Book Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the UniverseTitle: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe
Author: Preston Norton
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Pages: 400
Format: ARC Paperback
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary

Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he's so enormous-6'6" and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother's suicide. There's no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there's only one person who can help: Neanderthal. To his own surprise, Cliff says he's in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS--Cliff feels like he's part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn't as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they've completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.
It's official, no matter how many books I read after this one - this is my favorite read of 2018!! Yes, I feel that special about THIS BOOK RIGHT HERE. I would give it 100 OWLS, if I could! Thank you so much to the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I saw it, I felt an instant connection and I was absolutely right. This book made me hopeful that people can be good and that when we remember that lesson, it can move mountains. It's also an important reminder that what we look like on the outside, does not always reflect what we have going on in the inside and that sometimes it takes EFFORT to get to someone's inner layers and to find our tribe. No matter our gender, sexual preference, religious affinity, etc., we're all human beings and we all are looking to love and be loved.

Cliff Hubbard, a/k/a Neanderthal, is the most unexpected main character that you will grow to love because he's just so endearing and engaging. Nothing physically makes him so as he is 6'6 and weighs 250 pounds - making him quite intimidating and unfortunately as is the culture of high school, the butt of many jokes, including earning the moniker of Neanderthal (that most people don't even know his real name). When the book opens, he's in a bad place: his brother has died close to a year ago and he's just angry at himself, at people, and his home life isn't idyllic. Enter Aaron Zimmerman. Enter a huge fight with Aaron and Cliff gets caught before he's really able to go to town on Aaron's face. But instant karma lends a hand and Aaron ends up in a coma from a boating accident. When he wakes up, though, the oddest thing - Aaron is on a mission. He's on a mission from "God" who he says has entrusted him with a list of things that Cliff must help him with in order to make things right at Happy Valley High School.

The unlikely friendship between these two is something unexpected for both the two of them and the reader that you are taken on a journey. That is all to say that it is a very character-driven book but there isn't a dull moment that it feels action-packed. The dialogue is absolutely brilliant too and the cast of characters are all the archetypes that exist or have existed at one time or another. This book takes them as serious as they need to be taken which is what made this such an authentic read.

This book also made my pop-culture-loving heart so happy. There are so many references from Quentin Tarantino movies to Battlestar Galactica to PBS's Arthur. All told through Cliff's viewpoint, his inner thoughts are absolutely hilarious. I don't want to give too much away because the genius lies in the "List" that Aaron and Cliff have to get through. As they make their way through it, sometimes not even realizing it, I cried and laughed and was right along on the journey with them.

Please do yourself a favor and pick this one up! I beg you, no matter your age (upper young adult and up), you will love this story, I promise. From the cover alone you probably couldn't tell but it is just such a magical book, I don't even feel I've done it justice by this review.

I want to thank you, Preston Norton, for writing this clever and remarkable book. It was an honor to read it. There were so many lines I highlighted but I'll leave you with one sample. It's an example of these universal thoughts we can all find common ground in:

"It was in that moment that I realized something about human beings. We always care. Even when we don't care, or we don't want to care, or we've been broken beyond the capability of caring...We always do. It's our ultimate infallibility." (Final copy is subject to change.)

As always, happy reading!


  1. I am glad you liked this one so much! It sounded pretty good, so I recently requested a copy. You've made me want to read it now! Great review.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

    1. Thank you so much Krystianna. I hope you love it as much as I did! :)


We love and appreciate comments, so feel free to leave us one. We always try to respond to every single one and show love back. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...