The You I've Never Known

The You I've Never Known

by Ellen Hopkins


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481442916
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 01/30/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 45,794
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.80(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Ellen Hopkins is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of fourteen young adult novels, as well as the adult novels Triangles, Collateral, and Love Lies Beneath. She lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada, where she has founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit youth housing and resource initiative. Visit her at and on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter at @EllenHopkinsLit.

Read an Excerpt

The You I’ve Never Known

I Can’t Remember

Every place

Dad and I have

called home. When

I was real little, the two

of us sometimes lived in

our car. Those memories

are in motion. Always moving.

I don’t think

I minded it so much

then, though mixed in

with happy recollections

are snippets of intense fear.

I didn’t dare ask why one stretch

of sky wasn’t good enough to settle

under. My dad

likes to say he came

into this world infected

with wanderlust. He claims

I’m lucky, that at one day till

I turn seventeen I’ve seen way

more places than most folks see

in an entire

lifetime. I’m sure

he’s right on the most

basic level, and while I

can’t dig up snapshots of

North Dakota, West Virginia, or

Nebraska, how could I ever forget

watching Old

Faithful spouting

way up into the bold

amethyst Yellowstone sky,

or the granddaddy alligator

ambling along beside our car

on a stretch of Everglade roadway?

I’ve inhaled

heavenly sweet

plumeria perfume,

dodging pedicab traffic

in the craziness of Waikiki.

I’ve picnicked in the shadows

of redwoods older than the rumored

son of God;

nudged up against

the edge of the Grand

Canyon as a pair of eagles

played tag in the warm air

currents; seen Atlantic whales

spy-hop; bodysurfed in the Pacific;

and picked spring-

inspired Death Valley

wildflowers. I’ve listened

to Niagara Falls percussion,

the haunting song of courting

loons. So I guess my dad is right.

I’m luckier than a whole lot of people.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

The You I’ve Never Known

By Ellen Hopkins

About the Book

For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.

Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.

Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.

What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?

Discussion Questions

1. This book begins and ends with a rumination on “the gifts of the chameleon.” Why does the author choose to bookend the story with these almost identical sections? Does the poem “To Begin” offer any foreshadowing of the story? How does the last segment of Maya’s diary help to tie up loose ends? How do the differences between the two passages reflect the differences between the two women who wrote them?

2. In what ways is Ariel’s father abusive? Is his abuse limited to Ariel, or do other people experience it as well? Why does Ariel love him anyway?

3. What role does addiction play in the characters’ lives? Does witnessing others’ dependence on substances have any effect on the behavior of Ariel and her friends? Is Maya’s mother’s devotion to Scientology a form of addiction?

4. Ariel talks about getting free from her father’s influence, but at one point says, “But what if I’m the kind of captain who can’t avoid sideswiping the glacier and sinking the ship?” Do you think that this is a common feeling for someone Ariel’s age? Does her lack of confidence have anything to do with her father’s treatment of her?

5. Why does Ariel think that psychology might be a good career choice for her? Does her psychology elective help her have insight into the things that happen around her? Do you think the events of the story will bring her closer to this career or drive her farther away?

6. When faced with the prospect of a romantic relationship, Ariel says, “Lacking anything like a role model, commitment isn’t something I understand.” Has she ever had a good relationship role model? Is this a problem she will be able to overcome? Does the fact that she realizes it’s a problem say anything about her ability to have a committed relationship?

7. How is Ariel’s kiss with Monica different from her kiss with Gabe? What does she get from each of them that the other can’t give her? Does Gabe relieve Ariel from having to make a decision between the two, or had she already made up her mind?

8. Why does Ariel’s father say such nasty things during the Thanksgiving dinner with Gabe and Zelda? What is it about this family holiday that makes him need to lash out? Does Ariel’s reaction make the situation better or worse?

9. Maya writes about 9/11 in her journal, and Hillary’s mother and brother were killed when the twin towers fell. What effect does this terrorist attack have on the characters when it happens? Are they still feeling the repercussions in the present day? Do the characters who were too young at the time to register what was happening feel changed by that day?

10. Hillary’s aunt Peg says that she won’t leave Sonora when Hillary goes to college because “All that I am is right here.” What does she mean? Is this true of any of the other characters?

11. Zelda and Ariel both feel betrayed by Mark/Jason. How does this help them interact in the aftermath of Maya’s arrival? Does Zelda have the right to feel betrayed? In what ways are the lies that he told the two women similar, and in what ways are they different?

12. What is “gaslighting”? Who does Mark/Jason do this to, and how? How does knowing about this technique help Ariel wrap her head around what has happened to her?

13. Will Ariel be able to forgive her father? What regrets might she have if she doesn’t forgive him? How would you react if you were in this situation? Would you be able to forgive your father? Is there anyone else whom Ariel needs to forgive?

14. Why does Ariel love Monica? Why is it so difficult for her to admit that she loves Monica, and to take the next step in their relationship? Even though their family situations are so different, why is it also difficult for Monica to come out as a lesbian to her loved ones?

15. How can Ariel be attracted to both Monica and Gabe? Why is she also hesitant to identify as a bisexual? Do you think that it’s possible for a person to be attracted to both men and women equally? Moving forward, do you think that Ariel will identify herself as bisexual or a lesbian?

16. There are several points in the story when Mark/Jason and those who love him use his life as a soldier to excuse his behavior. Are there parts of his personality that make him a good soldier? How does his identity as a soldier change from when he meets Maya to when he leaves her?

17. Even before she finds out about being kidnapped, Ariel struggles with her identity. What defines her as a person? Can her father’s past actions erase who she truly is? What parts of her past and her personality will she take with her moving into the future?

18. The author structures her poems so that the title also serves as the first line. Why do you think she does this? How would the book be different if the individual poems didn’t have titles? Are there any instances where the title serves in the traditional sense, as opposed to being part of the “story” of the poem?

19. Why are there two narrators telling their stories? Did you notice parallels to the two stories, even before you understood the connection between them? How would the story have been different if there had been only one narrator?

Extension Activities

1. Ariel is learning Spanish so that she can express herself to Monica in her native tongue. If you don’t already speak Spanish, learn some phrases that can help you communicate with native Spanish speakers. If you do speak Spanish, learn some phrases in a language that is important in your community.

2. Mark/Jason uses “gaslighting” to manipulate those around him. Research this specific form of abuse—where the phrase comes from, how to recognize it, and how to help people who have had people do it to them. Write a short report using your findings.

3. There are many charities that help women who are escaping abusive situations. There are women’s shelters, abuse hotlines, organizations that provide professional clothing for women to wear at job interviews, and more. Choose one of these charities in your town and volunteer with them.

4. Maya finds a great deal of comfort and value in keeping a journal for Ariel. Have you ever kept a diary or journal? If not, try it now. Write down the things that are important to you, the important events from your day, and your emotions as you move through your day.

5. Gabe and Ariel are able to help Hillary because they know some basic first aid. Find somewhere that you can get some first aid training, so that you will know how to react in an emergency.

6. September 11 is significant in the lives of several of the characters. Interview your relatives, teachers, or older friends about their memories of this terrible day. Compile these oral histories so that you can better understand how the world changed with this one event.

7. Ariel is very happy to find a job exercising horses, as she loves interacting with them. Visit a riding stable in your community and go for a ride.

8. Maya does not support her mother’s involvement in Scientology. Look up information on Scientology—what the basic beliefs are, why some people are opposed to it, and how it has spread. Write a short essay on your findings.

9. Make a list of the traits, memories, and events that create your identity. Create a collage that incorporates the items on the list and represents who you are.

10. Hopkins uses different formats for her poems. Choose a nontraditional format, and write a poem of your own.

Guide written by Cory Grimminck, Director of the Portland District Library in Michigan.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

Customer Reviews

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The You I've Never Known 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
TheThoughtSpot More than 1 year ago
The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins confronts many difficult and possibly controversial circumstances. A young woman lives with her father, but they never stay in one place very long. Ariel loves her father when he isn't drinking or being too overprotective. Other times he is abusive and angry. Ariel and her father finally stay in one place for an entire school year and she makes friends that she feels comfortable with. She is struggling with her sexuality because her father has always claimed that her mother is a lesbian. Ariel isn't sure about what she wants or who she wants it with. Another story is being told alternately with Ariel's. Maya also struggles with family situations and friendships. The stories of these two young women hold a strong, emotional mystery that knocked my socks off! In Ellen Hopkins standard writing, the mystery unfolds. 4 stars for an emotional book full of growth!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
U wont be sorry if u buy this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The plot twist in this book was perfect! I couldn't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books by ellen hopkins. Overwhelming and sad, this book is a page turner! Evokes rage. Nevertheless, great ending full of hope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Long book..but still a great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heartbreaking yet heartwarming. Don't start this one close to bed time:)
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic novel. I loved the edgy characters with their complex circumstances. Two stories were told simultaneously inside this novel and as I read, I anxiously awaited to see when they would join up together and become one. It baffled me as these two stories were written in two different time periods and my mind was racing to figure out the connection and piece this puzzle together. What great story telling by Ellen Hopkin, as she had me wrapped around her finger as I read this novel. Written in prose and verse, I found myself taking advantage of this writing style many times as my emotions played with the words that were written across the page. Hopes, dreams, lies, love and deception can hurt and they can also heal and I felt the power of these emotions as I read this novel. It was a large book, over 550 pages but it went fast. I have read one other Ellen Hopkins novel and I loved it and there are many others on my TBR list. I think it’s time to do a major Ellen Hopkins readathon, I think I might be emotionally ready.
Reading_With_Cupcakes More than 1 year ago
The You I've Never Known is probably my favorite Ellen Hopkins book that I have read so far. I really think that she knocked this one out of the park. The You I've Never Known is mostly told from Ariel's perspective. She is a 17 year old girl who has lived pretty much her entire life moving from one place to another with her dad. At times he would find a lady friend to live with for a short amount of time and other times they would just live out of the car. Ariel's mother abandoned her and her father to be with her girl friend and gave up on them, so she has been out of Ariel's life for a very very long time. At the point in her life that this story occurs though, Ariel and her father have finally put down some temporary roots in California. Ariel is finally at a place in her life where she can let herself start to have friends and to find who she really is. And that brings us to one of the big questions that Ariel looks to solve during the course of this story. Who she is, especially when it comes to her sexual identity. Is she into men? Is she into women? Is she into both? Can she be bisexual? Is that even a possibility? And The You I've Never Known follows along with Ariel while she ponders these questions and works to discover herself and the answers to these questions....and more. So much more. Along with having Ariel's story, we also get a few "journal entries" from a girl named Maya. Maya is trying to navigate life and get away from her abusive mother. Oh my goodness guys. My mind is still reeling from reading this. I cannot stop thinking about it. There is just so much in this book! Discovering oneself, sexual identity, abuse, and more. It is a really hard hitting read. I had to put the book down on more than one occasion because there were points that were tough for me to get through and I had to take the extra time to digest what I had just read. However, I could never put it down for very long because I just had to know what was going to happen next! I will say that while I felt very invested in Ariel, that I didn't find myself drawn too much to the other characters. The only exception of this was Maya. It is probably because most of this story is about Ariel and told by Ariel. So it is like you are in her mind. It doesn't allow us to really get to know other characters all that deeply, but it does really let us get to know Ariel. And I really liked getting to know Ariel. I guess it doesn't really need to be said since this is an Ellen Hopkins book, but just in case you are new to her books... like the rest of her books there are some definite trigger warnings. Domestic abuse and child abuse are two very strong topics for this book...and alcohol consumption. Also, Ariel's father is very anti LGBTQIA and feel that should be noted. It is part of Ariel's story though, but I just wanted readers to be aware of it. Like I said in the beginning of my review, I really enjoyed The You I've Never Known. It found myself very pulled in and rooting for Ariel to find her true self. I am glad I read it and didn't put it off! This review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. Find more of my reviews here:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awful horribill