Cover image for You don't know me : novel
You don't know me : novel
Klass, David.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Frances Foster Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
262 pages ; 22 cm
Fourteen-year-old John creates alternative realities in his mind as he tries to deal with his mother's abusive boyfriend, his crush on a beautiful, but shallow classmate and other problems at school.
General Note:
"Frances Foster books"
Reading Level:
970 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.4 11.0 46861.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.5 16 Quiz: 24741 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Dark and funny.

John ("My father named me after a toilet!") wrestles with the certainty that no one really knows him -- not in his miserable home, and certainly not at school. It's true that no one can guess his hidden thoughts, which are hilarious, razor-sharp observations about lust, love, tubas, algebra, everything. And then there's his home: his father ran off years ago, so he's being raised by his mother, who works long hours, and by her boyfriend, whom John calls "the man who is not and never will bemy father." This man is his enemy, an abusive disciplinarian who seems to want to kill John and, in a horrible final confrontation, nearly succeeds.

Moving, wholly involving, original, and emotionally true, You Don't Know Me is a multilayered novel that presents a winning portrait of an understandably angst-ridden adolescent.

Author Notes

David Klass is the author of many young adult novels, including Dark Angel and You Don't Know Me . He is also a Hollywood screenwriter, having written more than twenty-five action screenplays, including Kiss the Girls, starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, Walking Tall, starring The Rock, and Desperate Measures, starring Michael Keaton and Andy Garcia. Klass grew up in a family that loved literature and theater--his parents were both college professors and writers--but he was a reluctant reader, preferring sports to books. But he started loving the adventure stories his parents would bring home from the library--particularly Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson and Alexandre Dumas. After his sister twice won a story contest in Seventeen magazine, Klass decided he would win it too, and when he was a senior in high school, he did, publishing his first story, "Ringtoss," in the magazine. He studied at Yale University, where he won the Veech Award for Best Imaginative Writing. He taught English in Japan, and wrote his first novel, The Atami Dragons , about that experience. He now lives in New York with his wife and two small children.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-9. At 14, John feels trapped in a life that he says "is not a life." Who could argue? Consider the facts: his father--who (he says) named him after a toilet--vanished when John was four; his mother, who works soul-destroying double shifts in a factory, is nearly always absent. What's worse, the man who moved in six months ago and whom Mom plans to marry abuses John routinely. As a result, the highly imaginative teen lives mostly in his head (the ambitious story is largely an interior monologue) and understandably feels that no one knows him. Although John is a genuinely sympathetic, interestingly complex character, his highly mannered voice belongs to someone much older than 14, and it's wildy inconsistent, veering in stone from seriously realistic to the farcical, from wryly sophisticated and ironically self-deprecating to sophomoric. Weigh that against some brilliant, dramatically charged scenes and John's endlessly intriguing character. --Michael Cart

Publisher's Weekly Review

John, the 14-year-old narrator of Klass's (Screen Test; Danger Zone) well-conceived novel, deals with not only universal teenage problems (escaping his algebra teacher's questions, working up the nerve to ask out his dream girl, whom he calls "Glory Hallelujah," fighting with a friend), he also must deal with his mother's boyfriend, whom John calls "the man who is not my father." The tyrant verbally and physically abuses him when his mother is not around, and John experiences a "meltdown" when he learns that the man plans to marry his mother. While people do care about JohnDa rather stereotypically sensitive music teacher and a likable girl from his band class, whom John calls "Violent" Hayes "because she appears to be trying to strangle her saxophone before it kills her"Deven they cannot convince John to reveal what's happening at home. John's narrative often addresses various characters directly (his mother's boyfriend, the music teacher, etc.) with wry internal thoughts; this approach plays up the alienation John feels and also conveys the teen's sardonic humor and intelligence. A few scenes are so outrageous and comical that they clash with the book's overall tone (e.g., when Glory Hallelujah's father hunts John and the girl down in the basement of her home). But most, such as when John first asks out Glory Hallelujah via note, instructing her to check either the "yes" or "no" box, are very grounded in the high school experience. The hero's underlying sense of isolation and thread of hope will strike a chord with nearly every adolescent. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-In this novel by David Klass (Farrar, 2001), listeners are immediately catapulted into the head of 14-year-old John. We know from the start that John's mother's boyfriend ("the man who is not my father") is hitting him when his mother isn't around. The hope is that their lower middle class existence will improve if she marries the first boyfriend she has had since John's father left. John realizes that his mother is so anxious for a better life that she will turn a blind eye to the truth. Through John's eyes, we see the absurdity of what well-meaning adults say and do. John creates his own world in which the only people who live honorable and fair lives are the Lashasa Palulu, a fictitious African tribe. He nicknames most things and people in his misunderstood life as he attempts to escape the violence at home by plunging into life at his "anti-school." He gets the courage to ask out the prettiest girl in school, only to discover that she's calculating and mean-spirited. John's relationship with the man who is not his father deteriorates when his mother leaves town to assist a dying aunt. John's idealistic band teacher ferrets out the truth and helps him. Nick Landrum narrates in a distinctive, soulful voice that suits this conflicted character. The edgy plot, rich use of words, and repetition of phrases all contribute to making this an ideal audiobook. John's story is told with wit, self-knowledge, and penetrating honesty. Young adults will identify with John's feelings of isolation and invisibility. A great choice for readers who like Chris Crutcher, Rob Thomas, and Chris Lynch.-Jo-Ann Carhart, East Islip Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1 who I am not You don't know me. Just for example, you think I'm upstairs in my room doing my homework. Wrong. I'm not in my room. I'm not doing my homework. And even if I were up in my room I wouldn't be doing my homework, so you'd still be wrong. And it's really not my room. It's your room because it's in your house. I just happen to live there right now. And it's really not my homework, because my math teacher, Mrs. Moonface, assigned it and she's going to check it, so it's her homework. Her name's not Mrs. Moonface, by the way. It's really Mrs. Garlic Breath. No it's not. It's really Mrs. Gabriel, but I just call her Mrs. Garlic Breath, except for the times when I call her Mrs. Moonface. Confused? Deal with it. You don't know me at all. You don't know the first thing about me. You don't know where I'm writing this from. You don't know what I look like. You have no power over me. What do you think I look like? Skinny? Freckles? Wirerimmed glasses over brown eyes? No, I don't think so. Better look again. Deeper. It's like a kaleidoscope, isn't it? One minute I'm short, the next minute tall, one minute I'm geeky, one minute studly, my shape constantly changes, and the only thing that stays constant is my brown eyes. Watching you. That's right, I'm watching you right now sitting on the couch next to the man who is not my father, pretending to read a book that is not a book, waiting for him to pet you like a dog or stroke you like a cat. Let's be real, the man who is not my father isn't a very nice man. Not just because he is not my father but because he hits me when you're not around, and he says if I tell you about it he'll really take care of me. Those are his words. "I'll really take care of you, John. Don't rat on me or you'll regret it." Nice guy. But I am telling you now. Can't you hear me? He's petting the top of your head like he would pet a dog, with his right hand, which just happens to be the hand he hits me with. When he hits me he doesn't curl his fingers up into a fist because that would leave a mark. He slaps me with the flat of his hand. WHAP. And now I'm watching him stroke your cheek with those same fingers. He holds me tight with his left hand when he hits me so that I can't run away. And now he's holding you tenderly with his left hand. And I'm telling you this as I watch through the window, but your eyes are closed and you couldn't care less, because he's stroking you the way he would stroke a cat and I bet you're purring. You don't know me at all. You think I'm a good student. Hah! You think I have friends. Hah! You think I'm happy with this life. Hah, hah! Okay, now you're putting down the book that is not a book. It's a Reader's Digest condensation of literature, which is like drinking orange juice made from concentrate. It has no pulp. The key vitamins have been processed out. You're pressing your head against his shoulder. I can see your toes move inside your pink socks on the coffee table. What's with this toe movement? Is it passion or athlete's foot? There is some kind of serious itch there. And now the man who is not my father puts down his book, which is a real book, because he's not a stupid or shallow man, just cruel and self-centered. He kisses you long and full on the lips, and then on the side of your neck. And you glance upstairs, nervously, because you think I'm up in my room doing my homework. You don't know that I'm floating twenty feet above our backyard, watching this display of misplaced affection. No, I am not levitating. I do not have secret wings that allow me to fly. I am not a vampire. I am not hanging by my heels from the roof or clinging to a drainpipe. So where am I? You don't know me at all. I'll give you this one. I'm in the apple tree, which is not an apple tree. The man who is not my father calls it an apple tree, but it has never produced a single thing resembling an apple. Nor has it produced a pear, so it is not a pear tree. Nor has it produced a pair of apples. Nor has it produced a pineapple, so it is clearly not a pineapple tree. The only thing I have ever seen it produce is thin gray leaves, so I will call it a gray-leaf tree. That's where I am. Sitting in the gray-leaf tree. There's a full moon out tonight, so if I were a werewolf or a vampire I would be hungry or thirsty for flesh or blood. But I'm full with the gluey spaghetti and golf ball meatballs from dinner. The only effect the moon has on me is to make me think of Mrs. Moonface and my five pages of algebra homework that is really her homework, except that for some reason I'm the one who got stuck with it. Mrs. Moonface assigns us so much homework because she is miserable and lonely. I wrote a poem to her. It's not a very good poem, but I don't really care. The first stanza goes like this: Mrs. Moonface, get a life, Get a nose ring, fly a kite, Find a boyfriend, learn to ski, Just stop taking it out on me. The man who is not my father is switching off the lamp. Now our house is dark except for the light in my room, which is really not a room, where I am not doing homework. Except that I am actually up there doing homework after all! Did you really think that I was up in the branches of an apple tree? Not necessary. You don't have to see things to know that they are happening. Anyway, I don't like climbing trees. It's a cold fall night. The wind is howling around our house like a live animal. I finish the last algebra problem. Put down my pencil. Downstairs I can hear the springs of the couch creaking. The man who is not my father is repeating your name, with passion in his voice. But it's not really your name, even though it belongs to you. It's really the name of his pretty first wife, Mona, who died in a car accident five years before he met you and decided to move into your house, and take on the duties of disciplining your son. And now he is repeating your name and thinking of Mona. And you are listening to him and thinking of my father. And I am not in this house at all. I am in the middle of a hurricane. Thunder is cymbal-crashing above and beneath me. Lightning makes my hair stand up. Winds are spinning me like a top. Do you really think I will come down to breakfast tomorrow and call the man who is not my father sir? Do you think I will go to school tomorrow and hand in my homework to Mrs. Moonface? I won't even be in this hemisphere tomorrow. This storm could set me down anywhere. You don't know where I'll end up. The good news is that you may have created my past and screwed up my present but you have no control over my future. You don't know me at all. Excerpted from You Don't Know Me by David Klass All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.