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.
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Pub. Date: June 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Be Books Consulting