Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead
Release Date: March 1st, 2013
Number of Pages: 270
Publisher: Albert Whitman Teen
Source: eARC from NetGalley
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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.

I’m a little torn about Being Henry David. I liked some parts of it, but I was slightly disappointed. I think I was expecting to like it more. It was a little all over the place for me. Part of the book leaves you thinking it will be about amnesia, and then the second part seems to be more about guilt, and learning to live with the consequences of his actions. Then, there is the fact that it is build in a weird way around Walden, a novel written by Henry David Thoreau. I had never read this book, and I don’t think I ever will. It just left me feeling weird.

The main character, who is called Hank for most of the book, wakes up in Penn Station with no memory of his past. For whatever reason, Hank ends up not asking the cops for help at the station, and instead, he runs away with another runaway. This makes everything more complicated for him, bringing him in many difficult situations. The only thing he keeps doing to get himself out of all of this is lie. He lies to almost everyone about who he is, instead of simply telling them that he has amnesia. That would have been so much easier. Then there is the romance that blooms while he is away, a romance built on lies. It just made me feel really uncomfortable to want to like this romance, while he keeps lying to her face. I don’t want to root for a romance based on lies.

Overall, I think I was a little disappointed because it wasn’t what I was expecting. There was just a lot more to the story than I would have expected from a novel of 270 pages. There were just too many things happening for a novel that short. Some parts of the novel felt rushed, and other parts felt a little superficial. I guess I was expecting a little more depth. I found it also hard to love it, since I kept getting mad at the main character for not doing the logical thing. In the end, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. I would love to read more from Cal Armistead though.

About the Author:
From GoodReads

Cal has been a writer since age 9, when she submitted her first book, The Poor Macaroni Named Joany to a publisher. Sadly, this literary gem did not make it to print. But Cal continued pursuing her lifelong passion, and wrote copiously for radio, newspapers and magazines (Cal has been published in The Chicago Tribune, Shape Magazine, Body & Soul Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Chicken Soup for Every Mom’s Soul and others). Although it took years for Cal to try her hand again at fiction writing, her first young adult novel (Being Henry David) will be published by Albert Whitman & Co. on March 1, 2013. Cal, who holds an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine, works at an independent book store, is a voice-over actress, sings semi-professionally, and lives in a Boston suburb with her amazing husband and a dog named Layla.


  1. Hmm. I still think I'm mildly curious about this book but I'm not sure I'll ever make a point to get to it. I've never read Walden either so I wonder if that would make the book harder to understand.

    1. I wondered the same thing. I don't know if it would have helped, but you can still understand the story if you haven't read Walden.

  2. I actually loved almost everything about this book. I agree with you about the romance. It's an odd romance that made me want to punch Hank in the face a few times.
    Great review!

    1. Thanks! I'm happy to hear you enjoyed this book.

  3. I liked the first half a lot but did not like the second really at all.