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You Don’t Know Me by David Klass

June 21, 2009

You Don’t Know Me by David Klass
published by Perfection Learning August, 2002

John, protagonist of You Don’t Know Me seems like a typical high school student, and people might think they know who he is. He goes to school, and he has a few friends. He plays the tuba. But under the surface people don’t really know him. This includes his mother, who has no idea that he suffers daily abuse from her live-in-boyfriend — abuse that escalates until John fears for his life.

Most of this novel is a stream of consciousness. John imagines himself talking to his mother, his teachers, and his classmates, and he reflects on his “life that is not a life.” Sometimes his real life and his imaginary inner world blend seamlessly.

I was pulled in my the narrator, a quirky, gifted, endearing 14-year-old who reminded me a bit of Paul Zindel’s early characters. The story is moving, and his thoughts are — at times — laugh-out-loud funny. Although the shifts between raw, serious issues and over-the-top humor were clunky at times, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.


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