Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

Brutal Youth
by Anthony Breznican 

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: June 2014
Page Count: 416
Format: E-Book
Source: Netgalley (thank you!)

Goodreads Synopsis: Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that's even worse in Anthony Breznican's Brutal YouthWith a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.

To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive.


Review: I have sat down in front of my computer three different times already to try to write this review. Every time I have, I get a few sentences written down, but then decide that it does not sound right at all. This book has had me thinking since I finished it, and honestly I'm still not sure how I feel about. I want to like it. I really, really do as it has some qualities that make for a very good book. However, there are things that really bother me, too. I could not give it a rating more than three stars because of these conflicting feelings, and I am not sure how well I will be able to explain how I feel about the whole thing, but I will try once more to do so. 

As a teacher, this book affected me very much. I see bullying on a daily basis. We all watch the news and hear stories, so we all know that it has become a huge problem. Kids (people in general) bully others for any reason they can come up with; they're bigger, they're from some place different, they have an accent, they're gay. None of it is right and okay, and while I do not feel like this book was saying it was okay, I also sometimes felt like there was too much funny and humor going around the bullying. Perhaps this is just because I'm so sensitive to it because I spend a lot of my work days building children back up after being torn down, but this book was very hard for me to read. Because of that, I can't say that I liked it. I can say that it is well-written, though. 

The worst thing was the horrible hazing. As freshman, the students at this private Catholic school have to go through all of the "traditions" from the seniors. They make them miserable, and a lot of it was truly hard to read. What gets me is that these seniors were once the freshman, they were once the miserable ones, and despite feeling horrible and living through that hell, they do it to someone else. Now, I know that this is life and that it's something that actually happens, but I am not sure that it is something that I want to read about. 

The worst thing to me is that I was left feeling like there was very little hope for most of the characters. They seemed to feel that way, at least. It is supposed to be a coming of age story, but instead the young characters seem to feel and believe that life is only going to get worse as they get older. I'm a bit shocked that this is the case when this is a young adult book, and I am not sure that I would want my middle school students reading this sort of thing. 

While I know that the book was honest and some of it was quite true, it was still very upsetting for me personally. I work very hard every day to keep my students from feeling these things, so it makes the whole thing rough. Despite all of this, I do think that a lot of people will enjoy this book and will not take it as personally as I did. The writing was very good, and I feel that Breznican did write about something that is often neglected. While I can only give it three stars, I do believe that a lot of people would rate it higher based on how the book makes them feel. I think it's worth picking up to see for yourself.

Rating: 3.0 / 5.0

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