Ellen Hopkins

The You I've Never Known

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About the Book

How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? Find out in this “satisfied and moving story” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins.


For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.


Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.


Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.


In bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s deft hands, Ariel’s emotionally charged journey to find out the truth of who she really is balances beautifully with Maya’s story of loss and redemption. This is a memorable portrait of two young women trying to make sense of their lives and coming face to face with themselves—for both the last and the very first time.


To Begin

Oh, to be given the gifts

of the chameleon!


Not only the ability

to match the vital façade

to circumstance at will,


but also the capacity

to see in two directions



Left. Right.

Forward. Backward.


How much gentler

our time on this planet,

and how much more


certain of our place

in the world we would be,

drawing comfort


like water from the wells

of our homes.


Home (Ariel)


Four letters,

one silent.

A single syllable

pregnant with meaning.


is more

than a leak-free roof

and insulated walls

that keep you warm

when the winter wind screams

and cool when summer

stomps all over you.


is a clearing

in the forest,

a safe place to run

when the trees shutter

all light and the crunch

of leaves in deepening darkness

drills fear into your heart.


is someone

or two who accepts you

for the person you believe

you are, and if that happens

to change, embraces the person

you ultimately find yourself to be.





I Can’t Remember

Every place

Dad and I have

called home. When

I was real little, the two

of us sometimes lived in

our car. Those memories

are in motion. Always moving.


I don’t think

I minded it so much

then, though mixed in

with happy recollections

are snippets of intense fear.

I didn’t dare ask why one stretch

of sky wasn’t good enough to settle


under. My dad

likes to say he came

into this world infected

with wanderlust. He claims

I’m lucky, that at one day ‘til

I turn seventeen I’ve seen way

more places than most folks see


in an entire

lifetime. I’m sure

he’s right on the most

basic level, and while I

can’t dig up snapshots of

North Dakota, West Virginia or

Nebraska, how could I ever forget


watching Old

Faithful spouting

way up into the bold

amethyst Yellowstone sky,

or the granddaddy alligator

ambling along beside our car

on a stretch of Everglade roadway?


I’ve inhaled

heavenly sweet

Plumeria perfume,

dodging pedicab traffic

in the craziness of Waikiki.

I’ve picnicked in the shadows

of redwoods older than the rumored


son of God;

nudged up against

the edge of the Grand

Canyon as a pair of eagles

played tag in the warm air

currents; seen Atlantic whales

spyhop; bodysurfed in the Pacific;


and picked spring

inspired Death Valley

wildflowers. I’ve listened

to Niagara Falls percussion,

the haunting song of courting

loons. So I guess my dad is right.

I’m luckier than a whole lot of people.


Yeah, On Paper


All that sounds pretty damn

awesome. But here’s the deal.

I’d trade every bit of it to touch

down somewhere Dad didn’t insist


we leave as soon as we arrived.

I truly don’t think I’m greedy.

All I want is a real home, with

a backyard and a bedroom


I can fix up any way I choose,

the chance to make a friend

or two, and invite them to spend

the night. Not so much to ask, is it?


Well, I guess you’d have to query Dad.

I know he only wants what’s best

for me, but somehow he’s never

cared about my soul-deep longing


for roots. Home is where the two

of us are, was a favorite saying, and,

The best roof there is the sky. Except

when it’s leaking. The rain reference


cracked me up when I was real young.

But after a time or twenty, stranded

in our car while it poured because

we had nowhere else dry to stay,


Review for The You I've Never Known

reviews from Publishers Weekly:

Once again tackling difficult subject matter through elegantly crafted free verse, Hopkins (Traffick) tells the story of 17-year-old Ariel; her father, Mark; and Maya, also 17, who jumps into a relationship with an older man to escape her mother. Mark is an alcoholic drifter, prone to angry and violent outbursts. He has finally settled down long enough for Ariel to finish an entire school year in Sonora, Calif., where Ariel has allowed herself to develop real friendships and even consider the possibility of finding love. Hopkins uses spare yet poignant language to convey Ariel’s simultaneous joy and fear as she begins to explore her sexuality (“the need to embrace/ this part of myself/ is escalating”) while dealing with an abusive, homophobic, and controlling parent. Maya, whose chapters are written in first-person prose, intersects with Mark and Ariel’s lives in an unexpected way, deepening the story’s exploration of identity. Hopkins creates a satisfying and moving story, and her carefully structured poems ensure that each word and phrase is savored. Ages 14–up. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary. (Jan.) —Publishers Weekly