Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton (Spoiler Free)

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Title: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

Author: Preston Norton

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication Date: May 22, 2018

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.

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.

I don’t know if I’ve ever found a character whose inner monologue managed to sound almost exactly like mine before, but Cliff and I are apparently mind clones. If dry, decently dark humor isn’t your thing, you probably won’t get on with this book very well. However, if you speak fluent sarcasm, trust me when I say that Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is the book for you.

Hands down, my favorite part of this book was the humor. That’s not to say that this book doesn’t tackle a few heavy topics, because it does. However, in my opinion, Cliff’s witty personality is where Neanderthal shines. I was sold on the first page. As someone who had a decently rough high school experience and dealt with it through shitty humor, Cliff was basically a man after my own heart. Reading this book felt like hanging out with a friend, and it’s an experience I’ll remember.

I give Neanderthal five out of five stars, and will be recommending it to a few friends that have similar senses of humor.

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