Sixteen-year-old Clifford Hubbard is 6'6" and 250 pounds: a "Grand Canyon-assed, Twinkie-and small-children-eating," "solemn warning of Darwinism gone wrong," according to his classmates at Happy Valley High School (HVHS). But most simply call him Neanderthal. To get through, Cliff abides by the "three rules to high school" that his idolized older brother, Shane, established. Rule number one: "It's all bullsh*t." Rule two: "People suck." And rule three: "Fists speak louder than words." Ever since Shane's suicide a year ago, Cliff has become more bitter, sardonic and violent. "If it was possible for me to give negative sh*ts," he thinks, "I'd distribute those like a six-year-old flower girl at a wedding."
When popular quarterback Aaron Zimmerman falls into a coma after a boating accident, then experiences a miraculous recovery and returns to school saying he saw God, Cliff's "Weird Sh*t-O-Meter" goes "off the scale." Aaron claims God gave him a list of things to do to make HVHS a better place and says that God "put a lot of emphasis" on Clifford Hubbard being his assistant. Thus begins an outrageous attempt by the oddest pairing in HVHS's history to right the wrongs of their Montana high school. Cliff and Aaron tackle (not always literally) drug dealers, a vicious bully, a good teacher gone bad, a clique of extremely unchristian "Jesus Teens" and a mysterious computer hacker called HAL. By the end of their strange mission, Cliff and Aaron have righted plenty of their own wrongs as well.
Preston Norton's (Blüd and Magick; Marrow) characters speak with a whip-smart, profanity-laced snark that belies the fragility lurking in even the biggest brutes. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is a book for any teen, teeming with despair, hope and transcendence. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor