“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,” John, the narrator of David Klass’ young adult novel YOU DON’T KNOW ME, tells readers from the opening chapter. And with those words,readers are pulled into this engrossing story about a high school boy with a secret: His mother’s boyfriend beats him daily, while his mother works double shifts to make ends meet.
Teens across Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana are often required to read novels from a summer reading list and take tests on the material for high school credit. Last summer, YOU DON’T KNOW ME was a contemporary young adult novel featured on Munster High School’s freshman reading list. It’s a book that holds strong appeal not only for voracious readers, but also for reluctant readers.
There is much to love in this book: its humor; Klass’ gift for description; and the sense that the author understands what teen readers are going through, even if their situations do not compare with the life of the narrator.
Throughout YOU DON’T KNOW ME, John creates alternative realities to deal with the abuse he suffers at home, and these scenarios create humor within an otherwise dark story, as when he pretends his tuba is a bullfrog, and talks to the tuba in his head to get through a solo in orchestra class: “’When she heard the bullfrog’s love song,’ I tell my tuba, ‘the frog babe hopped up onto a lily pad of her own, and began dancing a four-legged cancan, slowly stripping off her princess dress. Soon she was dancing in the buff, as only a frog babe can. The bullfrog watched her dance, with the sun glinting golden behind her, and his love song suddenly turned into a rock-and-roll number that woke up every pond animal right down to the old beaver snoring at the bottom of the dam!’”
Learn more about David Klass in this interview with HarperCollins Publishers.
This study guide provides discussion questions for YOU DON’T KNOW ME as well as a number of writing prompts and lessons in irony and magical realism.