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You Don't Know Me
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You Don't Know Me

4.5 262
by David Klass

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Moving, wholly involving, original, and emotionally true, You Don't Know Me is a multilayered young adult novel that presents a winning portrait of an understandably angst-ridden adolescent.

John ("My father named me after a toilet!") wrestles with the certainty that no one really knows him -- not in his miserable home, and certainly not at school.


Moving, wholly involving, original, and emotionally true, You Don't Know Me is a multilayered young adult novel that presents a winning portrait of an understandably angst-ridden adolescent.

John ("My father named me after a toilet!") wrestles with the certainty that no one really knows him -- not in his miserable home, and certainly not at school. It's true that no one can guess his hidden thoughts, which are hilarious, razor-sharp observations about lust, love, tubas, algebra, everything. And then there's his home: his father ran off years ago, so he's being raised by his mother, who works long hours, and by her boyfriend, whom John calls "the man who is not and never will be my father." This man is his enemy, an abusive disciplinarian who seems to want to kill John and, in a horrible final confrontation, nearly succeeds.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Klass blazes past his previous literary efforts stylistically, introducing elements of magical realism to gradually reveal a quirky, talented, and likable guy. . . . The world may be ‘muddled and painful,' but it is, ‘in the end, a love song,'--a rewarding and important message for all readers.” —School Library Journal, Starred Review

“[A] well-conceived novel. . . . The hero's underlying sense of isolation and thread of hope will strike a chord with nearly every adolescent.” —Publishers Weekly

“John's inner voice is wonderfully cynical yet sweet and sad. . . . This book is for anyone--teenagers and adults alike--who has ever been faced with the absurdity of a normal life.” —Voice of Youth Advocates

“[A] captivating first-person narrative with an original voice . . . [T]his is an engrossing story, in the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, to which readers will immediately connect.” —Kirkus Reviews

“John is a genuinely sympathetic, interestingly complex character, his highly mannered voice belongs to someone much older than 14, and it's wildly inconsistent, veering in tone from seriously realistic to the farcical, from wryly sophisticated and ironically self-deprecating to sophomoric. Weigh that against some brilliant, dramatically charged scenes and John's endlessly intriguing character.” —Booklist

“I loved it because it describes the exact way I feel.” —A YALSA Teen YA Galley Reader

“Extremely realistic.” —A YALSA Teen YA Galley Reader

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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 JohnDa 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"Deven 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.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
The 14-year-old narrator describes the physical and emotional abuse he experiences from his mother's boyfriend in this "well-conceived novel," said PW. "The hero's underlying sense of isolation and thread of hope will strike a chord with nearly every adolescent." Ages 13-up. (Aug.)
To quote from KLIATT's January 2001 review of the hardcover edition: Klass, author of the ALA Best Books for YAs California Blue, Wrestling with Honor, and Danger Zone, attempts a different tone in this novel, and it may not "work" for some readers. John is the narrator. He is an angry high school student on the edge, spouting sarcasm and stabs at humor as he tries to survive a terrible home life. He has a crush on a lovely classmate named Gloria, who he calls Glory Hallelujah (in his narrative). His approach to her borders on farce, as does their date to the basketball game and a crazy confrontation with her father in Gloria's basement. His best friend is a person he derides for having a big nose—and this friend also gets involved in farcical misadventures. John plays the tuba in the school band, and the music teacher seems to be the only adult who worries about him. John of course pretends nothing is wrong in his life, but at the end of the book, it is the music teacher who rescues John from a near-fatal beating. The villain of the book is the man who has moved into John's house, hoping to marry John's mother. This man is a criminal and a bully who threatens John and hits him when the mother isn't around to see what is happening. There is nothing funny about this man at all—in a book that otherwise might be seen as an adolescent comedy of errors—and his final horrific attack on John is appallingly real, even if the rescue seems unreal. Perhaps other readers won't have as much trouble as I have switching from horror to humor and back again. Klass does give us the interior world of a troubled young man who manages to use humor to hold on to his sanity. Category: Paperback Fiction. KLIATTCodes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, HarperTempest, HarperCollins, 344p.,
— Claire Rosser; KLIATT
Children's Literature
The best books can make you laugh and cry, often on the same page. This novel is definitely one of them. No one knows who the real John is. Not his mother, to whom he feels invisible, not his friend who is not a friend, not the man who is not his father, not the students at his anti-school, and not the music teacher who tries to help him. In his house that is not a house, the man who is not John's father abuses him severely, and John is afraid to confide the secret to anyone. He takes refuge in the imaginary African village of Lashasa Palulu, where people live in intelligence, tolerance and love. John thinks his fortunes are changing when the girl he has a crush on, Glory Hallelujah, agrees to go out with him. But the date turns into a hilarious disaster, soon followed by a fateful Tuesday where everything goes wrong and John has a giant meltdown. John's first person narrative is undoubtedly one of the most unique fictional voices to appear in many years. John reacts to his sorry lot with sarcasm, irony and remarkable good humor. Put this novel on your "must read" list. 2001, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus and Giroux, $17.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
John's life appears caught up in the normal craziness that challenges high school students. Algebra is torture. He and his best friend both want the same girl. Mr. Steenwilly, the orchestra director, senses that all is not quite normal, but John brushes him off with assurances that he is fine. At least at school, he can escape his mother's boyfriend, the man who abuses him. John copes with the mistreatment via a running inner soliloquy on life. When his mother's boyfriend talks of becoming John's stepfather, John's slippery grasp on reality comes crashing down, and neither his cynical view of life nor his sarcastic sense of humor can save him. An attempt to experience a taste of average teenage life—attending a school dance—ends with John being severely beaten, saved almost too late by Mr. Steenwilly, who had refused to take John's assurances to heart. John's inner voice is wonderfully cynical yet sweet and sad, reminding readers of Steve in Rats Saw God (Simon & Schuster, 1996/VOYA June 1996) or Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Pocket Books, 1999/VOYA December 1999). Klass sets up two separate worlds in this novel. John keeps the gleeful, witty one inside as he deals with the harsh reality of the outside. Klass skillfully blends these two worlds so that sometimes they are hardly distinguishable. The closer John comes to despair, the more tangled his worlds become. To reduce this novel to a story of John's abuse misses the stark contrast between the surrealism and absurdity in John's mind and in his reality as he longs for normalcy. This book is for anyone—teenagers and adults alike—who has ever been faced with the absurdity of a normal life. VOYACODES: 5Q 4P J M S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, M S272p, Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Susan Smith SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-John, 14, makes himself unknowable, contemplating volumes about the absurdities of his world while restraining most utterances to monosyllables. The narrative bounces between comic and serious elements, such as band director Steenwilly's glasses being blown off by the "saurian screech" of Violet's saxophone, juxtaposed with the all-too-real violence that John suffers at home and elsewhere. Klass blazes past his previous literary efforts stylistically, introducing elements of magical realism to gradually reveal a quirky, talented, and likable guy. Having been trashed by beautiful, shallow, and manipulative Gloria, John gradually discovers that down-to-earth Violet is truly the girl of his dreams. With his life already at one of its lowest points, the protagonist verbally abuses his algebra teacher, "Mrs. Moonface" and receives a week's suspension. He is viciously beaten by "the man who is not my father," and his mother doesn't know that her live-in almost-fianc is a hard-drinking, violent crook until he nearly kills John on a night when she is out of town. The story concludes with the teen finding that he is life itself to his mother, and that he is liked by his peers and teachers. School is still "anti-school," not a place of fun and learning, and snotty girls are still snotty. The world may be "muddled and painful," but it is, "in the end, a love song,"-a rewarding and important message for all readers.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Klass (Screen Test, 1997, etc.) has woven a captivating first-person narrative with an original voice. John is convinced that no one knows him. Not his kind-of-friends, not the teachers in his "anti-school" ("School is for learning and this place is for being stupid"), and certainly not his mother, who just might marry this boyfriend, the one that beats him when she isn't looking. John's piercingly funny narrative describes his days in his torturous algebra class ("I hear nothing. The sound waves part before they get to me and re-form when they have passed me by. Algebra does not have the power to penetrate my feverish isolation"), his okay music class ("To my surprise, the giant frog who is pretending to be my tuba suddenly comes very much to life"), a disastrous date with the much-sought-after Gloria ("Glory Hallelujah"), and the nightmare of being left alone with his soon-to-be stepfather while his mother is away. His humor stems from boredom, intense loneliness, and fear, and his story keeps the reader both howling with laughter and petrified. His narrative has a consistently narrow view, taking the reader through his twisted thoughts and emotions, while letting enough trickle through so that readers can see more than he does. Thankfully, of course, someone does know John, and steps up to save him. His mother (to whom the narrative is addressed) is never quite fleshed out as a character. Perhaps this is because John feels so keenly ignored by her, yet it makes her entrance at the end feel thin. Nevertheless, this is an engrossing story, in the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak (1999), to which readers will immediately connect. (Fiction. 12-16)

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
6.96(w) x 11.08(h) x 0.76(d)
970L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

who I am not

You don't know me.

Just for example, you think I'm upstairs in my room doing my homework. Wrong. I'm not in my room. I'm not doing my homework. And even if I were up in my room I wouldn't be doing my homework, so you'd still be wrong. And it's really not my room. It's your room because it's in your house. I just happen to live there right now. And it's really not my homework, because my math teacher, Mrs. Moonface, assigned it and she's going to check it, so it's her homework.

Her name's not Mrs. Moonface, by the way. It's really Mrs. Garlic Breath. No it's not. It's really Mrs. Gabriel, but I just call her Mrs. Garlic Breath, except for the times when I call her Mrs. Moonface.

Confused? Deal with it.

You don't know me at all. You don't know the first thing about me. You don't know where I'm writing this from. You don't know what I look like. You have no power over me.

What do you think I look like? Skinny? Freckles? Wire-rimmed glasses over brown eyes? No, I don't think so. Better look again. Deeper. It's like a kaleidoscope, isn't it? One minute I'm short, the next minute tall, one minute I'm geeky, one minute studly, my shape constantly changes, and the only thing that stays constant is my brown eyes. Watching you.

That's right, I'm watching you right now sitting on the couch next to the man who is not my father, pretending to read a book that is not a book, waiting for him to pet you like a dog or stroke you like a cat. Let's be real, the man who is not my father isn't a very nice man. Not just because he is not my father but because he hits me when you're not around, and hesays if I tell you about it he'll really take care of me.

Those are his words. "I'll really take care of you, John. Don't rat on me or you'll regret it." Nice guy.

But I am telling you now. Can't you hear me? He's petting the top of your head like he would pet a dog, with his right hand, which just happens to be the hand he hits me with. When he hits me he doesn't curl his fingers up into a fist because that would leave a mark. He slaps me with the flat of his hand. WHAP. And now I'm watching him stroke your cheek with those same fingers. He holds me tight with his left hand when he hits me so that I can't run away. And now he's holding you tenderly with his left hand. And I'm telling you this as I watch through the window, but your eyes are closed and you couldn't care less, because he's stroking you the way he would stroke a cat and I bet you're purring.

You don't know me at all.

You think I'm a good student. Hah!

You think I have friends. Hah!

You think I'm happy with this life. Hah, hah!

Okay, now you're putting down the book that is not a book. It's a Reader's Digest condensation of literature, which is like drinking orange juice made from concentrate. It has no pulp. The key vitamins have been processed out. You're pressing your head against his shoulder. I can see your toes move inside your pink socks on the coffee table. What's with this toe movement? Is it passion or athlete's foot? There is some kind of serious itch there.

And now the man who is not my father puts down his book, which is a real book, because he's not a stupid or shallow man, just cruel and self-centered. He kisses you long and full on the lips, and then on the side of your neck. And you glance upstairs, nervously, because you think I'm up in my room doing my homework. You don't know that I'm floating twenty feet above our backyard, watching this display of misplaced affection.

No, I am not levitating. I do not have secret wings that allow me to fly. I am not a vampire. I am not hanging by my heels from the roof or clinging to a drainpipe.

So where am I?

You don't know me at all.

I'll give you this one. I'm in the apple tree, which is not an apple tree. The man who is not my father calls it an apple tree, but it has never produced a single thing resembling an apple. Nor has it produced a pear, so it is not a pear tree. Nor has it produced a pair of apples. Nor has it produced a pineapple, so it is clearly not a pineapple tree. The only thing I have ever seen it produce is thin gray leaves, so I will call it a gray-leaf tree.

That's where I am. Sitting in the gray-leaf tree. There's a full moon out tonight, so if I were a werewolf or a vampire I would be hungry or thirsty for flesh or blood. But I'm full with the gluey spaghetti and golf ball meatballs from dinner. The only effect the moon has on me is to make me think of Mrs. Moonface and my five pages of algebra homework that is really her homework, except that for some reason I'm the one who got stuck with it.

Mrs. Moonface assigns us so much homework because she is miserable and lonely. I wrote a poem to her. It's not a very good poem, but I don't really care. The first stanza goes like this:

Mrs. Moonface, get a life,

Get a nose ring, fly a kite,

Find a boyfriend, learn to ski,

Just stop taking it out on me.

The man who is not my father is switching off the lamp. Now our house is dark except for the light in my room, which is really not a room, where I am not doing homework.

Except that I am actually up there doing homework after all! Did you really think that I was up in the branches of an apple tree? Not necessary. You don't have to see things to know that they are happening. Anyway, I don't like climbing trees. It's a cold fall night. The wind is howling around our house like a live animal.

I finish the last algebra problem. Put down my pencil.

Downstairs I can hear the springs of the couch creaking. The man who is not my father is repeating your name, with passion in his voice. But it's not really your name, even though it belongs to you. It's really the name of his pretty first wife, Mona, who died in a car accident five years before he met you and decided to move into your house, and take on the duties of disciplining your son.

And now he is repeating your name and thinking of Mona.

And you are listening to him and thinking of my father.

And I am not in this house at all. I am in the middle of a hurricane. Thunder is cymbal-crashing above and beneath me. Lightning makes my hair stand up. Winds are spinning me like a top. Do you really think I will come down to breakfast tomorrow and call the man who is not my father sir? Do you think I will go to school tomorrow and hand in my homework to Mrs. Moonface? I won't even be in this hemisphere tomorrow. This storm could set me down anywhere.

You don't know where I'll end up.

The good news is that you may have created my past and screwed up my present but you have no control over my future.

You don't know me at all...

You Don't Know Me. Copyright © by David Klass. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

David Klass is the author of many young adult novels, including Dark Angel and You Don't Know Me. He is also a Hollywood screenwriter, having written more than twenty-five action screenplays, including Kiss the Girls, starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, Walking Tall, starring The Rock, and Desperate Measures, starring Michael Keaton and Andy Garcia. Klass grew up in a family that loved literature and theater—his parents were both college professors and writers—but he was a reluctant reader, preferring sports to books. But he started loving the adventure stories his parents would bring home from the library—particularly Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson and Alexandre Dumas. After his sister twice won a story contest in Seventeen magazine, Klass decided he would win it too, and when he was a senior in high school, he did, publishing his first story, "Ringtoss," in the magazine. He studied at Yale University, where he won the Veech Award for Best Imaginative Writing. He taught English in Japan, and wrote his first novel, The Atami Dragons, about that experience. He now lives in New York with his wife and two small children.

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You Don't Know Me 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 263 reviews.
IDontLoveYouXl3 More than 1 year ago
i saw this book at the store and just the cover made me go "i need this book" i read the first 2 pages and was stunned.i was 13 when i got the book i'm about to be 16 now and i still love this book..i let one of my classmates read it and he too fell in love with the book and made me buy him a copy of it! my mom and uncle love this book too. It's an amazing book seriously. no one can say it's a horrible book if they don't read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't even explain how much I love this book. If you don't read it, you are missing out. That's all I can say.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I ADORE this book !! I think that john's mind is sooo fasinating, the writting is definatly original, I'm 13 and I recommend this book to parents and teens.
XxLOVEePiiNKxX More than 1 year ago
This book is soo good. I was just in Barnes N Nobles in the teen section (and I usually don't read teen books, more urban fiction if anything) when I came across this book. I was captivated by the cover because I have never seen a book cover like that before. When I read the cover I was like WOAH, and then I read about 20 pages into the book and I said I have to have it. I finished it by the next day, it's one of those books that you can't put down, and if you do you just pick it back up again. I love the way David Klass writes, it's funny, and silly, and I think that's what made the book so good. I would definitely recommend this to a friend, teen, or anyone that is going through or went through what the main character has been through. Buy it, read it, because it's worth it, and you won't be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't think the professional reviews were that good. Here is my review(i will try to make it short): John is a 14 year old boy abuised by the man his mother has chosen to love. John's story mainly takes place at his home that is not a home(explains in book) and anti-math(also explains in book) class and music class which is for a extra mandatory activity. He tells about his 'friends', and girls. John directs his story as if telling it to his mother(that will help you when you read it). Be willing to forget what he may have just said as it was only his imagination in some parts. I think you should read this as it is not a fast read but one you should be willing to re-read a paragraph to better understand it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I saw this IN MY SCHOOL LIBRARY, I thought... I gotta read this :) It looked absolutely ahhmazing. The writing was so well done, and so descriptive and I really learned who the main character was. I even got my brother into it. I say read this book :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so interesting and all i had to do was read the first 2 pages of the book and i was hooked because all of it is soooo true. I can relate to alot of the things he says in the book.(btw he is writing to his mom in the story.)this book is great you should really invest in it. This is my personal opinion so dont come back and say that i shouldnt have given this book 5 stars.i liked it ant im sorry if you didnt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wanna read again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This wonderful story almost made me cry and laugh at the same time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing i read it in two days
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I read in 8th grade for a project and I loved it. It was interesting, creepy, and funny. I would read it again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The main charactar deals with his difficult life in such a couragous and humorous way. You find yourself cheering for him and crying for him throughout the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really relates to me except i play the clarinet not tuba, i'm girl not a boy, and my stepdad dosent hurt me and my brother much any more......... my stepfather is very mean and just because my brother just had surgery dosent me i cant have dome alone time with my self! Ok back to the book.....even thought David Klass is such a great writer this book is very confusing so if you are some one who gets too confused too easily than STAY AWAY!!!!! So this is very touching and you cant help but feel like you have too help John any way you can!!!!!!! When you read you will fall in love with John and feel a deep hatred for the step father!!!! When i say 'fall in love with John' fall in love with his character. Almost every one at Cedar Creek Middle School ( my school ) loves it!!! I reconmend it to ages 10 and up!! - Sarah Booth :);)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maybe teens would like this book, but I Found it relentlessly repitious and strange. The. Boy had a sorrowful life and the book was very depressing. I don't recommend it it at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't really know what to expect from this book. Many people have told me it was good and it wasn't good...it was AMAZING. It does get a little confusing at times and you may have to read the paragraph again but it is definitely worth it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book years ago but I really liked it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this last year when I was 14. The version I had had a different cover(no face, just writing), and that's what pulled me in. The whole story was captivating; one of those "read in one sitting" books. When I was done, I had a few tears in my eyes and it's really stuck with me. If your a young teen you should definitely read this.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can easily say that this is the best book I have ever read. And that's all I have to say :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago