Book Review: Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

The main character (we’ll call him “Hank”) in this young adult novel wakes up at a train station in New York with a bump on his head, a copy of Walden beside him, and a little bit of money in his front pocket. He can’t remember who he is or why he’s there.

I did end up enjoying this book. It took a while to “sell me” on it, though, and here’s why: the main character could not remember who he was, and so as a reader, I was distrustful. I didn’t want to allow myself to “like” him or his current personality lest I find out something that contradicted the character I came to like. So I tried to keep my distance.

At first, “Hank” (he takes that name after Henry David Thoreau) bumps into two homeless kids his own age. They have fallen in with the wrong crowd, and they both help him and hurt him. Hank ends up jumping onto a train and running to the site of Walden Pond—he feels guided by the book in his possession. While there, he runs into some people who help him (I won’t spoil anymore), including a girl he falls for.

I found myself enjoying the story much more after he regained many of his memories. It’s a well-written book, and I always felt compelled to continue reading in order to see if Hank ever regained all his memories. It’s a quick, suspenseful read, and I enjoyed the last scene very much.


This book is one of the 2014-15 Loudoun County Battle of the Books selections. The selections are as follows. Since The Scarred Letter was chosen as one of the selections, I will be attending the competition and will also be reading the rest of the selections. Books I’ve reviewed from this list are hyperlinked:


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