Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Review - Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Date Read: May 28, 2018
Length: 416 pages
Source: NetGalley

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 no one 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.

My Review

My thoughts are somewhat mixed regarding this book.  I really had no trouble reading it and did enjoy the story but it was missing that extra spark that it would have needed to make it great.  It was a book that was pretty easy to set aside because I never felt completely invested in the story.  There were a lot of issues address in this story and in some ways it felt like nothing went beyond the surface level.  I did find the book entertaining and am glad that I decided to pick it up.

Cliff is huge which is one of the reasons that his classmates refer to him as Neanderthal.  He leads a rather solitary life and is dealing with the loss of his brother not too long ago.  Cliff and Aaron are not friends at the start of this book.  Aaron is the popular quarterback so he has very little in common with Cliff . When Aaron has a near death experience, he partners with Cliff to fulfill a to-do list that he received from God.  The list is very specific and everything on it is tied to their high school.  If they can accomplish all of the tasks, the school will undoubtedly benefit from their efforts.

This book touches on so many issues.  I actually think that it would have improved the story if fewer issues were dealt with but in greater detail.  Cliff and Aaron are not only dealing with their list but they are also developing relationships including their own friendship.  Some of the items on the list sound almost impossible and other will require some investigation before they can even begin.

I liked the characters but I never felt like I completely connected with them.  The book is told from Cliff's point of view and I didn't feel like I got to know any of the other key players beyond the surface level.  Even during some parts of the book that were more emotional, I found that I was rather unmoved.  I think I would have liked this book a lot more if I had been able to develop an emotional connection with any of the characters.

I did enjoy the story and thought that it had a lot of unique aspects.  I do think that a lot of readers will enjoy this one a bit more than I did.  I wouldn't hesitate to read more from Preston Norton in the future.

I received a digital review copy of this book from Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley.
About the Author

Preston Norton is: bisexual, slightly genderqueer, married. His partner, Erin, is trying to put him on a diet, and he’s revolting (both contexts apply). He has taught seventh grade and ninth grade English, mentored drug addicts, and mowed lawns (in no particular order). He is obsessed with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Quentin Tarantino.

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

21 comments:

  1. It does have a neat premise and I can see where it would have a good message as they work on the list, become friends, and Cliff feels needed after his family's loss. But, I agree that a story like this needs to have an emotional connection for the readers. Actually, I guess that's true of any story. :)

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  2. I was curious about this book when I saw the synopsis for the first time. I probably won’t read it, though. I have so many books and so little time! I can see how it would be shallow. There’s A LOT going on in there. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. I think that there was just too much at times.

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  3. ah yes I had a book where the author wanted to touch so many things that in the end it was a bit too much too

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    1. Sometimes fewer issues work out a bit better.

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  4. Good, but missing that spark...well if it still was good then that is good enough for me :)

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    Replies
    1. It was a good read even if I didn't love it.

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  5. That's too bad it was missing that connection. It's almost frustrating to read a book that has so much potential but never quite clicks. It does sound interesting and like a good read.

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    Replies
    1. It was a good read and a lot of reviewers did seem to like it a bit more than I did.

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  6. It sounds like there's a lot going on in this one. Sorry it wasn't a better read for you.

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    1. I did enjoy it even if I didn't fall in love with it.

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  7. I was sad when I was "declined" for this book, but now I don't feel as bad. Sometimes I feel like YA authors want to include SO many issues, that they lose the story. It's not easy to juggle them all, but at least the book was still enjoyable.

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    1. I think I grabbed this one when it was a read now or I probably would have been declined. I didn't love but I am glad I read it.

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  8. I was on the fence about this one, and while I still may pick it up, I'm glad I didn't prioritize it. It's frustrating for me when there are too many facets of a story for the author to fully develop any of them.

    Great review Carole!

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    1. I noticed that a lot of reviewers like it a lot more than I did so it may work out better for you.

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  9. The premise of this one really interests me, and I'm kind of curious about what is on the list. But sometimes books address too many issues, but then never delve into any deep enough to hook us as readers and make us feel like we are really thinking about the issue. This one sounds like that a bit. But I am glad it was still a decent read.

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    1. You should give it a try if it interests you. A lot of reviewers loved it!

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  10. I think it is an interesting sounding idea for a book, just perhaps needing a few changes to make it better.

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    1. A lot of people love this one but it just never completely won me over.

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  11. I felt a little bit mixed about this one too. I loved parts of it, and I definitely felt for the characters, but they were a bit rougher around the edges than I'm 100% comfortable with (I don't mind swearing or talk of sex, and I totally get that this is the way lots of teenagers talk---but I felt like it was a little more extreme in this book? And I'm never a fan of drug use.)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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