Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

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Saint Michaels Academy is a hotbed of hazing and brutality. 80 years of tradition dictate that the seniors haze the freshmen. It schools degenerates and troubled teens who no one else can handle. It’s a run down building that is falling to pieces as we first see in the very start of the book when an upperclassman goes berserk on Open House Day and is found running along the rooftops pushing crumbling statues of saints onto the crowd below. Three boys touring the school that day get their first glimpse of what is to come.

Three freshmen start the next year, Peter Davidek, Noah Stein and Lorelei. They must navigate the halls while also dodging the bullies and harassment that all freshmen get in their first year. Can they pull together as a team to hit back at the bullies or fall prey to them? It’s hard to tell who are the worse of the bullies, the students or the teachers who can be just as bad. It’s hard to fight when you are surrounded and have nowhere to turn. Can they make it to the end of the year Picnic when all the freshmen have to act out whatever “their” senior tells them to, it’s the end of the year humiliation that is traditional and St Michaels is all about tradition.

Everybody seems to be hiding a secret, something that, if it got out, could be used to hurt and torment him or her for the year to come. From the priest who has a rather large secret of his own, down to the lowest freshman, everybody has something to hide. Each is fighting either physical or mental abuse back home as well as in school. There is only one rule You can’t hurt anyone who can hurt you back. If you thought your high school years were tough, you haven’t seen anything like this!

I found this book gripping but hard to read as well. I understand this is a book about bullying and what harm it can cause but I found it overwhelming in the brutality of it and how anarchic the students were, the teachers who joined in the bullying and the teachers who stood by and did nothing to stop it. The whole school was in on the act to make the freshmen lives a living hell. I found that I would have wanted to kill myself if I was going to this school. Only one or two people bullied me in school but and it stopped when I stood up and fought back but what happens in this book is a bit much and a stretch of the imagination for cruelty on such a large and all encompassing scale.

This is a topical book at the moment but again I think the overall scale of it in the book is a bit much and over the top. I was going to give this book 3 stars but I will stretch to 3 and a half.

ARC provided by St Martins Press/Netgalley

3 ½ stars

Crash

 

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Book Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

18599901 This is an intriguing and somewhat provocative book about the hot topic of bullying. The story is about a teenage girl, Sara Wharton, facing criminal charges after another teen, Emma Putnam, commits suicide. The narrative is told from Sara’s point of view and switches from present tense and past tense so we get to see both Sara’s feelings about her consequences of her actions and her feelings about her actions as they happen which is really interesting to see.

When Emma moves to town most of the girls immediately dislike her and label her a “slut” for talking to the guys they like or just for doing things they disapprove of. We see through Sara’s eyes the judgement and general hatred the girls in the school had for Emma pretty quickly.

I give this book 3 stars from MY point of view and what I can take from it, which is what I do with all of my reviews. However, I can see how this book could potentially have a greater impact on someone who is a teenager or in middle school.

It’s a strong book for making the point that not everything is so black and white. Not everyone is perfect. The bullies in this book weren’t exactly aware of everything that is going on, even with their own actions. So while their bullying essentially leads to Emma’s suicide there are also other issues happening simultaneously.

I also know that while reading the book I could see myself if both the bullies and the victim and I don’t know that most people will like that uncomfortable feeling. Yet it’s an important feeling because in this world the book creates it shows that no one is really blameless.

So 3 stars from me but I would recommend for a younger crowd for better results. Entertaining yet educational.

ARC provided by Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

~ Melinda

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Book Review: Breakable by Aimee L. Salter

18585972 Don’t judge a book by its’ cover in this case because while this cover actually does fit this book pretty well I don’t know if a ton of people would automatically want to buy this based just on the cover. However, it’s an interesting read, and one with an intriguing premise, although a little weird. Stacy is a 17 year old girl who looks in the mirror and sees her future self. She’s been talking to herself in the mirror (and having herself talk back) for years now. Meanwhile her social life is a hot mess. She’s been in love with her best friend, Mark, for years but he’s clueless of course. Everyone else at schools bullies her viciously, to the point that Stacy hides herself literally and figuratively in her art.

There are some big pros and some big cons for this one. I really loved how the narrative was set up – the story starts off with Stacy being in an institution and with us having no idea why. A therapist is having Stacy tell her how she ended up in this place so we get to hear everything about the bullying, Mark and her future self from the beginning plus we get the therapist’s questions and input. I’m always a fan of unique ways of presenting the actual story and this felt unique enough. Stacy is hesitant to share her story – she’s been in the institution a while and not exactly there voluntarily.

The other pro for me was how the bullying was presented. That part felt very real to me and I can see this being a book used for teens to learn a lesson. It’s interesting enough and doesn’t come across as being preachy in any way so this would be a good book for parents or teachers to use to have, either in a classroom or just to have their kids read. There are some particularly mean situations presented that weren’t exactly over the top, it seemed to me exactly like the horrible crap I read about in papers all the time.

The cons were definitely here too. While the future self in the mirror gave the book a unique feel to the book the fact that Stacy actually called the being in the mirror “future self” drove me crazy. As in “Future Self, oh future self, come here!” Wouldn’t you give yourself a name or something? Especially considering she was talking to herself in mirrors in public bathrooms too, risking being overheard. And was, in fact, overheard. Multiple times. So this just made me angry -she was obviously a smart girl so why could she not figure out this small fact?

The other con was Mark. Stacy was madly in love with him which was a huge part of the book but I could not really see why. He was a good friend to her, yes, but he was also a douche. He begins to go out with the main bully of Stacy, which makes no sense to me and throughout the book is not explained in any way that satisfied me.

Overall this was a good book and I think it has its’ appeal. The ending was particularly good and I would say the last half was better than the first. For the price I would definitely pick it up.

3.5/5 Stars

~Melinda

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