Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton
Wow! Just wow. If there is one book that I urge parents and teens to read, it's Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe. This book is fantastic. It's snarky, fun, endearing, and so, so powerful.
"Neanderthal" is really Cliff Hubbard. At 6' 6" and 250 pounds, his classmates would rather call him Neanderthal and make his life miserable. It only seemed to get worse after his older brother killed himself. Cliff is simply trying to make it through each and every day without the support of friends or even his parents, who have only gotten worse since his brother died.
After getting suspended for beating up one of the popular jocks who never stopped teasing Cliff, he returns to school ready to get right back into it. Only that jock isn't in school. It turns out he was in an accident. When he returns, he approaches Cliff. He had a near-death experience and God told him he needed to complete a list of tasks that he must complete with Cliff. It's essential that Cliff join him in order to make their high school a better place.
Cliff isn't about to help his nemesis, but for some reason, he says yes. The pair set off to change the school, one task at a time. It means going up against drug dealers, irritated teachers, and the school's ultra-aggressive religious club that seems to be anything but Christian. No matter what they face, they're determined to check off each task.
I loved this book. If it doesn't get picked up for a movie, I'll be sad. In a world where movies and TV shows are almost always a remake, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe could be that breath of fresh air I've been craving.
Each character was complex and had my heart breaking for them. So many times I wanted to hug Cliff and Tegan as they coped with the rougher parts of life. I had a little less sympathy for Aaron, but even he got to me after a while. The story though is totally Cliff's. He's a bit of a loner at first, so the coming-of-age aspect as he grows into himself and develops real relationships for the first time had me tearing up from time to time.
Definitely read this one. Sure, there may be sex and drugs mentioned, but that's all stuff teens encounter. It's real and it was handled perfectly.