Monday, October 20, 2014

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

High school, for me, was not the candy-colored "best time of your life" everyone makes it out to be. Everyone except, Anthony Breznican, that is. I'm pretty sure the view of high school from Brutal Youth, in all its over-the-top...brutality...is everyone's nightmare of high school turned up to 11. Note: I received this book in consideration of an honest 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. 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. 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. 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 opening pages were heartbreaking and troubling they really set the tone for the novel. A "loser" student finally snaps, injures some teachers, and takes to the roof to do as much damage as possible to those who have hurt him over time. It was in these opening pages that I was able to begin to gauge Breznican's writing ability, and it's pretty fantastic. The story, throughout, is well crafted, provocative, and fresh. 

My problems with Brutal Youth, were 100% personal. I had a hard time caring about the characters in such an amped-up, cold, harsh, calculating environment. In short, I was impressed with what the book was doing and the ways Breznican chose to critique the school structure, lazy and crazy teachers, and the way students had to adapt to survive. But, alas, there was very little connection to my heart...something I look for in a book that sends me over the moon. Certainly, this novel puts a microscope on the high school experience in the most dramatic and at times disturbing ways, and for that I could appreciate its brilliance even if the personal connection was lacking. 

Need a new book for discussion? This could be the one. If you'd like to win my hardcover copy, enter to win below! 

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Pub. Date: June 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781250019356
Source: Be Books Consulting

23 comments:

  1. I have about 100 pages left, so I'm not sure what happens in the end yet, but at this point I really agree with you. I love, loved that opening scene and was glad to see that many of the characters returned to the school and were going to be followed throughout, but I feel like there's a disconnect between that opening scene and the rest of the novel (so far) that I'm still trying to pinpoint.

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    1. I'll be really curious what you think of it, Shannon!

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  2. Great review! I can see why people like this book but I don't think it's for me. The whole high school misery amped up to 11 lost me. It sounds like this book is well done but I think in a setup of harsh cruelty I need a little softness or humanity or it just becomes too much for me. I'm a total book wimp!

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    1. Thanks, Katherine! I think there was a definite shot at humanity, and great writing, but I fear this one also fell prey to a terrible reading slump I've been in lately.

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  3. It does seem like high school has become a battle ground these days so I can see the relevance of this book but it sounds like it might be a little over the top.

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    1. Little bit, but definitely done in an interesting and well-written way.

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  4. Hmm, this sounds like a really well-crafted novel, but the lack of connection to the characters sounds frustrating!

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    1. Indeed. As I was telling Katherine up top, I think this one fell prey, at least partially, to my reading funk.

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  5. Your lack of connection to the book makes me not want to read it, but your description of the summary makes me want to read it. Hmm. As for wanting a personal connection with the book - I'm with you on that point. There has to be some part of the book to connect with, or I'm not going to enjoy it as much - those connections make the reading richer.

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    1. Try it! I think my slumptitude probably had something to do with my quibbles.

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  6. Nice review, and honest about your perceptions and disconnect. My review is up tomorrow. I had other issues but overall I was inspired by these kids and their attempt to not be beaten down.

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    1. Enjoyed your review, Anita!

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  7. I don't necessarily have to like the characters but I think there needs to be something that connects them to the reader. I've heard so much about this book so I suppose I will continue to consider it...

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    1. Yeah, I don't either. Just couldn't get into this one. Definitely still consider it. Highly discussable!

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  8. It sounds like a rough read--well, so many coming-of-age books ARE rough, when you think about it! Appreciate your honest review. I may give this a read later this fall . . . .

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    1. Thanks, Leila! I hope you like it when you get around to it.

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  9. I had to skim this, I'm only half way through! I'll have to come back and bug you once I finish!

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    1. Wanna know what you thinkkkkkk!

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  10. I like books set in schools, so I'm going to at least attempt this one at some point. That being said, it sounds dark and depressing, so I don't know if I'll be able to handle it.

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  11. Was high school the best time of ANYONE's life? Nobody I know! High school was fine for me, but if I'd thought it was as good as life was going to get, I'd have been pretty depressed. I always knew that after high school there would be legal alcoholic beverages and cookies whenever I wanted them, so I was pretty psyched about that. It is as excellent as I expected.

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  12. I am still on the fence about this one, but you've mentioned some points no one else has, such as that the environment did not make a suitable atmosphere for you. That's really interesting, setting can really take you out of the story sometimes.

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  13. This sounds interesting and well written but i hate books were bad things happen to kids, so I've been too nervous to pick it up!

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