Author: Anthony Breznican
Length: 416 pages
Where Bethany’s copy came from: eARC (June 10, release day)
Plot Basics: Three new freshmen at St. Michael of the Archangel high school team up to withstand the bullying and hazing running rampant through the failing parochial school. The school, plagued by leaks and myopic faculty, has become the last chance for delinquent students and dropouts. Freshmen Peter Davidek, Noah Stein and Lorelei Pascal agree to watch out for each other as the school becomes increasingly violent, headed for the famed Hazing Day picnic at the end of the year where seniors unleash their full wrath on the new freshmen, and the adults seem unable to intervene.
Banter Points: When I was about 80% done with the book, I told a group of a friends, “I’m not sure I like it. I’ll have to see how it ends.” “Brutal Youth” is a brutal book, a tale of anti-bullying that instead of being preachy, is nearly Lord-of-the-Flies-esque in showing what happens when teenagers are unchecked in their meanness to each other.
I think one of the parts I liked best was the relationship that formed between Davidek and Sister Maria, the school’s principal who is blamed for the mess in the building. They are unlikely allies and it a sweet place in the story to see them join together, even if it was still a terribly dysfunctional relationship.
Bummer Points: I think the hardest part of this book to me was the adults and their participation in the bullying and lack of care for the kids they know. Davidek, Stein and Lorelei all have parents that are abusive in their own ways and the teachers, for the most part, are so uninvested. It made me realize how grateful I am that I’ve been surrounded by grown-ups in my life (and still am) who care incredibly for the success and well-being of those who are younger than they are.
Word Nerd Recommendation: This is one of those books that’s hard to recommend because the subject matter isn’t easy. Still, it’s a well-written story and worth the read.
Bonus: The Word Nerds have a Q&A with Anthony Breznican in the works, so check back in June!