Norton, Preston. Neanderthal Opens The Door To The Universe. Disney-Hyperion, 2018. 416p. ISBN: 9781484790625. $17.99. *** HS OT
At 6’6” and 250 pounds high school outcast Cliff Hubbard nicknamed “Neanderthal” by his peers has never had it easy. He lives in a trailer with his unemployed physically and verbally abusive alcoholic father and his passive mother. The suicide of his older brother, his one real friend, has made life at home even more unbearable than ever. Cliff hates life, high school, and he really really hates the high school quarterback Aaron Zimmerman. Aaron returns to school after being in a coma and tells Cliff that God gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High School suck less. Cliff is the only one that can help him complete the list and Cliff is skeptical to say the least. He even surprises himself when he agrees.
A solid debut from Preston Norton, though be forewarned this title contains every standard teen trope there is, including: the meanest bully ever, the teacher who lost his passion, super-Christians who act less than Christian, stoners, drug dealers, wealthy jocks, highly attractive teen girls, an understanding principal and the one gay kid. It still manages to have an air of freshness to it. The fact that Cliff comes from an impoverished background adds a dimension not always portrayed in this type of contemporary quest. It also scores for having a fair share of humor. However, some points are taken away for some key characters being a little two dimensional. Drinking, drugs and sex means that this isn’t appropriate for most middle school shelves.
Carla Avitabile, San Mateo Public Library
Bullying, Coming of Age, Humor, Realistic