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 Youth
With 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.
"In his first novel, Breznican, a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly, is clearly aiming for biting satire, but the off-the-rails plot and lunatic villains more often come off as cartoonish." - Booklist
"Readable and clever, this novel might make an easy transition to the movie screen, where stock characters, oblivious parents and needless repetition are familiar, but today's audiences probably won't go for a look at an era that lacks the viral abuses of cyberbullying." - Kirkus
"With Brutal Youth, Anthony Breznican has captured high-school life in all its gruesome, wild, survival-of-the-fittest lunacy. His portrait of teenagers- and the theoretical grownups who tend to them - is, by turns, painfully funny and painfully painful, but always sharp as a well-carved stick." - Gillian Flynn, New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl
"By turns funny and terrifying, Brutal Youth is an unputdownable tour-de-force, a Rebel Without a Cause for the 21st century." - Stephen King
"The anti-bullying message is earned, heartily, instead of being thrust in your face. First and foremost the book is an intriguing, rich, perfectly paced, entertaining read. I also enjoyed the dark humor that offsets the harrowing tone at just the right spots. Highly recommended." - James Dashner, New York Times bestselling author of The Maze Runner
"As a child, few things are scarier than school. In Brutal Youth, you'll realize how right your younger self was. This one will haunt you." - Brad Meltzer, author of The Fifth Assassin and The Book of Lies
"Breznican has accomplished that rare feat of unflinchingly exposing the high school experience in all of its hilarity, vengeance, and terror. You'll think Roald Dahl just went for a swim in the world of John Hughes and came out wearing prison stripes." - Jason Reitman, writer/director/producer of Juno, Thank You For Smoking, Up In The Air and Labor Day
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Rated of 5
Reading Brutal Youth is powerful. This troubling, affecting story will leave you lost in thought long after you have finished reading. My heart was heavy for the cast and all they suffered and endured.
Breznican provides an eclectic array of endearing characters, all pulling at the readers heartstrings as you experience their anguish and triumphs. A few characters and their stories are tattooed on my brain and will remain with me permanently, specifically - Clink, Hannah, Stein and Davidek.
As we hear daily in the media of the ongoing growing issue of bullying Brenznican uses Brutal Youth as a sobering example of what's really happening in society. The narrative is well paced so the reader is slowly immersed as opposed to being thrust into the madness.
A brutal but yet beautiful intriguing read succeeding on all levels. The well placed insertions of dark humor tempered the painful tone. I highly recommend this book for young and mature readers. A lens capturing the cruelty and savage behavior a majority of society partakes. Nonetheless an eyeopener of a very real issue that's sadly, not improving.
Would be very curious to see this adapted to film. Rare for me.
Rated of 5
Chris H. (Wauwatosa, WI)
This book was certainly a page turner, but nothing more. I could not connect with the characters, the storyline was all over the place and the story in itself overdone.
Rated of 5
Carol G. (Little Egg Harbor, NJ)
I thought the book was well written and I especially like that in a debut novel. I especially liked the honesty the author portrayed with the "trio:" I loved what the author accomplished portraying high school experiences which some of us may have encountered. Though I did not experience any of the "bullying", it was an eye opener for me and I can feel for those students who have gone through this. I think anyone who reads this book will get something out of it!
Rated of 5
Not for Me
I tried reading this book several times...but I found that I just didn't like the characters or the subject matter. As I read along I had no feelings for the characters and that made my decision not to continue reading...
Rated of 5
Jinny K. (Fremont, CA)
Mean and Scary
First, this book is extremely well written. The sense of place and atmosphere are vividly depicted and the characters are well-drawn and true to themselves. The story may be accurate in some time and place, although I never experienced this extreme behavior as a high school student in the sixties. As a portrait of unmitigated meanness, I found it almost as disturbing as Lord of the Flies, and for that reason alone I'm not sure I would want to read such a book again.
Rated of 5
Betty T. (Warner Robins, GA)
Thank God I'm Not in High School Now!
At first I did not care for this book. It took a while for it to hook me. The author took his time developing the characters and it paid off. As I read I started caring about these kids. The title is definitely appropriate. Some of these kids were brutal and some had to become brutal to survive. The administrators of the school were appalling. I can't imagine how it would be to attend a school like this - and this was a private school! For some of the kids their life at home wasn't any better than their school life. The administrators and teachers looked the other way and sometimes were just as brutal as the kids. Father Mercedes had his own agenda for the school which was required to cover his embezzlement of funds.
I don't quite understand why the author referred to the males always by their last names (Davidek, Stein, Green, LeRose, Zimmer) yet the females were always first name (Lorelei, Hannah, Audra) except for Ms. Bromine.
The writing was very good. As I already mentioned, the character development was very good. Even though there are a lot of characters I was able to keep them all straight.
The author took his time in revealing the depravities of the various characters so you are not slapped in the face with it all at once. The book is not light reading but it is eye opening. I don't know if I would survive in a school like St. Mike's.
About the Author
Anthony Breznican was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1998. He has worked as a reporter for The Arizona Republic, Associated Press, and USA Today, and is currently a senior staff writer for Entertainment Weekly.
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