Arts + Culture

Review: The You I’ve Never Known

Summary from Goodreads:

“How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? A new novel in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins.”

For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.

Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.

Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.

What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?

In bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s deft hands, Ariel’s emotionally charged journey to find out the truth of who she really is balances beautifully with Maya’s story of loss and redemption. This is a memorable portrait of two young women trying to make sense of their lives and coming face to face with themselves—for both the last and the very first time.


I first fell in love with Ellen Hopkins when I was in high school – her artistic stanza forms really made me truly fall in love with poetry, a genre I’ve never loved. Picking up The You I’ve Never Known after a few years of not reading her books reminded me why I love and respect her as an author – she is so in-your-face and blunt about sensitive material in a way that puts whatever issue she writes about into perspective. On a side note, I finished this book in 3 days, so it’s a quick read for anyone who is looking to add a new genre to their bookshelves, and add to your reading challenges!

Ariel is such an amazing character. She has put up with so much, and we see her journey and her struggles to figure out who she really is, and it’s just so beautiful. I love the way Ellen Hopkins takes her time with each character, and she develops them extremely well.

The You I’ve Never Known took me on such an emotional roller coaster – the upsets, heartbreaks, and danger was just too much to handle sometimes.

Then there is Maya – underage, yet so in love with her baby daddy. Unfortunately, he changed as soon as they got married, and she ran from one abusive relationship to another. Her struggles are awe-inspiring, and she is driven entirely on motherly instincts.

If you’re the kind of reader who loves when a book has meaning behind it, then definitely read The You I’ve Never Known. Hopkins’ daughter was taken from her, and it took about 3 years to find the poor girl. I personally had no idea that she went through this, and when I read this at the ending I was just completely heart broken, because you obviously can’t help but think that this must have been Ellen’s biggest fear – never seeing her daughter again, which is an overlying feeling throughout the novel.

Overall Grade:

4/5. Ellen Hopkins is just as amazing as I remember, so I really did enjoy reading something that I was comfortable with and invested in. The one element that I found to be disappointing was that her stanzas weren’t as artistic like previous books – I was turning each page, expecting something, anything. But it never came.

If you loved any previous books by Ellen Hopkins, then you absolutely have to read this. If you’re looking for a semi-quick read, or a new genre to add to your reading challenges, then I think this is the book for you. It’s very current, and readers of all ages will be able to relate to either the plot or the characters on some level.

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