Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The You I’ve Never Known

Hopkins, Ellen (Author)
Simon & Schuster 2017. 598 pages
First published: 2017
ISBN: 9781481442909 (hardcover)
9781481442916 (paperback)
9781481442923 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

characterization, dialogue, figurative language, language conventions, multigenre, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

High school senior Ariel hopes she and her father might finally be staying put, after 17 years of nomadic living. While negotiating her first steps toward young adulthood (the excitement of a driver’s licence, a part-time job and relationships with new friends Monica and Gabe), Ariel describes a difficult childhood of neglect, isolation and her father’s threats of violence and abandonment. These experiences distort Ariel’s perspective on her own best interests at times, such as when she recoils from Gabe’s boxing skills: “But beneath his gentle exterior, way down in the depth of those lizard eyes,/roils a red-hot mantle of rage.”

Ariel’s free verse is contrasted with the prose of Maya’s story: “I didn’t see the backhand coming. The prongs of her ring bit into my cheek, leaving four little red cuts to go with the ugly bruise meant to put me in my place … I’m considering my next move now.” Cleverness, strength and determination characterize both these protagonists, as their different challenges echo with similarities.

The layouts of the free verse poems add additional layers of interest and meaning, such as the diagonal pattern formed by the lines, showing how “I’m being yanked in two directions,/and either way I go offers conflict” and in her love-relationship with Monica: “I Don’t Love Gabe/I love her.” When Ariel’s and Maya’s stories finally merge, each character holds the key to the other’s deliverance. “It’s like unlocking/the past freed me to move/into tomorrow.”

  •  Use of multiple perspectives is both a postmodern text convention and a common feature of the verse novel. Here, two voices predominate the others. Share a few opening poems to get a sense of the perspective.
  •  

    Choose a favourite poem and share it with a small group. Discuss why you chose it and what it might mean.

  •  

    Rewrite the story of one of the main characters as a short story or script that takes place over a specific period of time. Which aspects will you include or exclude? Share the new version with a small group and discuss some of the similarities and differences. What can a verse novel do that a short story cannot (and vice versa)?

  •  

    In a small group, discuss teen pregnancy and all its implications, including who gets affected and how.

  •  

    As you read, look for moments of confusion or lack of clarity in both Ariel’s and Maya’s life stories. Who or what provides clarity to their confusion?

  •  

    In an essay, explain why you believe the author wrote Ariel’s story in free verse poetry and Maya’s in prose. Use elements from the story to justify and support your answer.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences