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Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

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Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he's so enormous — 6'6" and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother's suicide.

There's no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there's only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he's in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS — Cliff feels like he's part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn't as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they've completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.

410 pages, Hardcover

First published May 22, 2018

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About the author

Preston Norton

7 books218 followers
Preston Norton is bisexual, slightly genderqueer, and married. He is the author of Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, Where I End and You Begin, and Hopepunk.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 770 reviews
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,363 reviews9,425 followers
June 26, 2019
Eff me, this book!!!!!! I loved it so damn much!! I freaking ordered another book by the author and I hope it’s as good as this one! Kudos to Preston Norton for making my somewhat crappy day AWESOME!

George Redhawk

I laughed and cried through the whole book!! One of my favorite go to books now!!

Laugh. Cry. Rinse. Repeat.

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,429 reviews29.4k followers
October 24, 2017
"You know what the most dystopian idea in the world is to me?" I asked. "The idea that our feelings don't matter. We might as well be robots."

Since his older brother died, Cliff Hubbard has been alone. He has no friends in high school, but he can't sneak through undetected, since he's 6'6" and weighs 250 pounds. He couldn't be any more noticeable; his classmates have bestowed upon him the nickname "Neanderthal." They ridicule him and mock his size, his appetite, his appearance, his loneliness.

But things are, perhaps, worse in his trailer-park home. His unemployed father, usually drunk, sits around and broods and takes out his frustration on Cliff, as he also used to do with Shane. Sometimes that frustration is expressed through verbal abuse, but more often than not it's manifested through physical violence. Cliff's mother, who works herself to the bone so they don't get evicted, sees what her husband has done to her sons, but she mostly keeps quiet, which angered both Shane and Cliff.

While there are a lot of people in school Cliff doesn't like, it's golden-boy quarterback Aaron Zimmerman he hates the most. Aaron coasts through life, driving his classic sports car, having every girl in school throw themselves at him, while he and his friends ridicule those they feel are beneath them. Even the teachers give Aaron a pass.

And then one day Aaron returns to school after being in a coma following an accident. He says he had a near-death experience, during which he spoke to God, who gave him a mission: make Happy Valley High School suck less. This mission has five components that will ensure success and God tells Aaron the one person that can help him is Neanderthal. As crazy as the whole thing sounds, Cliff eventually agrees to help Aaron, both because he wants to make school suck less perhaps more than anyone (except God), and for the first time, he has a friend, a purpose.

The mission isn't an easy one: they need to set the school's meanest bully on a different path, help a gang of drug dealers realize the error of their ways, help an angry English teacher recapture his passion for teaching, deal with the school's most vindictive club, the Jesus Teens, and stop a hacker who seems to know everything that is going on. Nearly everyone thinks they're crazy, but they're more than happy to sit back and watch them fail, because it's not easy to fix a school that's so badly broken.

The deeper Cliff wades into Aaron's mission (or is it God's?), the more he starts to come into himself, and the more he realizes how little he actually knew about his brother. And while fixing what is broken in school, as in the rest of his life, isn't easy, for the first time he realizes he is more than what people say about him.

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is a mash-up of a lot of elements prevalent in YA fiction these days, but Preston Norton puts his own twist on things. Cliff is such a memorable character—my heart just hurt for him at times, and I just wanted him to open up to people, because here's this smart, sensitive kid that everyone ridicules because of how he looks. There are a lot of supporting characters, some of whom are really fascinating, and some which don't rise above typical teen clichés.

There's a lot going on in this book, and at times I wish that Norton had concentrated the plot on one or two threads rather than multiple ones. I loved the way he pulled everything together, however, and I'll admit I was even surprised at one point with a twist he threw in. Some of the dialogue definitely rivals John Green's, but I think there's a lot more subtle (and not-so-subtle) sensitivity at play here, too. And, yeah, it choked me up, too. Damned book.

I've been reading a good amount of YA in recent years and I'm always blown away by the talent and the quality of writing that is out there. I wish not every book set in high school dealt with bullying (which seems to get crueler and crueler with every book) and teachers and administrators who let it go on unabated, if not encourage it. Believe me, I know bullying exists and the reality is, it is getting crueler, especially with the anonymity of the internet, but sometimes these books hit a little too close to home for me, even years and years after high school.

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe really has a lot of charm and a lot of heart. Cliff is a special character I won't stop thinking about for a while, and I look forward to seeing what's next from Preston Norton.

NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
601 reviews467 followers
August 16, 2020
Warning: This novel contains strong language and touches the topic of suicide.

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is the one novel I feel like I had on my kindle app for the longest time. I got it unsolicited from the publisher (which I’m very thankful for) way before it was published, and then at first I saved it so I could read it closer to it’s releasing day, but then life got in a way, I hit that blogging and reviewing slump, and this book was one of the victims of the mental state I was in.

As Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe was on many bloggers lists of favorite books of 2018, I decided it was the time for me to read this book myself, and now when I finished it, I only feel sorry I didn’t get this book a chance sooner, because it was amazing!

The story follows Cliff who is known at school as Neanderthal because of his height. He got into fight with a popular boy at school, Aaron Zimmerman, and he is on his mission to get revenge.
However, after nearly death experience Aaron comes back to school claiming that God spoke to him, and gave him the list to make their high school a better place, and Cliff is the chosen one to help him complete the list.
From there we watch a new friendship being born and follow our main characters on their adventure to discover life.

First of all, this book is really funny. It talks about serious topics like poverty and suicide, but it still has that intelligent humour that never came over board. I really appreciate it for that.
Second, the way serious topics and problems were talked about made me appreciate this novel even more, because it touches important things, but never loses that light tone.

I think that I’ve read that this novel is perfect for fans of John Green and I agree, but also I have to stress out that there is something unique that Preston Norton gave to this story, something that is entirely his.

I know, in my reviews, I usually say that I want to read author’s other books, but this time I’ll say I know I will read Norton’s next novel, because there is no way I’m going to let myself miss it. I will probably read it as soon as it comes out!

As you probably guessed, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe impressed me, and if I read it last year, it would probably on my list of favorites too, but there is a big chance it shows up on my 2019 favorite lists.

If you like ya contemporary and coming of age stories, trust me, you do not want to miss this one!

Read this and more reviews on my blog https://bookdustmagic.com
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews577 followers
January 26, 2018
Labels, the bane of high school existence. Cliff knows, because he is called Neanderthal, for his size, his demeanor and because he isn’t that popular jock, he is just a kid trying to get by, trying to overcome the sadness of his brother’s suicide. It was easy for him to hate Aaron Zimmerman, handsome, athletic, rich and popular, as well as brutally unkind to Cliff, that is until Aaron has a near-death experience where he saw God and God had a mission for him. That mission would involve Cliff and the start of an unlikely friendship that would change both of their worlds.

It started with a list and became a quest to make things better in high school, but it became more, it took on a life of its own and would begin a healing process in the lives of so many that suffered in silence. Through their often humorous journey, Cliff would begin to heal, grow and find that life is what you make it, one step at a time and each step makes one's heart just a little lighter, even when life deals some crushing blows, one can survive and learn.

Preston Norton has nailed a winner with NEANDERTHAL OPENS THE DOOR TO THE UNIVERSE! Not only is it filled with endearing characters, it is filled with heart, heartache and the joy of learning to feel good again! Laugh with the characters, cry with them and witness what happens when one learns to look outside of their private sphere and embrace the world, flaws and all! These teens are truly alive! Their story is a little over the top, but it fits perfectly into that awkward stage of life. Mr. Norton has created a tale about a slice of two boys’ lives and how they learned to look beyond the believable and create their own version of community, as they watched it struggle to grow and thrive.

Pure entertainment, pure reading joy!

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Disney-Hyperion. This is my honest review.

Publisher: Disney Hyperion (June 5, 2018)
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Genre: YA
Print Length: 416 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews & More: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,632 reviews448 followers
June 16, 2018
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

My thoughts are somewhat mixed regarding this book. I really had no trouble reading it and did enjoy the story but it was missing that extra spark that it would have needed to make it great. It was a book that was pretty easy to set aside because I never felt completely invested in the story. There were a lot of issues address in this story and in some ways it felt like nothing went beyond the surface level. I did find the book entertaining and am glad that I decided to pick it up.

Cliff is huge which is one of the reasons that his classmates refer to him as Neanderthal. He leads a rather solitary life and is dealing with the loss of his brother not too long ago. Cliff and Aaron are not friends at the start of this book. Aaron is the popular quarterback so he has very little in common with Cliff . When Aaron has a near death experience, he partners with Cliff to fulfill a to-do list that he received from God. The list is very specific and everything on it is tied to their high school. If they can accomplish all of the tasks, the school will undoubtedly benefit from their efforts.

This book touches on so many issues. I actually think that it would have improved the story if fewer issues were dealt with but in greater detail. Cliff and Aaron are not only dealing with their list but they are also developing relationships including their own friendship. Some of the items on the list sound almost impossible and other will require some investigation before they can even begin.

I liked the characters but I never felt like I completely connected with them. The book is told from Cliff's point of view and I didn't feel like I got to know any of the other key players beyond the surface level. Even during some parts of the book that were more emotional, I found that I was rather unmoved. I think I would have liked this book a lot more if I had been able to develop an emotional connection with any of the characters.

I did enjoy the story and thought that it had a lot of unique aspects. I do think that a lot of readers will enjoy this one a bit more than I did. I wouldn't hesitate to read more from Preston Norton in the future.

I received a digital review copy of this book from Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley.
Profile Image for P42.
234 reviews1,620 followers
April 20, 2019

"Książka zaczyna się od trzęsienia ziemi, a potem napięcie nieprzerwanie rośnie! Zakręcona historia Neandertalczyka kusi do pochłonięcia jej na raz i mówi o nas samych więcej, niż moglibyśmy się spodziewać" ~ Paweł Dębowski (P42)


+ szalony pomysł na fabułę, która robi się coraz bardziej zakręcona z każdą stroną
+ szczery do bólu narrator, który nie cacka się z czytelnikiem i mówi wprost to co ma na myśli nastolatek, udało się to rewelacyjnie, książka przez to jest bardzo chłopięca/męska
+ metafizyka całej historii, symbole i nadawanie większego sensu rzeczywistości, udało się to zrobić autorowi unikając sztuczności/pretensjonalności
+ zwroty akcji i zakończenie
+ mnogość poruszanych problemów społecznych (wymienię w filmie)
- książka zawiera pewne treści, które przedstawia jako zbliżone do rzeczywistości, które w pewnym stopniu mogą być szkodliwe dla czytelnika z brakiem dystansu (więcej powiem w filmie)
- bohaterowie poboczni są zbyt liczni a jednocześnie reprezentują niewiele cech (powinno być ich mniej, a bardziej barwni co ułatwiałoby rozróżnienie)

Koniec końców, must read - czy to najlepsza dotąd przeczytana w 2019 roku książka?

Profile Image for Stacee.
2,670 reviews701 followers
May 13, 2018
This book was pitched to me and I loved the synopsis and cover, but somehow it got buried. When I finally found it and got around to reading it, I was angry that I had waited so long.

I love love loved Cliff. He’s so weary and tired of dealing with all of the bs life has dealt him. And yet, he hasn’t given up. He’s hopeful. His inner monologue is absolutely hysterical and had me actually laughing out loud. There are a core group of other characters who are fantastic, but this story is all about Cliff.

Plot wise, I didn’t know what to expect. I was drawn in from the beginning and was captivated in reading Cliff, Aaron, and their band of merry men and women figured out how to create change.

Overall, this book was heartbreaking and hopeful and relatable af. I could have easily read 100 more pages.

**Huge thanks to Hyperion for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Paula M.
546 reviews643 followers
November 18, 2017
EVERY BIT OF PERFECT!!!! Full review will be posted. Expect nothing but praise.
Profile Image for OutlawPoet.
1,164 reviews70 followers
November 21, 2017
Ever read one of those books where you’re only halfway through, but you already want to tell everyone you know to read it? But you can’t at that exact moment in time because you’ve got tears pouring down your face and you can’t find the Kleenex and everyone will want to know if you’re okay?

This is that book.

It’s honest, irreverent, sweet, funny, incredibly sad, and still hopeful.

Some of the characters curse a mile a minute. Some do drugs. You have homophobia, intolerance, and even parental abuse. Yet, it’s such a beautiful story.

Neanderthal (Cliff) and Aaron are just about the most awesome duo in YA lit. Two guys who you would think would never, ever be friends – who end up changing the lives of those around them. I loved the motley crew of kids who join their cause. And I simply loved how everything ended up.

This is an absolute five star read. I want more.

*ARC Provided via Net Galley
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,401 reviews254 followers
May 17, 2018
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cliff is a 6'6" and 250 pound loser, in fact his nickname at school is Neanderthal. He has no one in his corner and everything has gone bad to worse since his older brother's suicide last year. Cliff can't stand the star quarterback, Aaron. When Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience, he says that he saw God when he was out of it. The real kicker is that God gave Aaron a to-do list to make Happy Valley High suck less - and that he needs to help Neanderthal. No one is more surprised than Cliff himself when he agrees to help Aaron with the list which features everything from a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at the school. For the first time since he lost his brother, Cliff feels like he's part of something bigger than himself. Fixing a screwed up school isn't as easy as it looks and as soon as Cliff think they've completed the list, he realizes their mission hits much closer to home than he expected.

I'm so glad I found Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton. YA Contemporary isn't usually my go-to genre choice, but this new novel is a compelling must-read. Cliff is now one of my favorite leading guys in YA. He's been dealt a crappy hand in life and he's so fed up by everything, but he hasn't given in and has hope for the future. After all with Aaron, he begins to try to put make seemingly small changes in order to enact bigger, positive change at their school and in their own lives. Another one of my favorite things about Cliff is his sense of humor. I mean, sometimes his inner monologue is laugh out loud funny - if crude at times. The author does a brilliant job of developing his cast of characters from the main characters and the supporting characters, but Cliff himself is for me the most compelling. I felt an entire spectrum of emotions for him from misty-eyed sadness, red-hot anger, to uplifting hope.

Overall, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is an absolute must for fans of brutally honest, yet ultimately hopeful, funny, and relatable YA Contemporary with a well-written cast. If you're interested in the work and writing style of John Green and Andrew Smith, you may enjoy Preston Norton's style. I will definitely have to check into Norton's other releases and his future projects.

Thanks again, NetGalley!
Profile Image for Carol Storm.
Author 28 books174 followers
March 19, 2019
There were some good things about this book -- some of the humor was outrageously funny and there are a few minor characters who are pretty interesting.

But it was a classic case of an author trying to do too much and indulging in too many pet peeves. You can't write a story that brings up raw and controversial issues -- teen suicide, domestic abuse, bullying, drugs and sex, and then retreat every few pages into silly jokes about super hero comics, computer geeks, and bad science fiction movies from forty or even fifty years ago. There were so many times when I felt like the teen narrator wasn't really a teen but a middle-aged man masturbating to his own fantasies!

The hero of this novel, Cliff Hubbard, is supposed to be this super tough kid from a trailer park, a great big grizzly bear who is six foot six and weighs close to three hundred pounds. He's supposed to be bad as hell, outrageous and irreverent, a cross between SOUTH PARK'S Eric Cartman and Eugene O'Neill's Hairy Ape. The problem is, the longer the book goes on the less you believe that Cliff looks, talks, or acts in such a way that the kids all call him "Neanderthal." His voice is not that of a kid who struggles in school, for one thing. (He talks about having a "voluminous" ass.) He never seems to worry about money, even though his father is an unemployed drunk and he lives in a trailer. Cliff never says anything that "nice" teens would find offensive. Really he's just Alan Alda in a fat suit, crying in EVERY scene and spouting sensitive-male gibberish while box checking all the most tiresome cliches of teen political correctness. Gay friend? Check. Tough girl friend? Check. Hate football? Check. Oh, and I think I'll blubber a little more in the next scene too!

VOICE OF HAL: I'm sorry, Preston. Your teen novel is not going to interest any real teens. But it should go over real big with fifty-something men who watch Kubrick movies and masturbate to fantasies of being beaten and raped by rogue slayer Faith from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

CONFUSED NARRATOR: Maybe . . . maybe if I cry a little more! Did I mention my dad is a meanie?

VOICE OF HAL: Maybe a million times. Did I mention I like football?

Oh, and while I get that the narrator is supposed to have a weight problem, I don't really think young teens of today need to be encouraged to binge on junk food! There are ten or twelve literally orgiastic scenes where the hero binges on bacon and Oreo cookies, and you could feel his arteries hardening the whole time. Last but not least, I can understand attacking Christians who bully gays and minorities, but you can't replace the Bible with a rented DVD of 2001 Space Odyssey.
Profile Image for Lost In My Books.
247 reviews124 followers
September 5, 2019
Właśnie dlatego wciąż sięgam po młodzieżówki, ponieważ wciąż mogą mnie jeszcze zaskoczyć i niosą ze sobą naprawdę wiele. 🤗 Nie spodziewałam się że ,,Chłopak, który otworzył drzwi do wszechświata" okaże się tak inteligentną, humorystyczną i wciągającą książką. Główny bohater jest odludkiem ponieważ przez swoją wielką posturę jest trochę wyśmiewany i nazywany neardeltańczykiem. Pewnego dnia dosiada się do niego jeden z najsławniejszych chłopaków w szkole z dość nietypową misją, która zmieni życie nie tylko tej dwójki, ale i całej szkoły. 🙈 To powieść o poszukiwaniu siebie. Zawiera dużo pytań wprawiających w refleksję nad życiem, marzeniami i o dziwo nad religią. Przede wszystkim kocham podejście głównego bohatera do swojej sytuacji, nie rozczula się nad sobą, wręcz przeciwnie jego sarkatyczne i luźne podejście do wszystkiego jest bardzo fajne i zabawne, przez co książka nie wypada nudno i monotematycznie. Pochłonęłam ja prawie w jeden dzień i trochę żałuję, bo mogłam się przy niej bawić dłużej. Zdecydowanie mogę ją polecić fanom książek Johna Greena i Adama Silvery. 🙃
Profile Image for Entrada Book Review.
303 reviews24 followers
February 5, 2018
Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is just as unconventional as the name.

The book follows all around self-proclaimed loser Cliff Hubbard through a montage of terrible experiences to set up the tragic backstory and get the reader ready for the revelation.

Aaron Zimmerman has seen God in a near death experience and has transformed from all out ***hole into wanting to fix Happy Valley High School with THE LIST.

The plot is interesting but with so much drug use, sex, and the F-word proclaimed multiple times on every page, this possible feel-good story gets lost in the weeds.

The spoiler at the end can be seen a long way coming.

However, there are just so many funny, stupid and corny lines in the book that you just have to finish.

All your base are belong to us!
Profile Image for Viera Némethová.
248 reviews43 followers
July 23, 2021
Tramdadadáááá, druhé miesto tohto roka a titul " knižná blbina roka 2021" získava táto kniha. Mix všetkého čo vás len pri slove tínedžer napadne- samovražda, týranie v rodine, šikana kvôli výzoru, hrozný učiteľ, drogy, jedno z naj dievčat školy vášnivo zamilované do "lúzra" s prezývkou Neandertálec a to všetko ešte primastené Bohom, zjavením Boha, vyšším poslaním .... no prvotriedny guláš plný vulgarizmov a cynizmu.

Končím na str. 116, toto sa čítať nedá.
Profile Image for Kasia (kasikowykurz).
1,076 reviews28 followers
April 6, 2022
Chłopak, który otworzył drzwi do wszechświata kompletnie mnie zaskoczył, oczarował i wciągnął w swój świat. Nie potrafiłam odłożyć jej, zapomniałam o wszystkim, co do tej pory czytałam i totalnie wsiąknęłam w świat Cliffa.

Po naprawdę dziwnym początku - Neandertalczyk, jak wszystko nazywają Cliffa zaprzyjaźnia się z chłopakiem, którego szczerze nie znosi, pomagając mu w realizacji listy, którą dostał od Boga. Bo wiecie, Aaron otarł się o śmierć i stara się zmienić atmosferę w szkolę. W tym ma właśnie pomóc lista. Ale to nie jest zwykła lista, bo zawiera punkty, jak chociażby przypomnienie najgorszego i najwredniejszemu nauczycielowi w szkole, dlaczego tak kochał nauczanie.

Dwójka zupełnie różnych chłopaków rozprawiając się z tajemniczą listą odkrywa, jak wiele rzeczy ich omija. Dowiadują się, jak niewiele wiedzą o ludziach, z którymi przebywają na codzień, ich najbliższych. Ale co najważniejsze, dowiadują się naprawdę dużo o sobie samych. Ta niepozorna książka nie raz doprowadziła mnie do śmiechu, ale sprawiła też, że płakałam jak głupia. To też historia o godzeniu się ze stratą. Próba zrozumienia, dlaczego ktoś chciałby odebrać sobie życie i dlaczego zostawił nas samych sobie, choć był dla nas tak ważny. To część, która zaskoczyła mnie najmocniej, bo kompletnie się jej nie spodziewałam, rozwaliła mnie emocjonalnie i sprawiła, że długo nie będę potrafiła o niej zapomnieć.

Całość napisana językiem, jakiego używa każdy nastolatek, a przez to jest bardziej prawdziwa, nie owija w bawełnę i w bezpośredni sposób przekazuje myśli nastoletniego Cliffa. Czytajcie, bo naprawdę warto!
14 reviews
July 10, 2018
4.5/5 stars. Okay so I’m not going to lie: for the first 1/3 of this book I genuinely thought it would be about a 3 or 3.5 star read. But oh, I now stand corrected. Neanderthal is easily the funniest book I have read in a very long time. And even though this is a laugh-out-loud type of book, it handles extremely important and sensitive topics so beautifully and you can’t help but admire how it tackles those topics in a way that conveys how serious they are but also keeps the story from getting too dark. This was such a good book and is quite easily a new favorite for me.

Also, can we take a minute to appreciate the casual AVPM reference that Julian makes? I just loved it so much.
Profile Image for Nat.
245 reviews
March 30, 2018
Warning: NOT suitable for my seventh-grade followers. But HOLY CANOLI. This book had everything I want in a young-adult-high-school-experience-address-all-of-the-angst novel. I don't think I've ever laughed so much reading a work of fiction, nor have I ever felt so much "YES. THAT." in reading about a true existential quandary from a teen perspective. A novel about hurt, and healing, and God, and "God?", and first love, and nerd debates cranked up to eleven... this book is so much YES.
Profile Image for Gabrielle G.
8 reviews
May 23, 2021
“What’s the meaning of life”
“I suppose it starts with having a dream. And then chasing it. You chase after it like your life depends on it. In a sense, I guess it does.”
“What sort of dream”
“Any sort. It doesn’t matter what it is. The only thing that matters is that you want it from the deepest part of who you are, and you chase after it with everything in you”
“What happens when you get it”
“I feel like dreams are never that two dimensional, you never just get it. The more you chase the more your dream expands. It’s like the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. Every step you get closer to your dream, the more the world around you crystallizes into something you never knew it was”
“Wow that’s really eloquent”
“Thanks, I read books”
Profile Image for ReadBecca.
800 reviews85 followers
October 14, 2018
Cliff aka Neanderthal is just trying to make it through high school and grieving the loss of his brother, while a constant victim of bullying and parental abuse, drowned in toxic masculinity at every turn. That is until he winds up on a mission from god, bringing together an unlikely ragtag band in the process of trying to make the school a better place. Much like my recent read of
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, this tackles some really hard topics like suicide, abuse, coming out, drug addiction yet remains an incredibly hopeful and feel good story.
Profile Image for Hannah.
Author 27 books1,808 followers
July 5, 2018
This book does one of my favorite things, where everything starts bad and gets better. It also had characters who were just impulsively likeable, from the main character to the supporting characters to little one-line characters. I really was rooting for everyone, and it was a nice change of pace. The subject matter can be heavy, but it never feels like a dark book. And the dialogue is very fantastic.
Profile Image for Kelly.
125 reviews13 followers
July 26, 2018
I should have enjoyed this book more than I did. Loved it at the beginning and then it just began to grate on me. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for it.
Profile Image for Camden Johnson.
259 reviews27 followers
August 30, 2019
Wow. This book has definitely taken me through a rollercoaster of emotions. I have cried, laughed, and felt as if these characters were people I actually knew. The story takes place as Cliff (also known as "Neanderthal") is coping with the loss of his brother. After a popular guy at the school, Aaron, has a near-death experience, Cliff and Aaron are tasked to complete a list to make HVHS a better place. This book had me thinking deeply about life and what the meaning of it was. I like how it was left kind of ambiguous whether or not the list was actually from God or if it was all coincidental. I loved seeing the relationship between Aaron and Cliff blossom as well as Cliff's relationship with Tegan. There are some parts where I felt as though it was kind of glossed over such as reminding Mr. Spinelli why he wanted to teach. I know they had a heart-to-heart but I didn't feel as though that would have been enough. I also was surprised with the twist of who HAL was although I did have some thoughts that it could have been Noah, I would have never guessed that I would be correct. It had a lot of relevant references to social media and it felt like actual teenagers. Although the book was 400 pages, it also felt really quick and I found myself breezing through it pretty fast. Overall, I think this book was a fantastic read and I believe it is going to be my favorite read of this year. I'm really excited in checking out more of Preston Norton's work after this.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Brian.
1,629 reviews41 followers
February 12, 2018
Clifford is a high school student who is used to being on the outs. At 6'6 and 250 lbs, he is a giant of a teen. He lives with his hard working mother and physically abusive father in a very small house. In school he is often ignored and picked on and has been given the nickname "Neanderthal." One day, a bully named Aaron who often picks on Cliff gets a head injury and thinks he has seen God. He has a list of tasks that he has to complete and decides to enlist Cliff to assist him. From there, we are taken on a journey that involves a major mystery as well as some great and fun characters that are introduced along the way. The book is very well written and is extremely gripping. I like the characterization of all of the characters included and the growth that each of them shows (or in some cases, doesn't show). The book has a lot of twists and turns that will keep the reader engaged. This is probably the best teen book I have read in a long while. This was reviewed from an ARC.
Profile Image for Carlos.
586 reviews285 followers
March 6, 2019
This book had the most “out there” premise of all the books I had read so far , so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I started reading but I guess that is the point of reading these books (to shake us out of our literature comfort zone) ...and I have to say that I did end up liking this book a lot . Starting with the main character, all the other minor characters and the adventure...you wouldn’t think so but it all come together almost perfect and you realize this book is a gem that will appeal to so many readers once they decide to read it but what I’m wary of is the fact that I think (hopefully erroneously) that most kids will be put off by the premise of the book so this book will need a lot of pushing from everyone of us working at libraries. Another although minor complaint I have about this book is that it all comes together almost too perfectly, but I think kids will appreciate that .
Profile Image for Kenzie.
259 reviews16 followers
December 15, 2022
This book was banned by my school district so obviously I read it and loved it 🙃

I love books with a lot of voice and personality and Cliff’s shone through the writing. It’s funny and heartfelt and full of more depth than you’d think from the first chapter. I loved that Cliff and Aaron’s list of ways to change high school ended up changing them so much. The character growth was beautiful and felt realistic.

“It was in that moment that I realized something about human beings: We always care. Even when we don’t care, or we don’t want to care, or we’ve been broken beyond the capability of caring… We always do. It’s our ultimate infallibility.”
Profile Image for Kristen Peppercorn .
530 reviews97 followers
September 13, 2021
I wish I could personally let the author know how much I loved this book. Not only is it one of the very funniest books I have ever gotten to read, it had so much heart. And nerdiness. And terribly, flawed, perfect characters. I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being my #1 favorite read of the entire year. Also it was so good I read this giant sumbitch all within a day.
Profile Image for Tami.
376 reviews
April 24, 2019
Probably the best YA book I’ve read in a very long time. Norton knows how to write snarky teenage dialog and his characters seemed real and likable. Interesting that the book is set in Montana but it really can be Anywhere, USA. More than fixing what was wrong at school, this was about kids growing as individuals and being more invested in those around them and not just themselves.
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