TITLE = YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW
AUTHOR = SUE LAWSON
GENRE = FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, GRIEF, GROWING UP, IDENTITY
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 – 12
Alex’s life should be great: he lives in a big house with a swimming pool and goes to a prestigious private school; he is a water polo champion and has a part-time job which he loves. But there is not a lot of joy in his home life. His domineering father seems to constantly see the negatives in Alex and puts him down. Is it just because Alex is different to his dad? Certainly, his older brother, Ethan, can do no wrong but then he is the mirror image of his father, right down to being on the school rowing team. Ethan even sounds like Dad when he speaks to Alex and knows just how to push his buttons. Alex is constantly frustrated that he can’t seem to stand up against either his father or his brother. Maybe they are right and he is hopeless after all??
The only bright light at home comes from his little sister, 4 year old Mia who adores Alex and is adored in return. Alex will even wear dress-up wings and play tea parties with his cute little sister, who he is teaching to swim. But when this book opens, Alex is in the neurosurgery unit of a hospital recovering from a serious head injury. How did this happen and why won’t he even mention Mia’s name?
This book is a compelling read –we desperately want to know what has brought Alex to this point (whilst also dreading the discovery) and as the story of Alex’ life unfolds, we have a great deal of empathy for a young man who wants to do the right thing, even if no –one else will acknowledge his efforts. Will he survive his family or will they break him?
The structure of the story may take a little getting used to as it is told in alternating parts: the current story of Alex’s recovery in hospital and the back story (where we go back some months and learn about Alex and what lead to his hospital stay). The two strands gradually come together towards the end of the novel in a dramatic, page-turning climax. This is a compelling read, even if it is heartbreaking at times, but it never slips over into melodrama or sentimentality – Sue Lawson tells her story well.
No wonder this book gained a Notables listing in the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers)
Highly Recommended (Deb Marshall) *****