cover image YOU DON'T KNOW ME


David Klass, YOU DON'T KNOW MEDavid Kl. , $17 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-374-38706-8

John, the 14-year-old narrator of Klass's (Screen Test; Danger Zone) well-conceived novel, deals with not only universal teenage problems (escaping his algebra teacher's questions, working up the nerve to ask out his dream girl, whom he calls "Glory Hallelujah," fighting with a friend), he also must deal with his mother's boyfriend, whom John calls "the man who is not my father." The tyrant verbally and physically abuses him when his mother is not around, and John experiences a "meltdown" when he learns that the man plans to marry his mother. While people do care about John—a rather stereotypically sensitive music teacher and a likable girl from his band class, whom John calls "Violent" Hayes "because she appears to be trying to strangle her saxophone before it kills her"—even they cannot convince John to reveal what's happening at home. John's narrative often addresses various characters directly (his mother's boyfriend, the music teacher, etc.) with wry internal thoughts; this approach plays up the alienation John feels and also conveys the teen's sardonic humor and intelligence. A few scenes are so outrageous and comical that they clash with the book's overall tone (e.g., when Glory Hallelujah's father hunts John and the girl down in the basement of her home). But most, such as when John first asks out Glory Hallelujah via note, instructing her to check either the "yes" or "no" box, are very grounded in the high school experience. The hero's underlying sense of isolation and thread of hope will strike a chord with nearly every adolescent. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)