You Don't Know Me

Common Sense Media says

Teen uses humor and fantasy to cope with abuse.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Parents may want to use this book to talk about abuse and how kids can help friends in similar situations. Families who wish to delve into the plot with their kids can ask: How could he have gotten out of his dilemma? How do his problems affect his view of the world?

Positive messages

This tale focuses on the realistic, and sometimes hard to stomach, issue of physical abuse. Check out our Families Can Talk About section for some ideas for delving in to this tough topic.

Positive role models

Like teen protagonists before him, all the way back to Holden
Caulfield, John notices above all the falseness and hypocrisy around
him, but his descriptions of each moment, ruthlessly parsed, are
uniquely creative, at times almost surrealistic. It is easy to feel sorry for him as he deals with everyday problems, and larger ones like his abusive would-be stepfather.


John suffers increasingly severe abuse at the hands of his mother's boyfriend, beginning with smacks, escalating to a beating with a belt, ending with a beating severe enough to require a hospital stay and reconstructive surgery. A gun, a riot at a basketball game. John briefly considers suicide.


A couple of make-out scenes, not graphic. An oblique reference to masturbation


Some moderate swearing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

John's mother's boyfriend gets drunk on whiskey, the punch at a high-school dance is spiked.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the protagonist deals with serious abuse at the hands of his mother's live-in boyfriend. Fourteen-year-old John is an easy character to feel sorry for and root for as he deals with everyday problems, and larger ones, like the abuse. Alienated and angry, John briefly considers suicide. Some profanity and sexual references as well.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

John, 14, describes his life, filled with the usual teen miseries: he has a crush on a manipulative, selfish girl, he doesn't understand algebra, he has no good friends, and he is alienated both at school and at home. But he also has a more serious problem: his mother's live-in boyfriend, referred to only as "the man who is not my father," beats him regularly, and may be involved in criminal activities. In the course of this book, John has a more disastrous than usual date with the girl of his dreams, his "friend who is not a friend" is arrested for shoplifting, and he is given a tuba solo in the school band. But then his mother has to leave town to deal with a dying relative, and John is left alone with her abusive boyfriend.

Is it any good?


This is a stunning combination of brilliantly sardonic teen observation, lyrical writing, and anger. Like teen protagonists before him, all the way back to Holden Caulfield, John notices above all the falseness and hypocrisy around him, but his descriptions of each moment, ruthlessly parsed, are uniquely creative, at times almost surrealistic.

Some of the scenes are laugh-out-loud funny, so the denouement comes as even more of a shock. John's problems may get a bit melodramatic at the end, but by then the reader is so immersed in his character that it is moving nonetheless. Sharply observed, and with a powerful voice, this is David Klass' best novel yet.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the heavy theme of this book. Is it important for kids -- even those who have never had to deal with an abusive home life -- to read John's story? Why or why not?

  • How do you think the author handled the descriptions of violence? Were they appropriate for the story? This book is targeted to 12 and up -- does it seem appropriate for this age group?

Book details

Author:David Klass
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:May 30, 2005
Number of pages:344
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

This review of You Don't Know Me was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byBroganSolig January 26, 2009

I LOVED IT! I cried and laughed

I LOVED THIS BOOK! I just finished it and can relate to this boy. He must feel so alone in this world. The author made it so we can feel like we were actually there ! 5 star book I have told all my friends to read this book!
Adult Written byallyb2011 January 26, 2011

Its Real

I had to read it for summer reading in my high school. I think it is somewhat beneficial because it makes you realize that people aren't always what they seem to be. I think it would be good for kids to read to just have their eyes opened and to know and understand that the things that happen in that book are real and happen to kids everyday.
Adult Written byayze April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Read in long ago

I read this book when I was in seventh grade! I never really read anything but, after i started this book i couldn't put it down!! I have been trying to check one out from a local library but, it's always off the shelf. So i am going to go to the next step. I'm going to buy it so, I can read it again!


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential Apps Guide