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Being Henry David

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,159 Ratings  ·  389 Reviews
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, ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2013 by Albert Whitman Teen (first published January 1st 2013)
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YA Debuts 2013
90th out of 513 books — 2,468 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Cal Armistead
Feb 20, 2013 Cal Armistead rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Excellent book! But then again, I wrote it... (Hey, if I don't believe in my book 100%, how can I expect anyone else to?) :)
Mar 27, 2013 karen rated it liked it

i don't know why i am even bothering to write this, since the best thoreau-related book review has already been written, but i will try.

this book is not about thoreau. not directly.

it is about a boy who wakes up in penn station with no memory of who he is or where he has come from. all he has is ten dollars and a copy of walden, which one of new york's more colorful homeless individuals immediately tries to eat.

not a great day.

so, he doesn't know who he is, but he's got a strange feeling that h
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
I will now tell you bad, bad things about this book. If you’re uncomfortable with me telling you such things, you’d best look away ‘cause it’s about to start. Consider yourselves warned.

Being Henry David is a very ambitious project. I believe it was supposed to be a deep, cathartic experience, a heart-wrenching story about a young man unable to face the consequences of his actions. At least I think that’s what Cal Armistead set out to write. What she actually wrote, in my humble opinion, is an a
Feb 28, 2013 Graham rated it really liked it
I admit to a certain amount of trepidation at reading Being Henry David, by Cal Armistead. I am not a fan of Thoreau; I like the political attitude of civil disobedience he espoused, and his natural descriptions are compelling, but his "wouldn't it all be nicer if we just lived more simply" philosophy frankly irritates me. Sure, let's try that if we're not a relatively well-off white man in good health and see how it works out. Another cause for nervousness is that I really like YA books, and ha ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

NetGalley ARC. Thank you, NetGalley!

2.5 Stars

A 17-year old boy wakes up at Penn Station with no memory. All he knows is he has $10 in his pocket, along with a copy of Thoreau’s Walden. Rather than confessing his bizarre story, he chooses to introduce himself as Henry David when he meets a kid named Jack who seems to know his way around the train station. Venturing out to the mean streets, he is nicknamed “Hank” by Jack and his sister,
Dec 29, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing
What an amazing work of art, especially for a debut novel! This book had me sucked in for every single page right up until the end. I can't remember a protagonist I've so closely related to, even though our life experiences have been very different. I felt like I was in his head, thinking his thoughts and feelings his feelings. I do wish the ending provided more answers, especially as far as Nessa and Jack.
Feb 03, 2013 Shannon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
With the exception of a few notable authors (hey John Green!), I've grown increasingly frustrated with YA fiction over the past few years. Instead of highlighting different themes with the same depth as adult literature, the genre is regularly filled with haphazardly tossed together series hoping to cash in on this year's hot setting.

Now, I've always seen Henry David Thoreau as pretty hip, though I think I tend to be in the minority. Either way, he's probably not lighting fires in YA circles an
Mar 01, 2013 Matilda rated it it was amazing

What I Liked:
If you've ever had that one person you can always confide in, that one place you can go to clear your head of all the hectic thoughts flying around your mind or even that one action you can perform that makes everything seem ... not worth all the hassle; then you're like Henry David - or in this case, Hank. Being Henry David was about a teenage guy named Hank. One d
Rachel Sharpe
Apr 19, 2013 Rachel Sharpe rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya, drama, romance, real-life
Summary: A boy wakes up at Penn Station without his memory. His only clue is a copy of Walden, which a crazy man just tried to eat. In the absence of a name, the boy calls himself “Henry David” and sets off on a quest to discover his past.

Along the way, he meets the runaway twins caught up with a drug lord, a former convict turned reference librarian and Thoreau enthusiast, and a diabetic girl with a beautiful voice turned love interest. (Yup, that’s right. A guy with no memory gets a girlfriend
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)
I'm sorry to say that this book didn't work for me.

It didn't start out that way, actually. I thought the concept of this book was really interesting. A guy wakes up in Penn Station with no memory of any time before that moment, and his only possession is a worn "Walden". He has a huge lump on his head and with only $10 in his pocket, he is forced to find some way to survive and figure out where he came from. From author's blurb and from this promising beginning, I was hoping for a gritty surviv
Mar 19, 2013 Erika rated it really liked it
What a page-turner!

From the moment I picked up Being Henry David to the moment I finished, I could not put it down. I did sleep, but it was very begrudgedly that I did so.

I fell in love with "Hank" almost immediately. I find that so often in young adult books when we get the story from a male perspective, there is often so much hate or cursing. That is the last thing I want to read! So when I find characters like Hank, I really treasure them.

Being Henry David is the story of a seventeen year old
Jenny - Book Sojourner
Jun 06, 2013 Jenny - Book Sojourner rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013, e-arc
The story we embark upon starts with "Hank" awaking at Penn Station with no memory of who he is and only the clothes he's wearing and a copy of Walden by his side. But he has this intuition that something is wrong and he's not ready to turn himself into the police as a missing person, which would obviously be the fastest way for him to figure out who he is. Instead he names himself Henry David, gets nicknamed as "Hank" by one of the interesting characters he meets, and starts this journey of dis ...more
Colette Whitney
Nov 12, 2012 Colette Whitney rated it liked it
Call me crazy, but I definitely thought that Being Henry David was a fantasy sci-fi type of book. You could imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a tragic hero/coming-of-age novel. I thought for sure that at some point he would realize that he was a time-traveler or an alien or, like, a robot. What I mean is that I didn’t expect this story. I didn’t foresee Hank’s path. I liked that about this book.

So Hank wakes up in New York with a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. So naturally, he
Kristy Sartain- Whispering Pretty Stories Reviews

It's refreshing to read a book from a male point of view. Henry's story is both heartbreaking and lifting at the same time. At times, I cried and didn't know if I was happy or sad for him.

Let me set the scene. A 17-ish year old boy wakes up to someone asking him if he's going to eat that. The boy has no idea who he is, where is, or how he got there. The only thing he has is $10 in his pocket and a well worn copy of Thoreau's Walden. The man asking him if h
Sheri (Tangled Up In Books)
Originally posted on my blog!! :) :)


I almost don't even know where to begin..I was hooked before I finished reading page one and couldn't put it down until I got to the end. I had about 15 pages or so left and I was getting so tired but, stubborn me, couldn't stop and sleep that close to the finish line!

"Being Henry David" pulls you through a full range of emotions. There were some humorous moments that made me, literally, laugh out loud. There were also a couple of parts that completely pul
Review first appeared on my blog: Book Addict 24-7

I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Cal Armistead's Being Henry David is a young adult contemporary novel that examines the effects of grief and the fear that guilt creates within us. "Henry David", or "Hank", is the protagonist struggling to come to terms with who he is and why he is where he is.

I've never read anything by Henry David Thoreau, so reading the few snippets of his novel, Walden, was an interesting and
Apr 17, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
A super YA book that is intelligent, relevant, and well-written (except for an overuse of the word "random" that drove me up a wall!) three qualities not often found in books of this genre. "Hank" wakes up in Penn Station with no memory of who he is. The only clue to his identity is a copy of Thoreau's "Walden" that he is carrying. After a difficult few days in NYC, he decides to escape to Concord, MA and see what HDT's words can reveal to him about his own life. As threads of memory start to em ...more
Mary Wu
May 30, 2013 Mary Wu rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Middle School through adult
I enjoyed this book, and read it rather quickly to find out who Henry David was (it really was a page turner).

I don't want to give my review though, I want to give the review for my 11 year old daughter. This is a middle school/young adult book, so let's see what that audience thinks.

Some of my friends know that it has been difficult to get my daughter interested in reading. She'll often pick up a book and read a chapter or two and declare it "boring."

The morning after I handed this book to m
Jan 27, 2013 Mersini rated it really liked it
Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company (via NetGalley)

What a great book. It follows Hank, a teenager who wakes up at Penn Station, New York, without the first idea of how he got there, who he is, or where he is supposed to be going. He makes friends, escapes the clutches of a drug dealer, and ends up in Concord, Massachusetts because his only possession is a battered copy of Thoreau's Walden; here he seems to get some semblance of a life together. This is a book, not only about finding yoursel
Erica Smith
Jan 03, 2013 Erica Smith rated it really liked it
“Being Henry David” by Cal Armistead is an emotional ride through the mind of a seventeen year old and along the way it keeps you wondering what happened to him(with scattered symbols and icons) and how did he end up in Penn Station without a memory of who he is? The book requires a grain of patience.

A boy finds himself on the floor of Penn Station with nothing but a tattered book by Henry David Thoreau called “Walden”. He doesn’t know his name; he has no recollection of anything except the here
Dec 31, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: ya, arcs
Upon first impressions I got maybe 2 pages into the book and decided I wanted to move on to something else. A couple days later I came back, and I'm so glad I did. Despite a couple of small issues I had with the book, I thought it was great. I'm not going to go into a plot summary because I'm terrible at those and I don't want to give anything away, but overall this book had heart. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me fall in love with a tattooed, motorcycle riding librarian. I enjoy ...more
Jenna Friebel
Jan 19, 2013 Jenna Friebel rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Note: ARC received from NetGalley

I’m really glad I decided to read this book. It’s not something that I would normally choose, but I decided to give it a chance which ended up being a great decision. The story begins with a teen boy waking up at Penn Station in New York City with no idea who he is. He just has a feeling he should stay away from the cops, and his only clue to discover his identity is a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau that he has with him. He quickly gets swept into some sca
Abbe Hinder
I don't understand how anyone could not love this book. The romance doesn't overpower the message the book is trying to get across nor does it stray. I could also relate to Hank as if he were an actual person, not just a character in a fictional story. Being Henry David touched my heart in a way that not very many have. I will forever cherish this book.

Of course the beginning is odd, it takes a few chapters for the story to really get its footing with an awkward writing style (at first) and a bo
'Hank' wakes up at Penn Station in New York with no memory of how he got there, why he's there or who he is. He possesses nothing but the clothes on his back, a $10 bill and a copy of Henry David Thoreau's Walden. He spends his first night after waking up on the streets with Jack and Nessa, two runaways, but after some trouble he escapes to Concord, where Thoreau and some of his contemporaries are much revered. Gradually he pieces back his memory, but with this comes guilt, grief and pain, and H ...more
Apr 28, 2015 Carmen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Teenagers
This was a good book. It reminded me of the movie DANNY DECKCHAIR, because, in this book as well as in that movie, a man lands into a life that he creates for himself, falls in love, and defends his love from a jealous rival.

However, there is a big age difference. Danny in DANNY DECKCHAIR is running away from a bad marriage. He doesn't have amnesia and he lands in a new town, falls for the woman who rescues him (a police officer) and stuns the town with his new and bold ideas. Danny in Being He
Mandie Mc
Dec 25, 2012 Mandie Mc rated it really liked it
A quick and interesting read, and a great, accessible introduction for young adults to one of the great authors and thinkers of the "modern" age - Thoreau.

Being Henry David is a different kind of coming of age novel - one in which the hero has to learn who his is literally, as well as figuratively. "Henry David" aka Hank, is a teenaged boy who has awoken in Penn Station with amnesia. As he tries to scrape together some of his memories, or at least some semblance of a new life, we the readers le
Dixie Keyes
Jul 26, 2015 Dixie Keyes rated it really liked it
This is a book with a great beginning and a great ending (just so you know). Yes Thoreau and his messages are embedded throughout the novel, one might say intelligently interwoven in some of the character's thoughts and actions, and definitely in the setting. Cal Armistead takes readers on a journey with "Hank" and gives us insight into the life of teen runaways. We actually feel as hungry as the characters, and oftentimes as desperate. We also see the perspective of the Good Samaritans along th ...more
Jolene Perry
May 20, 2016 Jolene Perry rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book.
Great guy POV.
Excellent characterization and I never knew what was going to happen next.
LOVE the way this book wraps up - it's such a Jolene ending. Fantastic, w/ room for speculation...
Great read :-D
Sally Kruger
Dec 27, 2013 Sally Kruger rated it it was amazing
A seventeen year old male wakes up in NYC's Penn Station with no ID and no idea who he is. With nothing but a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau, he senses something has gone wrong in his life but doesn't have a clue what it could be.

Figuring maybe the book could reveal some answers to his many questions, he adopts the name Henry David (Hank) and heads out into the city. An unpleasant experience with a couple of runaway teens and their drug dealing benefactor quickly convinces Hank he needs t
Anna (Yoda Is My Spirit Animal)
A seventeen year old boy wakes up in Penn Station with a small amount of money in his pocket, a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau and no idea who he is, or where he came from. Calling himself Hank (after Thoreau), he manages to get on the wrong side of a drug dealer and is forced to flee the city. With very few clues to his past, Hank travels to Concord, Massachusetts to visit Walden Pond and hopefully figure out who he really is - and how to get back home. With the help of some new friends ...more
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Cal has been a writer since age 9, when she submitted her first book, The Poor Macaroni Named Joany to a publisher. Sadly, this literary gem did not make it to print. But Cal continued pursuing her lifelong passion, and wrote copiously for radio, newspapers and magazines (Cal has been published in The Chicago Tribune, Shape Magazine, Body & Soul Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Chicken Sou ...more
More about Cal Armistead...

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“I wish I knew how to turn the volume down on the sadness in this girl’s eyes. I wish I could take her out of this dark, smelly alley and tuck her away some place safe.” 7 likes
“On the outside, I’m the perfect kid–like a statue of perfect marble, serene and unreal. Inside, it’s all snakes and maggots and broken glass.” 6 likes
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