Book Review: The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know by Brent Hartinger

"I guess this was what they meant by a loss of innocence. Who knew?"

Russel Middlebrook is twenty-three years old, gay, and living in trendy Seattle, but life isn't keeping up with the hype. Most of his friends have a direction in life—either ruthlessly pursuing their careers or passionately embracing their own aimlessness. But Russel is stuck in place. All he knows is that crappy jobs, horrible dates, and pointless hook-ups just aren't cutting it anymore.

What's the secret? What does everyone else know that he doesn't?

Enter Kevin, Russel's perfect high school boyfriend. Could rekindling an old flame be the thing Russel needs to get his life back on track? Or maybe the answer lies in a new friend, an eccentric screenwriter named Vernie Rose, who seems plenty wise. Or what the hell? Maybe Russel will find some answers by joining his best friend Gunnar's crazy search for the legendary Bigfoot!

One way or another, Russel is determined to learn the all-important secret to life, even if it's a thing he doesn't even know he doesn't know.

Author Brent Hartinger first made a splash writing books for teens. The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know, Hartinger's first book for older readers, is just as much of a page-turner as his earlier works, with plenty of his trademark irreverent humor. But now his books have grown up along with his readers, exploring the issues of new adults, especially the complicated matter of love and sex.
Release Date: December 15, 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
I first got to know Russel Middlebrook in The Elephant of Surprise (read my review here).  Russel was in high school back then, and I loved his optimistic and unique voice.  Hartinger has created such a unique and likable character in Russel, and the reader can't help but root for Russel's happiness.

I was excited to check back in with Russel as a young adult.  Russel's fresh out of college and living in Seattle with two of his best friends from high school.  Russel feels out of place in the world, noticing that everyone around him either has what he calls Career Ambition or either Passionate Aimlessness.  Russel has a little bit of both, but mostly he's just working two jobs and trying to figure out what he's going to do with his life. 

The plot takes a fun and unexpected twist when Russel saves a woman from drowning while working at his low-paying lifeguard job.  The woman befriends him, and he learns a lot from her---Vernie was a screenwriter in Hollywood during a time when women weren't accepted in the industry.  Vernie was a great addition to the cast of characters and added a lot of depth and humor to the story. 

For me, the story really got exciting when Kevin, Russel's love from high school, comes back into the picture.  I confess that I was secretly rooting for Kevin and Russel to get back together---they were so perfect for each other back in high school. 

The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know was such a great read.  Russel's narrative voice is engaging and unflinchingly honest.  You can't help but love him.  Hartinger's character development is excellent, and I finished the book smiling and glad I'd read it.  I recommend this book and will definitely read Brent Hartinger again.



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