The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

the you ive never known

# of Pages: 592

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 85

Rating: 5 out of 5

Ariel just wants to put down roots. She is a high school senior, and her and her father have never settled anywhere longer than they have here, in Sonora, California. It’s always been just the two of them, Ariel and her dad, living their nomadic lifestyle all over the country. All Ariel has ever known is that the only person she can count on is her father, ever since her mother left them for her lesbian lover.  

Maya’s mother is abusive. All she knows is that she’ll do anything to escape her, even get pregnant and marry an older man, though she’s only 16. When Ariel’s story collides with Maya’s, Ariel begins to understand that everything may not always be as it seems. Ariel’s father has kept secrets, and now that she has found a community in Sonora, Ariel may finally be able to find the strength to discover who she really is.


I have to start out by saying, June has been kind of a dud for me, book-wise. I had this big stack of books that had been sitting on my shelf since I bought them around Christmas, just waiting to get cracked open. But as I’m sure you could tell by my reviews, none of them quite lived up to my expectations of them.

But I knew Ellen Hopkins would never let me down. I have been a fan of hers since high school, and never once has a book of hers disappointed me. I’m sure some of you looked at the page count and are wondering how on earth I read nearly a  six-hundred-page book in three days. Well, it’s really very possible for just about anyone when the pages look like this:

The You I've Never Known interior

Yup. That’s poetry. Ellen Hopkins writes her novels in poetry. An absolutely unique form of storytelling, to my knowledge. The only thing that I’ve ever read that I could compare it to, stylistically, are the epic poems of Homer and Virgil. And, honestly, I think Ellen Hopkins’ books are just as important.

I’m about to go on quite the rant here, because ever since I read my first Ellen Hopkins book when I was about 16, these books have changed me. My first book was Impulse, a story of three teens who tried to commit suicide and were placed in an institution after their attempts failed. I read very nearly that entire book on a two-hour plane ride, and ever since that moment I have been convinced that Ellen Hopkins’ books should be on required reading lists in high schools everywhere.

Why? Because she writes about things that are important. Relevant. She writes about suicide, domestic abuse, drug abuse, rape, sex trafficking, prostitution, teen pregnancy, dealing with death, forgiveness, mental illness…the list could go on. Her books are important. And they are accessible. You don’t have to be a reader like me to enjoy books like this. I even remember two girls in my class in the 8th grade reading Crank, and I always thought if either one of those girls ever touched a book they’d burst into flames.

Not every high schooler goes through the issues that Ellen Hopkins writes about in her books. I certainly didn’t. But there is an unfathomable amount of teenagers, children, who go through these things, and don’t see a lot of representation in media, much less and accurate representation.

And that’s the important part, at least to me. Ellen Hopkins isn’t just sitting up there on her high horse, preaching to teenagers about things that she doesn’t know anything about. Crank, arguably the book that made her famous, is about a young girl, straight A’s, college bound. Then one summer she goes a little wild and ends up getting addicted to crack. And this book? Based upon the struggles of Ellen Hopkins’ own daughter. Hopkins understands the struggles that these youth go through, both through experience and extensive research, but she never, ever talks down to those experiences. These books never feel preachy. They don’t always have happy endings, but they have realistic endings, and their purpose is always a show of support to those out there that are affected by these problems every day.


Okay, whew, end rant. I realize that basically none of the above has to do with the actual, singular book that I read this week, but I’ll get to that now.

I try very hard to be at least a little critical of every book that I read, but with this one I had a really hard time finding faults. The book was paced flawlessly, I was absolutely hooked from the first page, and truly couldn’t put it down for three days. My coworkers even laughed at me when I took it into the bathroom at work.

One of my favorite things about Ellen Hopkins’ characters is that they are always noticeably flawed. Ariel, though truly a good person at heart, is painfully naïve in places, and she can be angry and judgmental sometimes, but can’t we all? Maya is brave and strong-willed, but also very rash with her own dose of naiveté. But the most important part about both of these characters is that they feel absolutely real, in a way that I’ve never really found in books by any other author. Hopkins’ characters feel like people you could meet on the street, and that is a true mark of a great storyteller.

Honestly, if I had to pick one problem, I’d say there was a touch more predictability in this story than in any of her other ones. However, I actually think that is more a problem of the blurb than of the story itself. The blurb on the hardcover of this book is really long, and actually reveals nuggets from the story that you don’t actually learn until more than ¾ of the way through it. But since I, of course, read the blurb, I predicted with nearly perfect accuracy the end of this book. Not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the ride, but it’s always more fun for me if I don’t know what’s coming, which Hopkins is really good at, I can usually never guess the ending of her books. So, if you decide to read The You I’ve Never Known, don’t read the blurb. Just trust me that it’s worth your time, and read my little description at the top of this review. It’s shorter and more discreet, if I do say so myself.

So hooray, I finally read a five star book this month. I absolutely insist that you check out The You I’ve Never Known, or any other of Ellen Hopkins’ YA masterpieces this summer. You won’t regret it, I promise.


If you liked The You I’ve Never Known, try: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

One thought on “The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

  1. Yay! So happy you finally got your five star book, I was worried for a bit there. I love getting to read your reviews, I always know if you recommend a book it is worth reading.


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