Being Henry David

BeingHenryDavidBeing Henry David by Cal Armistead
Published: 1-1-13 by Albert Whitman Teen
Get the book: Amazon, The Book Depository

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.


Design – Nick Tiemersma      Rating – 4/5

This is a really nice cover for this book. The forest setting is appropriate because Hank finds himself in the woods of Walden, where Thoreau was inspired. I’m glad that the guy on the cover is facing away from the viewer so we can’t see his face or identify him, because Hank’s true identity is the big mystery in this book. I also like the simple, bold font of the title, and how it’s placed over the photo.


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Being Henry David is an enthralling story. Hank doesn’t remember anything, even “Hank” is just the name he came up with for himself. He encounters a crazy guy who wants to eat his copy of Walden, some drug dealers, and a helpful Thoreau-loving rebel on his journey to find out where he came from and who he really is. Why can’t he remember his life and does he want to go back to it?

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  • Thomas – Thomas finds Hank crashing at the site of Thoreau’s cabin and helps him figure out what to do. It’s really cool that he acts as a mentor to Hank – teaching him more about Thoreau and genuinely caring what happens to him. Thomas is enthusiastic about his career, his hobbies, and life in general.
  • Hank – When Hank finds himself alone with no money, no name, and only Thoreau’s words, he doesn’t get upset about it. Hank follows his gut and gets himself to Walden, searching for answers but not knowing where to look. He finds ways to make it by while he waits to remember anything about his life. Hank carves out a new life for himself in the meantime.
  • the answers – The truth about who Hank is, why he doesn’t remember anything, and what happened to him is surprising. The pieces are revealed at the perfect pace to keep the mystery alive and leave you curious. As he remembers things about his family, Hank also remembers why he isn’t there with them – how he feels about them and himself, and how he’s already begun to remake himself.

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  • girls – Oh, Hank. There are 2 girls that Hank interacts with in this book, and with each of them Hank decides at 1st sight that he likes them. 15-year-old homeless girl he hasn’t said a word to yet – likes her. Random girl at the street corner who gives him directions – likes her. I can understand if it happened once, or if he just thought they were cute, but Hank seemed to instantaneously decide he liked these girls. That made me wonder if the girls’ personalities even mattered to him, or if Hank would’ve simply been interested in any girl his age.
  • drug dealer – Hank’s 1st foray outside of the train station involves 2 homeless kids who work for a scumtastic drug dealer with a stupid name like Mosquito or something (it’s Magpie). As soon as Hank gets involved with the drug dealing kids and their boss, I began dreading that the book was going to follow Hank getting all caught up in that. I was so relieved that Hank got out of town and the plot moved in a much different direction. 

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On the outside, every one of those houses was really pretty. But inside those houses, nothing changed. Mom was drinking, Dad was leaving, and Rose and I were trying to be perfect. No matter how many times we moved, we were still us. And to be honest, it wasn’t working out so well.    – pg. 228


“Walden” is in worse shape than when I found it on the floor at Penn Station those long weeks ago. Now it’s drenched by the mountain storm. Pages are bent over and torn, and some are missing – the ones Frankie ate and the ones that fell out because I carried it around and thumbed through it so often.     – pg. 300

 4robots green

4 Robots

Acquired: library (ebook)


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