Published by Macmillan on June 10th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Literary
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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.
While the characters are fairly well fleshed out and a perfect dichotomy of good versus evil, the sheer number of them could have been cut without any loss to the story and would perhaps provide more clarity to the reader. Less of “Wait, who?”. Had the story been more focused on Stein and Davidek I think it would have been much more powerful, like the prologue.
Much like Anita (her review) I felt like the sheer viciousness of the bullying that was depicted at St. Mike’s and the complete lack of real concern or action from the administration required me to suspend belief, it was necessary for the movement of the story but that school was out of control and I found myself rooting for it to be shut down. Davidek couldn’t have been worse off at the public school, for sure.
The ambivalent and flat out careless parents (and teachers) saddened me, and I have to wonder if this is a commentary on certain types of parents and the importance of actually listening to our kids. There was a certain irony that the most tortured student in the novel has the most supportive and loving home life.
By far the best aspect of this book is a reminder to those who have our high-school years long behind us how hard it is to be a kid – and we should remember that around kids and teenagers of all ages.
It’s clear that Breznican is a talented debut author and I look forward to what else he might have in store for us.
Other trusted reviews on this novel:
River City Reading
Words for Worms
The Relentless Reader
Don’t forget Anita Loves Books – linked in the text!
What about you, Reader? Did you have a brutal high school experience?