Book Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Summary: Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he's so enormous-6'6" and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother's suicide.

There's no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there's only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he's in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS--Cliff feels like he's part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn't as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they've completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.

Release Date: May 2018
Age Group: YA, Contemporary
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

I've been sitting on this review for a month because I just didn't know how to write what I felt about it. I'm an ice queen. I can compartmentalize feelings in less than 5 seconds but this book hit the Mom in me. My most cherished role. At the surface this was a crass, funny, coming-of-age story but at the core it dives into the complex issues our youth face each day-- sexuality, socioeconomic distress, religion and uncertainty all mixed with the typical high school experience of being inexperienced. 

By nature I am conservative with flares of liberalism. I am not left. I am not right. I am for the legalization of marijuana (for medical use) and staunchly anti-abortion. I strive for a bit of yin & yang. Let's be clear, I am no saint. I silently judge at Wal-Mart, snarky remarks are my forte and I am opinionated. 

Did I agree with all the views of this book? No. Did I agree with some? You bet. I try to always step back and see situations from others perspectives and sometimes agree to disagree. I'll always love people, even in the crappiest of circumstances. By nature I am a do'er and I try to stay afloat with action. But a lot of times I have to remind myself that people's opinions are like butt-holes, they all stink. 

With that said, I really enjoyed Neanderthal. It was incredibly honest, hilarious, sad, sweet, at times intolerant and still hopeful. The first 5 pages had me laughing so hard that Sweet Stuff actually threatened to kick me out of bed! 15 years and I have never achieved this crowning threat... I seriously couldn't stop giggling. 

Neanderthal (Cliff) was basically written after my brother. If drinking and not careful, the phrases and comments of Cliff would make you spew water. Yeah, no drinking during this read. Cliff was so intelligent and yet a victim of circumstance... sounds like 90% of the youth I interact with. Yet he persisted. 

This is not a clean read, this is a raw read. It has more of a realistic image of what life is like for most teens today. There are foul-mouthed teens, drugs, homophobia, parental abuse, confusion of sexuality and religious instability. My biggest complaint was the overuse of the F-bomb. Seriously NOT.A.FAN. 

Just about every worry I have as a mother popped-up:

Will my kids be confident enough to stand up for what they believe?
Will my kids be confident enough to stand up for those that can't stand for themselves?
Will they remember that it's better to be kind than right? 

Will I eventually want to beat up a child? 😁 just kidding... kind of... ahhhh, Mom'ing is hard y'all 💆🏼

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is more than a coming-of-age story, it is a window into our society today as seen by our {confused/misplaced/forgotten/innocent} youth.

Don't read it to agree. Don't read it to disagree. Read it to be informed. Read it to know the struggles of our youth today. Read it to be a better friend. Read it to decide what you can stand for and what you stand against. Most important, whatever you do, do it with kindness and compassion. Don't tear down those that disagree with you. Be the example of what you "preach". And for crying out loud stop saying the F-word! Get a thesaurus and choose another expletive to express yourself.

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