The last thing I remember is now.
Now, coming at me with heart-pounding fists.
From Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

A teenage boy finds himself in Penn Station in New York with a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau as his only possession. He doesn’t know who he is, what his home is or where he came from. So he calls himself Henry David, short Hank, after Thoreau. Hank doesn’t dare to ask the police for help, he even gets fidgety around cops because he has a very bad feeling that he might have commited a crime, maybe even killed somebody. Is this perhaps the reason for his amnesia?

Of course he is terrified not knowing who he is but sensing that there is something evil inside him. Unfortunately, he seems to be dogged by bad luck, because a person who pretends to want to help him in fact is a drug dealer who wants to take advantage of Hanks situation. Hank has to run off and leave the city and his only possible destination seems to be Concord, Massachusetts, where he wants to visit Walden Pond, the place described by Thoreau. Can he really find some clues to his past in Thoreaus Walden? And what happens if he reveals the horrible truth about his past? Can he return to his old life?

Being Henry David starts as a crime thriller but once Hank’s past starts to be cleared up it becomes more of a psychological thriller. Step by step and together with the protagonist, the reader discovers everything about Hank’s past, his family and his guilt. These revelations are slow and often painful and the reader can’t help but empathize with Hank.

I liked the idea how the author isolated Hank from his past, his identity and his family, that he literally has to rediscover himself in order to find his inner peace again and find a way to restart his former life or start a new one.

This is a completely different coming of age story, sometimes a bit slow-paced, but never boring. Hank has to cope the hard way with high expectations from his family and friends, responsibilities, great misfortunes, guilt and his difficulities to plan his future. Everyone expects him to have a total life plan, to have it all worked out by age eighteen. The reality – he doesn’t even have a clue. I think many (and probably not only) teenagers are able to relate to Hank’s problem. And then one catastrophe questions everything…

In my opinion, Being Henry David is a great coming of age book with a fascinating plot, interesting characters and a plausible finish. Carpe diem – and read this book: highly recommended – five out of five stars.

Being Henry David
Cal Armistead
Publisher: Albert Whitman Teen
ISBN-10: 080750615X
ISBN-13: 978-0807506158
Publication Date: March 01, 2013
Pages: 312

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