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Being Henry David
Cover of Being Henry David
Being Henry David
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Winner of the 2014 Paterson Prize for Books for Young PeopleSeventeen-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,...
Winner of the 2014 Paterson Prize for Books for Young PeopleSeventeen-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,...
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  • Winner of the 2014 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People
    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.

About the Author-

  • Cal Armistead is a musician, singer, voice actress, and independent bookseller in Massachusetts. She lives in Concord with her husband. This is her first novel.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 11, 2013
    Armistead’s debut might oversell its Thoreauvian connections, but the core story of an amnesiac boy and his quest for identity stands on its own. When “Henry David” wakes up in Penn Station, he has no clue who he is; since his only possession is a copy of Walden, he takes the author’s name as his own. After falling in with a pair of homeless teens who nickname him Hank and being threatened by a crime boss, the 17-year-old decides he’s safer outside the city and heads to Concord, Mass., to see if Thoreau’s life can offer him answers. There, he meets an attractive high schooler named Hailey and a heavily tattooed librarian named Thomas, both of whom help Hank as his memories slowly come back. Armistead can go over the top at times—her New York City is almost cartoonishly violent and one-dimensional—but Hank’s personal tragedies are touching, as are his interactions with everyone from street kids Jack and Nessa to the more sedate citizens of Concord. His quests for answers and redemption should easily engage readers. Ages 13–up.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 1, 2013
    When Hank wakes up in Penn Station, the only clue to his identity is the book he's clutching, Walden, so he adopts Henry David Thoreau's name and iconic work to guide him on his journey to self-discovery. After a stabbing ends his brief stint as a homeless teen, Hank flees to Walden Pond, where he meets Thomas, a gentle park docent, and bonds with a girl, gifted singer Hailey. His festering knife wound forces him to confide in Thomas and accept help, but Hank's pleasant discoveries (he's good-looking, a runner and a musician) are overshadowed by returning memories that evoke dread and shame. What's driven him, Hank realizes, is desperation to escape his past, not to recover it. Accepting and moving on is hard for Hailey, too; she is afraid to enter a band competition since her last experience ended badly. Thomas, who's made peace with his own closet skeletons, mentors Hank but can't spare him the tough choice: whether to keep running or face the music. Hank earns sympathy and respect from readers, but Armistead doesn't let him off easy. Rescue is not an option, but Thoreau's spare words, focusing on what truly matters, lighten the darkness. This compelling, suspenseful debut, a tough-love riff on guilt, forgiveness and redemption, asks hard questions to which there are no easy answers. (Fiction. 13 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    March 1, 2013

    Gr 10 Up-A boy wakes up in Penn Station, remembering nothing. He guesses that he's about 17, he has a head injury, and he is carrying only 10 dollars. Near at hand is a copy of Walden, so for want of anything better he calls himself Henry David (Hank). He heads to Concord, Massachusetts, to find, he hopes, some clues at Walden Pond. As his memories slowly return, he remembers who he was; as he copes with the memories, he discovers who he is and can be. The quiet mystery of Hank's past is the central plot point, but the focus is more on the relationships he builds and his efforts to be a good person and make up for past misdeeds-whatever they may have been. Thematic elements from Thoreau are subtly deployed, planting the suggestion that teens pick up Walden. Introspective high schoolers will appreciate this enigmatic coming-of-age story.-Brandy Danner, Wilmington Memorial Library, MA

    Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Albert Whitman & Company
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