but to be fair, there are two characters introduced that were pretty great. 

The book really picks up when Hank finds Concord, Massachusetts trying to bring back some memories. It's when he starts forming new relationships that I fell in love with the book and Hank as a character. He's scared, he's trying to figure out who he is, but he's still only seventeen. He knows he must have something terrible in his past, trying to remember causes him physical pain, but he just wants to remain a kid just a little bit longer. It's this struggle that's so compelling. Being Henry David is a character based story, but watching Hank's struggle is never tedious. 

Some of the secondary characters really help push this book to another level. I absolutely love Thomas, the librarian and sort of the defacto father figure. He's kind and supportive. He loves books. And the girl next door, Hayley, is well she's not exactly realistic, but she's pretty great and she's definitely not perfect which is refreshing. 

I actually think Being Henry David is one of those books you just have to read. It's difficult to review, there's not a lot of action, there's no swoon worthy romance, it's just a really solid, character driven novel. Plus, it's got some classic literature thrown in, now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to read some Thoreau. 

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