❋ ❋ ❋ ❋
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Cliff is a 6'6" and 250 pound loser, in fact his nickname at school is Neanderthal. He has no one in his corner and everything has gone bad to worse since his older brother's suicide last year. Cliff can't stand the star quarterback, Aaron. When Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience, he says that he saw God when he was out of it. The real kicker is that God gave Aaron a to-do list to make Happy Valley High suck less - and that he needs to help Neanderthal. No one is more surprised than Cliff himself when he agrees to help Aaron with the list which features everything from a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at the school. For the first time since he lost his brother, Cliff feels like he's part of something bigger than himself. Fixing a screwed up school isn't as easy as it looks and as soon as Cliff think they've completed the list, he realizes their mission hits much closer to home than he expected.
I'm so glad I found Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton. YA Contemporary isn't usually my go-to genre choice, but this new novel is a compelling must-read. Cliff is now one of my favorite leading guys in YA. He's been dealt a crappy hand in life and he's so fed up by everything, but he hasn't given in and has hope for the future. After all with Aaron, he begins to try to put make seemingly small changes in order to enact bigger, positive change at their school and in their own lives. Another one of my favorite things about Cliff is his sense of humor. I mean, sometimes his inner monologue is laugh out loud funny - if crude at times. The author does a brilliant job of developing his cast of characters from the main characters and the supporting characters, but Cliff himself is for me the most compelling. I felt an entire spectrum of emotions for him from misty-eyed sadness, red-hot anger, to uplifting hope.
Overall, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is an absolute must for fans of brutally honest, yet ultimately hopeful, funny, and relatable YA Contemporary with a well-written cast. If you're interested in the work and writing style of John Green and Andrew Smith, you may enjoy Preston Norton's style. I will definitely have to check into Norton's other releases and his future projects.
Thanks again, NetGalley!
I read this ARC from May 14 - 15, 2018 and my review is also on Goodreads. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe will be released on June 5th, 2018.