Review Detail

Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0

Neanderthal Opens The Door To The Universe by Preston Norton

In a galaxy far, far away, Admiral Ackbar is happily holding an advance copy of “Neanderthal Opens The Door To The Universe” by Preston Norton, exclaiming, “It’s a trap!” A good kind of trap tho ‘coz this book, you guys, is addicting. I started reading and planned on finishing it over the weekends but I can’t keep on flipping past through the pages and when I’m done, I did the unthinkable for someone who has a monster pile of a TBR: I came back to page 1 and read it again. And then I spent some more time obsessing about how lovable its characters are, how funnier things are, and how clearer its message is on reading it the second time around.

The titular Neanderthal is sixteen-year old Cliff Hubbard, an uninvolved big guy who tends to use his fists when dealing with the school bullies. His only friend before was his older brother, Shane, who committed suicide months ago before the book starts.And now he is left aimlessly alone along the harsh halls of high school. So while traversing said halls, Cliff was provoked and had a scuffle with popular goodlooking quarterback, Aaron. Cliff got suspended for a week for it. He vowed he would beat the living lights out of Aaron once his suspension is over. But alas, Aaron got into an accident then came back from coma after three days Messiah style, proclaiming that he has a God-given to-do List and Cliff has to be his anointed holy sidekick. Cliff accepted, because Aaron echoed something Shane said when he was alive: Life isn’t just existing, it’s a door.

The book is in first person PoV. Because he has no friends, Cliff outwardly looks reserved and quiet but my oh my, his narration and character descriptions are bursting with wit. Even Aaron, during his fight with Cliff was surprised when he deigned to trade insults with our homeboy, “Wow, the Neanderthal knows words and shit.” Yep, Cliff is brains and brawn, baby. Really, these people who are name-calling him Neanderthal could never be so wrong because he is far from a dim-witted caveman that they think he is. He is reasonably good at math. He reads classic sci-fi and dystopia books for recreation. And has an arguably superb taste in films (you be the judge: sci-fi, Quentin Tarantino and Jim Carrey). Although he has these Shane baggage and domestic issues going on, he did not sound overly maudlin about them. And despite his reputation as a blood-thirsty, brawl-magnet student of Happy Valley High, he is a gentle giant deep inside.

The book accomplished the daunting task of fleshing out a large cast of characters. I appreciate Aaron, his redemption arc and his mortal enemies turned best of friends relationship with Cliff. I adore Tegan, the love interest with an overflowing sass and personality. I especially like how she broke out of the manic pixie dream girl box. She has her own hopes and dreams, one of which is to become a spoken word artist, and she was given her own domestic issues to deal with. Another stand out character for me is Noah Poulson. I love his complexity as a Christ-believing, preacher’s kid, only openly gay student of Happy Valley High. For years, he was trying to establish a Gay Straight Alliance in school but to no avail. His weariness breaks my heart because he’s been trying so hard and is on this battle alone for too long. His biggest obstacle and heckler is his sister, Esther, the leader of Jesus Teens. Aside from them, there are the teachers, the druggies, the nerd herds, all of which are given things to do, things to say, and while reading I can feel that they have their own lives that exceed their allotted pages in the book.

The book is not perfect. You have to heighten your suspension of disbelief to get through some plot elements. First is the List itself. As the story delves deeper, it becomes less and less the epiphany that Aaron claims to be. But where did it exactly come from? The book did not explain. My guess is it’s a manifestation of Aaron’s subconscious guilt to his douchebaggery, but even then the List appears too much all-knowing. For the record, I can easily forgive this because as Cliff said, the List felt like the right thing to do and its comprehensibility is beside the point. Second is this important scene that heavily relied on coincidence. I will be purposely vague here so as not to give away too much. So there is this lucky hoodie birthday gift from Shane which Cliff thought is actually bad luck because bad things happen when he is wearing it. At the crucial moment that I am talking about, Cliff was able to pull out of its inner folds, an important piece of paper with something important written on it. I can maybe forgive the coincidence thing but wait what, was the hoodie never ever been washed all these months? Because in my personal experience of accidentally leaving notes on clothes and washing it, the paper would mush and the ink would blot, all things written on it beyond recognition.

Now what really warmed my heart for the book, despite its flaws, is its overall message of hope delivered in a very entertaining way. The book is hilarious with its rife pop culture reference, memes and such. It’s funny how I was on the verge of tears a lot of times but this book just refuses to make me ugly cry with its jokiness. It will engage you in deep reflection but it also has this built-in cheer up feature to pull you up from some serious funk mode. In a way, Cliff and Aaron became the prophets of Happy Valley High in their own right, stirring the people to never stop caring. The ending felt earned and accomplished. The book has a lot of shining moments that delivers something profound about finding your own place under the sun. If you are a person like me who sometimes finds herself crumbled with the crises of existence, shaking a fist to the universe, yelling, “WHAT’S THE POINT?”, this book is for you. Its characters will shake their fists with you, yell with you, ask the questions with you, seek and maybe find the answers with you.

Good Points
- addicting
- fleshed out adorable set of characters
- rife w/ funny pop culture references
- delivered an overall message of hope in an entertaining way.
Was this review helpful to you? 

Comments

 
 
Ordering 
 
Already have an account? or Create an account
 
 
 
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Summer Bird Blue
A mixed race teen struggles to find her way back...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Starfish
A William C. Morris Award Finalist A New...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Truth Lies Here
In small town Michigan, Penny, an aspiring journalist, teams...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Looking Glass
GIRLS IN TROUBLE. That’s what Sylvie Blake’s older sister...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Something of Substance
Seventeen-year-old Grace Michaels is determined to be thin, even...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Death by the River
SOME TRUTHS ARE BETTER KEPT SECRET. SOME SECRETS...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Soraya: A Wielders of Arantha Prequel
On the planet Elystra, the all-female Ixtrayu tribe have...
 
5.0 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
Scream All Night
A darkly hilarious contemporary realistic young adult novel about...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
A Touch of Gold
King Midas once had the ability to turn all...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Meet the Sky
From award-winning author McCall Hoyle comes a new young adult...
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
A Dog in King Arthur’s Court (Cavall in Camelot #1)
In Camelot, King Arthur’s dog encounters a world of danger...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Fray
She's been trained for battle but is she ready for...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Emergence (Kindred Ties: Book Two)
The fight for order has only just begun… Fletcher, Ariana...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
All Summer Long.jpg
A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel about summer and friendships, written...
 
0.0
 
4.0 (1)
They Say Blue
Caldecott and Printz Honor-winning illustrator Jillian Tamaki brings us a...
 
0.0
 
4.0 (1)
Lady Knight (Crystal Journals) Book 3
Shortlisted 2018-19 "Chocolate Lily Book Award"... ...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)

Latest Member Reviews

The Truth Lies Here
 
4.0
"THE TRUTH LIES HERE by Lindsey Klingele is a young adult, sci-fi novel set in Bone Lake, Michigan. This little..."
Scream All Night
 
5.0
"I am NOT a Horror fan. I am a big scaredy cat when it comes to the genre, be it..."
Meet the Sky
 
4.3
"Meet the Sky is an ably-written, well-paced contemporary YA—one which is perhaps best described as a pleasantly stormy beach read...."
A Touch of Gold
 
4.0
"When I read the synopsis for this book I was immediately intrigued. I love retellings and this book seemed right..."
Pretty Dead Girls
 
3.0
""Pretty Dead Girls" was an interesting YA thriller following Penelope (Pen/Penny) in the aftermath of a death of a frenemy,..."
Relic
 
4.0
" “Relic” is a historical paranormal novel about Maggie, a teenaged girl who lives with her brother, sister and parents..."
All Summer Long
 
4.0
" Austin and Bina have been inseparable friends since they were in diapers. The summer going into the eighth..."
The Darkest Legacy
 
4.3
"Five years have passed since the 'rehabilitation' camps have been shut down. Suzume 'Zu' is now seventeen years old and..."
The Turnaway Girls
 
3.7
"Delphernia lives in a cloister of turnaway girls on the island of Blightsend, and she's unable to do the one..."
The Looking Glass
 
4.0
"THE LOOKING GLASS by Janet McNally is a young adult novel set in the highly competitive world of aspiring New..."
Brightly Burning
 
3.3
"An ambitious work of YA speculative fiction—a post-apocalyptic premise fused with the plot of a beloved classic. I’d like..."
Give Me Some Truth
 
4.3
"Carson Mastick and Magpie "Maggi" Bokoni are two Native American high school students living on a reservation outside of Niagara..."
House of Ash
 
5.0
"I’m just going to go ahead and say it. I LOVED THIS BOOK. I absolutely devoured it from start to..."
Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over
 
4.7
"'Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over' by Shani Petroff captures the angst of romantic hardships and misunderstandings. When eighteen-year-old..."
The Opposite of Innocent
 
5.0
"'The Opposite of Innocent' is yet another fantastic novel-in-verse by the illustrious Sonya Sones. The story will draw readers in..."
Echo's Sister
 
5.0
"'Echo's Sister' by Paul Mosier is a realistic and heartwarming story that truly gets to the heart of the matter...."
Storm-Wake
 
3.3
"Moss has grown up on a magical island with Pa, his stories, and their dogs. The island is filled with..."
A Kiss in the Dark
 
3.3
"WHAT I LOVED: Macy is a likable, layered character and her narration flows easily. Even when my frustration mounted..."
Poe: Stories and Poems
 
5.0
"The perfect gift for any Poe fan, Gareth Hinds breathes life—and gory death—into some of the greatest works of Edgar..."
Who's That Girl
 
4.0
"I was drawn to this book because of the musical theme and it wasn’t disappointing. Who’s that girl is a..."