Cliff Hubbard tries to stay in the background at Happy Valley High School, a difficult task for someone who’s 6’6”, 250 pounds, and called Neanderthal by the whole school. Cliff’s life sucks: he has no friends and his home life in a ratty trailer park has only gotten worse since his older brother committed suicide last year. He can’t stand the popular kids, and he doesn’t even know what to say to the druggies who hang around outside of school.
The guy he hates the most is Aaron Zimmerman, the perfect star quarterback who can do no wrong. All Cliff wants is to beat that smug look off Aaron’s face. Until Aaron has a near-death experience and returns to school with a message: while unconscious, he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley better…and Cliff is the only one who can help him.
To his own surprise, Cliff agrees, and he and Aaron start on the List which includes the meanest English teacher ever, a computer hacker intent on exposing the entire school’s secrets, the local drug dealers, the school’s most sadistic bully, and a group of teens who are Christian in name only. But soon Cliff will realize the List is more personal than he ever suspected—and he must act if he’s to prevent tragedy from striking Happy Valley High again.
I’m just going to say it: I LOVED this book! I generally prefer female YA protagonists, but Cliff was wonderful! His voice and humor brought this story to life, and I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do next. Cliff’s family life is sad and hard, and I felt so sorry for him at times I wanted to cry. But at heart, he’s such an optimistic, good-hearted person. Even the minor characters in this book are vivid (and somewhat over-the-top, making them completely realistic), and I loved every page.
Preston Norton’s newest book is Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe.
(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)