BEING HENRY DAVID by Cal Armistead
BEING HENRY DAVID
Author: Cal Armistead
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Format: Print, Hardcover
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co.
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Recommended Reading: AGE+ 14
Contains no spoilers
THE GIST: A smart tale about a boy searching for his identity in a world that can be both cruel and kind. It is heartbreaking, enlightening, incredibly deep and smart. The writing was quick when it needed to be and slow when the moment called for it. Perfectly executed, I loved this book for so many reasons and it is a journey I recommend anyone read, not just young adult males. Plus, it is nice to see the world through the eyes of an unsure, insecure and very lost boy.
SYNOPSIS: Seventeen-year-old “Hank” has found himself at Penn Station in New York City with no memory of anything –who he is, where he came from, why he’s running away. His only possession is a worn copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And so he becomes Henry David-or “Hank” and takes first to the streets, and then to the only destination he can think of–Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Cal Armistead’s remarkable debut novel is about a teen in search of himself. Hank begins to piece together recollections from his past. The only way Hank can discover his present is to face up to the realities of his grievous memories. He must come to terms with the tragedy of his past, to stop running, and to find his way home.
THE LOWDOWN: Not since Rob Thomas, have I come across a coming of age story told from a young, male perspective that touched me so deeply. This tale does not succumb to the traditional YA traps. Yes, it has love, but it is pure and subtle; it has violence, but it is clumsy and necessary; it also has tragedy, but it is purposeful and isn’t gratuitous. In fact, everything about this entire story is honest, real and executed to perfection.
I don’t usually give 5 star reviews, but while taking a deeper look to try to find things I didn’t like about this book, I came up empty. From the first page, I felt like I was ripped out of reality and sent barreling straight into this boys story. The pacing was spot on. Frantic sentences tactfully placed when panic sets in, omitting adjectives and clichés. Then during scenes that were thoughtful and reflective, the author slows down, enlisting descriptive verbiage that draws you into the characters mind. It was quite an experience.
The story has the protagonist Hank, slipping in and out of reality, often times speaking to things that are not there, while occasionally skipping back and forth, from present to past. Each one of these tactics is generally extremely difficult to pull off seamlessly, but for Cal Armistead, it was flawless. I never once asked – where am I; who am I with; or what just happened? I just knew. And each memory Hank slid into had me slipping and sliding right beside him. Masterful!
To top it off, the characters were incredibly rich. Each and every one had a purpose and drove the story. They were not only necessary; they were loved…by me. Their voices were vastly different from each other and I never felt confused about who was saying what to whom. Each character had a unique voice and a story almost as interesting as Hanks. And even if you don’t know what fate has in store for a character, if they disappear without so much as a peep, it never feels like something is missing. It felt like a complete book. No cliffhangers, no open-ended storylines or subplots, just an honest to goodness story with a beginning middle and end.
If you are looking for a smart book, told from a flawed, lost, intelligent, boys perspective, beg, borrow or sit in Barnes & Noble and read this book.
Received a free copy in exchange for an honest review