You Don’t Know Me by David Klass is one of my favorite teen books that I’ve read since I became a librarian. The cover grabbed me right away, and once I started reading it I was enthralled by the story and the narrator’s voice. Reading this book felt like a roller-coaster ride, because of all of the emotional highs and lows. I’ve been booktalking this book and placing it into teenagers’ hands for years, and I’m very glad that it’s still in print. Every library should have copies of this book in their teen collection (hint-hint)!
Now, let’s take a minute to talk about booktalking technique. This is one of the few books I’ve read that uses both first and second person, and my first sentence of my booktalk introduces the first-person concept. I always take a brief pause after saying “My name is John” to give it a second to sink in and to let my audience know that I’m going to be speaking as that character. And if listening to a female librarian call herself a male name isn’t strange enough, addressing the audience as “you” at the end of the booktalk adds to the power of the presentation.
Also, this is my booktalk as originally written, but I’ve made adjustments to it depending on my audience and my state of mind. First, the paragraph about the music teacher isn’t really essential, even though it does highlight the humorous aspect of the book. So I have occasionally left that part out, either because I was pressed for time or because while I was in the first paragraph I was watching my audience and felt that they were too distracted and I needed to cut to the chase. Second, there’s that description of Gloria eating and swallowing the note. I’m guessing that if you know teenagers, you know where this is going. That’s right — many teenagers, especially older ones, will laugh out loud at that description because they think it’s an oral sex reference (which it isn’t, but there’s no time to explain that in the middle of a booktalk). So I usually keep the booktalk in its original form when I present it to 7th grade classes, but remove the “One gulp and it went straight down that beautiful perfect throat of hers” line when I present it to high school classes.
The lesson here being, don’t be afraid to learn from your audience and adjust your booktalks accordingly!
My name is John, and my friends don’t know me. They think they know what kind of person I am, but really they have no idea. Glory Hallelulia doesn’t know me, either. Her real name is Gloria, but because she’s so beautiful that she’s absolutely perfect, I call her Glory Hallelulia. Well, today I passed her a note in class asking her to go to a basketball game with me. I was really proud of that note! There was one box to check for yes and one box to check for no, and the box for yes was really big, and the box for no was really small, and do you know what she did after she read it? She folded it back up … and then … she *ate* it. She didn’t even chew it! One gulp and it went straight down that beautiful perfect throat of hers. I’m still trying to figure out what *that* meant. Well, Glory Hallelulia may be perfect in many ways, but she doesn’t know me, either.
My music teacher, Mr. Steenwilly, doesn’t know me. He thinks I have great potential, that I have the ability to make beautiful music with a tuba that thinks it’s a frog. Mr. Steenwilly couldn’t be further from the truth.
The man who is not my father doesn’t know me. He thinks he knows what kind of person I am — that I’m weak, and afraid, and that I’ll always do whatever he tells me to. But no matter what he does to me when we’re alone, and no matter how much he makes my life hell … well, let’s just say I’m stronger than he thinks. And do you know what hurts most of all? Even more than than the man who is not my father? That you don’t know me, either. Because if you did, I think everything would be different, and my life wouldn’t be the way it is right now. If I had one wish, it would be that the next time you looked at me that you would look into my eyes and finally see who I really am.