Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

Title: Being Henry David
Author: Cal Armistead
Stand Alone
Format- ebook
Publisher- Albert Whitman Teen
Release Date- March 1st, 2013
Pages- 321
Source- NetGalley

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 have a thing for nature books. I don't know if it was A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements or My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George or maybe it was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (all favorite books by the way) that got me into reading books that dealt with nature but one thing's for sure - if there's a book like that I will surely love it. Basically this book was a shoe in for me right from the beginning. It helped that it was a wonderful read with a great premise and awesome characters. 

Henry "Hank" doesn't know who is. He woke up in a train station with this grubby old homeless guy asking him if he wants to eat that. Don't worry this book doesn't turn all zombie on you. He wants to eat the book near him, not Hank. Henry David Thoreau's Walden. I think it's because of my nature book love but I really admire Thoreau and like his outlook on life. I haven't read any of his books yet but one day I will have to take a crack at it. Hank is able to keep the book and since it's his only possession he looks at it as a guide to find who he is.

Hank deals with a lot in this book. He doesn't know who he is so he's homeless. He would have wandered aimlessly but he met Jack who lives in the street with his sister Nessa. Those two are runaways. Their lives are pretty sad. I cringe when I think of what Nessa's been doing to keep herself alive. Nessa's so innocent and she clings on to others for support. Jack's tougher. He seems protective of his sister but I don't see that much of it. All I see him as is very sneaky and dangerous but he was also sort of caring towards Hank which I appreciated because Hank was all alone in the world. 

There were times when Hank would try to remember (he did this a lot while running - he liked running which gives him bonus points in my book) he would freak out. He had this "beast" inside him that made sure he didn't go too far into his memories. It was his protector and it worried the hell out of me. As far as I can tell Hank didn't deserve to deal with all that pain. He was a protector, a runner, a Thoreau aficionado, and an all around nice guy.  I didn't like to see him hurting but on the other hand I was excited to find out what the terrible event was that makes his subconscious want to forget.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” - Henry David Thoreau

Hank has sort of a relationship with Thoreau, he sees him in his dreams. He's not the beast per se but he does tell him he's not ready to know the truth. These were very imaginative moments for me trying to see Thoreau through Hank's eyes and what he was doing there. I loved all the Thoreau quotes too. Hank had a lot memorized so it was cool reading about them. What Thoreau did, live off the land for years, is inspiring. I wouldn't be able to be away from my family and let's face it the internet for that long but I would love to go into the woods and just have everything stop for a moment. 

Hank has pretty good luck when finding friends. He meets another Thoreau lover, Thomas, as well as a love interest named Hailey. Thomas is this big, lovable guy that Hank is always bumping into. He's such a great person who is genuinely concerned about Hank's welfare. He sold me right away with his name (LOVE the name Thomas) and kept me liking him for his caring ability towards someone he doesn't even know. Hailey is this badass singer who at first seemed a little shy but her personality shines through later on. She has a bit of troubles herself. I liked her addition. I didn't really expect her. She just came along for the ride I guess. She was great for Hank. 

There were moments in the story that I thought needed to be more dramatic like the big reveal but there was a snippet that satisfied me some. By the end I was crying so it all worked out. I'm very partial to this book because it has a nature theme, it has Thoreau, the main character has amnesia, and he's a runner so basically this book was made for me more than others so I do recommend reading it especially if you like any of those things. But, I also recommend it solely based upon Hank who you'll be rooting for all the way.

For more info about Cal Armistead and her debut book go to:


  1. While I'm sure I've read books in the past with nature themes, none of them truly stick out. This sounds pretty good, though. I'm glad you liked it, overall. Great review! :)

    1. That's so unfortunate! Well, we all have our favorite themes with books (:

  2. You've made me really happy that I requested this on Netgalley! I've had it for a while but haven't read it yet but I'm a sucker for a book that will make me cry, so I'll be sure to read this soon!

    1. Oh, but I cry all the time :P
      But, this had an effect on me. There was this moment of sheer... anguish that made me cry and the aftermath of the secret's reveal.

  3. This sounds so interesting! I'm thinking I might request it now. I need something a little different from what I've been reading.

    1. I think you might like it. I can't really tell because you read mostly children's which I do a lot as well. If it sounds interesting to you then I guess you will like it. Enjoy (:

  4. Great review :)

    I am a new follower.


  5. I saw that you commented saying that you didn't see me following on here so I came back to try again. It says I already follow when I click "Join this site". Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  6. Haven't heard much about this one. Thanks for the great review. Sound like an interesting book -- not sure it's for me, but I'll think about it.

  7. This is my first time hearing about this book. It does sound interesting! I thought this was a great review and very helpful. :)

  8. I'm excited to read this one! I like the idea of a book playing such a large role within another book =)


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