Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 729
I Never Loved Your Mind, Zindel’s third young adult novel, was written after the author had spent six months in Taos, New Mexico, following his decision to quit teaching. Zindel had taken a leave of absence from teaching to spend a year as playwright-in-residence at Houston’s Alley Theater, and when he returned to the classroom he quickly became disillusioned with teaching. After his resignation, he went to Taos, where he lived in a house given him by a friend. When he returned from Taos and had to have an appendectomy, he commented that he was grateful to have a “traditional doctor . . . rather than someone at Hot Springs commune.”
True to form, I Never Loved Your Mind is essentially a summarization of Zindel’s own experiences, with characters drawn from life models. The model for Dewey Daniels was a “nasty and a little preppy” student of Zindel, while Yvette Goethals is a composite. The primary model for Yvette was an orphan Zindel had befriended, but Zindel’s mother may be seen in Yvette’s habit of stealing something at the end of each shift she works.
After using the third-person omniscient narrator format in My Darling, My Hamburger, Zindel returned to first-person narrative in I Never Loved Your Mind. He also returned to the style of writing that characterizes the John Conlan chapters of The Pigman. Some readers, however, feel that Zindel placed too much reliance on hyperbole in constructing Dewey’s narratives. They point out that at times Zindel seems to arbitrarily opt for exotic, grotesque, or ridiculous imagery when plain language would serve. Dewey’s description of Yvette provides one example of Zindel language excesses. Dewey begins by saying simply that Yvette’s shape is “not too fat, not too slim.” He then adds, “Best of all was a commendable frontal insulation of the respiratory cage.” This description is followed by an asterisk, which points to a footnote explaining that Yvette “had some pair of peaches.” The footnotes, intended as comic devices, tend to intensify a labored quality of the writing, giving many readers the impression that Zindel is trying too hard.
The story that Dewey Daniels sets out to tell is a variation on the old boy-meets-girl theme. Dewey is a high school dropout who works as an inhalation therapist in a local hospital. One of his coworkers is Yvette Goethals, a hippie type who is also a high school dropout. Yvette is a vegetarian and lives with a rock band. Dewey manages to convince himself he is in love with Yvette; it is Yvette’s disclaimer that she never loved his mind after she and Dewey have slept together that provides the title for the novel. His brief, one-sided, and disillusioning love affair eventually leads Dewey to a decision to return to school. Yvette, significantly, moves on to a hippie commune near Taos, New Mexico.
In most of Zindel’s young adult novels, his characters are searching for answers to disturbing questions or are seeking resolution of some of the disturbing problems of adolescence. I Never Loved Your Mind touches on these problems—Dewey is confronted with the need for an education—but the novel is primarily an expression of Zindel’s frustrations with teaching and of his distaste for the hippie subculture of the 1960’s. Neither the hippies nor the students in Zindel’s science classes were interested in things of the mind, and Yvette’s parting words to Dewey become, for Zindel, the distasteful motto for the world he re-creates in the novel. Society, as a whole, appears to be saying to scientist and educator alike, “I never loved your mind.”
For Zindel, who often uses science as a metaphor for harmony and meaning, this is a particularly tragic situation, as his reproduction of Yvette’s illiterate letter at the end of the novel shows. The letter is symbolic of what society can expect from those who do not love the mind. Fortunately, Dewey comes to his senses, and his understanding of the need for the mind is reflected in his concluding words. While he has no idea what he is going to do, he is sure it is not going to be Yvette’s “Love Land crap.” Neither is he “going to give civilization a kick in the behind.” John realizes that he, like the author, “might need an appendectomy sometime.”