Mayor’s Book Review: NEANDERTHAL OPENS THE DOOR TO THE UNIVERSE by Preston Norton
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Age: Young Adult – 9th grade and up
Mayor’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
High school life sucks for Cliff. At school, his enormous size – he’s 6’6″ and 250 pounds – has earned him the unfortunate nickname of “Neanderthal” from bullying peers. At home, his dirty trailer-park includes his hard-working mom, his alcoholic, abusive dad and the haunting memory of his brother’s suicide. Things suddenly change when his biggest nemesis, the popular and cool Aaron Zimmerman, has a near-death experience that leads to Aaron tracking Cliff down to help him with a seeming insane request. While Aaron was unconscious, he saw God and received a List of things to do to make their small Montana town high school suck less. And, God told him Cliff had to help him. Crazy high school drama mixed with laugh-out-loud moments and deep, philosophical insights make this a very relatable modern day Breakfast Club that takes on homophobia, bullying, and mental health.
My Favorite Part:
This is a book that builds and surprises and makes you think about the meaning of life. I thought it was going to be a typical book about bullying and high school cliques, but it involves a wild cast of characters that are dynamic and much deeper than expected. It deals with death in different ways and forces you to reflect on what you see as the purpose of life through the eyes of different high school students. The use of the List gives readers an opportunity to understand more about kids ranging from local drug dealers to Jesus freaks to computer hacker nerds. I especially loved Cliff’s relationship with Tegan and the relationship with his mother and father that showed his vulnerability and innocence as well as the toughness formed by having an abusive father.
Who Should Read This Book:
Fans of contemporary YA that love character-driven stories full of high school drama will love this book. It does have A LOT of swearing, drug action, sex references, and suicide. So, it’s definitely not for middle-grade readers.
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.