Being Henry David

Title: Being Henry David
Author: Cal Armistead
Publisher: Albert Whitman Teen
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

Seventeen-year-old “Hank” has found himself at Penn Station in New York City with no memory of anything –who he is, where he came from, why he’s running away. His only possession is a worn copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And so he becomes Henry David-or “Hank” and takes first to the streets, and then to the only destination he can think of–Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Cal Armistead’s remarkable debut novel is about a teen in search of himself. Hank begins to piece together recollections from his past. The only way Hank can discover his present is to face up to the realities of his grievous memories. He must come to terms with the tragedy of his past, to stop running, and to find his way home.


I honestly don’t know how to review this book. It’s so the opposite of what I expected that I was just completely taken aback by it. In truth, I expected this book to be boring and nature-y and not my cup of tea at all. To my surprise, it was gritty and exciting, and really different from anything I’ve read this year.

I don’t always like books where the main character has amnesia. Some authors just don’t do a good job of making it believable. Cal Armistead was certainly not one of those authors. She captured Hank’s fear and recovery process perfectly and made me really connect with him.

And Hank. Oh, Hank. He is officially my new fictional crush. Sure, he’s a bit damaged, but that doesn’t stop him from caring about people. I must admit I was super jealous of Hailey, fictional crush’s fictional crush, but I suppose I can leave him to her because she helped him find himself again as well. That part of the story was very touching and sweet, and I liked that Hank and Hailey actually followed a fairly normal relationship progression, unlike many other young adult books.

I absolutely loved this book, but the thing that kept it from being a five for me was the ending. After the complexity of the rest of the story, the ending seemed too perfect and I almost didn’t believe it. I also felt it was a bit rushed. This book probably could have been longer and been just as enjoyable, but with more of an open-ended ending.

I think if I write anymore I might accidentally give away some spoilers, so suffice it to say, there are so many reasons this book is amazing. I would recommend it to anyone regardless of the genre they normally read because there’s so much in this book that’s good. Put Being Henry David at the top of your spring TBR list!


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