I want to start this review by saying I absolutely love Ellen Hopkins as a writer, I love her style of writing and am always captivated by her stories.
The You I’ve Never Known centers around Ariel Pearson who has spent her childhood and early teen years wandering across the country with her father. Ariel believes her mother walked out on them when she was a baby to pursue a relationship with a woman, this however turns out to be a lie fabricated by her vengeful father.
True to Ellen’s writing style, this story is told from multiple points of view, primarily Ariel’s pov but also from her mother’s, Maya. Early on in the story the relationship between Ariel and Maya isn’t made clear, I began to put the pieces together and guess the ultimate truth maybe mid-way thru. Ariel’s father Mark, kidnapped Ariel when she was a baby to spite her mother Maya for planning to end their marriage. A few years after kidnapping her he was able to steal new identities for them, they were no longer Jason and Casey Baxter, AWOL fugitive and kidnap victim, they became Mark and Ariel Pearson, wanderers.
The characters have complex personalities, it’s so easy to relate to some of their struggles, to sympathize and empathize with them. I’m convinced that Mark ‘Jason’, is a psychopath! He is controlling, manipulative, an excellent liar, unopposed to murder and although it isn’t expressly written in the book I got the impression that he is incapable of really loving anyone, including his own daughter. Mark went AWOL from the Army soon after 9/11 to avoid being deployed again and it’s kind of implied that he may suffer from PTSD. For this reason I empathize with his character but I also hate his character because he’s really an all around bad person, and he basically stole Ariel’s ‘Casey’, life!! Ariel is bisexual and unable to understand that part of herself, or unwilling to accept it, I haven’t made up my mind which. By the end of the book she accepts being a bisexual woman but I didn’t feel like it was in a “this is who I am and I love myself unconditionally” kind of way and that bothered me a little bit. Thru-out the story Ariel knows that she is in love with her best friend Monica, she knows she is sexually attracted to Monica but she denies it to herself until she starts to fall for the new guy in town, Gabe. She dates them both, simultaneously, and after having sex with Gabe and then Monica, decides that she is in fact bisexual and eventually stays with Monica, although being that Gabe moved on to another relationship first I don’t believe that was really by choice. After finding out the truth about her father she decides to stop running, face the truth and build a “normal” life, her father chooses to go on the run again but not before trying to kill her by running her off the road. As I said earlier, I’m convinced he’s a psychopath! Maya never calls the police on him!! This was definitely what annoyed me the most in this story, Maya was way too nice about the entire situation! When Mark first kidnapped Ariel, she went to the police, hired detectives, did everything she needed to do to try to get her daughter back, but despite the fact that she received taunting calls from Mark thru-out the years telling her he would never return Ariel to her, I felt like she kind of let it go. When, by sheer luck, she finds Ariel she shows up at her school basketball game to tell her and the only person with her is her partner Tatiana. WHAT?! Even after meeting with and speaking to Ariel she tells her she does not plan to involve the police! WHAT!? I felt like she was resigned to having lost her daughter, especially knowing the kind of man her father is, I expected more from her! I expected more from a mother fighting for her daughter. In the end Ariel and Maya have began to build somewhat of a relationship and Mark is lost to the wind again, but the final outcome of the situation is kind of left in the air.
All things considered I give the book five stars, definitely worth the read.
Thanks for chatting with me – V