Being Henry David - Cal Armistead

Genre: Young Adult/Fiction
Seventeen-year-old "Hank" has found himself at Penn Station in New York City with no memory of anything --who he is, where he came from, why he's running away. His only possession is a worn copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And so he becomes Henry David-or "Hank" and takes first to the streets, and then to the only destination he can think of--Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Cal Armistead's remarkable debut novel is about a teen in search of himself.


 Review: I suppose I should have expected this novel to revolve somewhat around the philosophies around Thoreau - but I didn't really expect there to be regular quotes from  Walden, many often repeated twice or more throughout the novel. The book started off immensely well, I absolutely adored the beginning and it seemed so full of promise. I immediately came to like three out of the four characters introduced (though the one I did not was the narrator himself, which I suppose never bodes well). I had been looking forward to a dark, gritty exploration of life on the street in New York City while this boy with no past dreamed of a cabin in the woods which might, and eventually would, unlock the secrets of his past.

Unfortunately, the book does a 180 not far into the story, leaving New York and heading to Concord quite early. From there, we meet one more character I liked, and another I hated. From the point where Hank reaches Concord, the whole thing descends into a contrived bout of convenient plot points, and a secondary plot that made me want to hit my head off a wall. It's a shame, because the book picks up again as soon as we begin to learn about Hank's past, and in fact the facts of his situation are quite original and refreshing in their lack of immediate obviousness. Unfortunately, this is not enough to save a novel that wanders through a few different tones, and ultimately never really resolves anything for the few characters I cared about. Worth giving a go, and easy to read to the end, but don't expect too much.

Rating: 3/5

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