Published by Thomas Dunne Books on June 10, 2014
Source: Owned Audible Book
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.
I love audio books. In the author’s notes on the audio version of Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, he talks about how the first stories we learn are read to us. I listen to audio books when I’m in the car, shopping, and playing Candy Crush.
In typical book blogger fashion, I already have a tbr shelf just for audio books. Reviewing them is a bit more difficult, because I don’t take notes and I don’t always know how to spell the characters names. So these reviews will be a little different from my book reviews.
I’m way behind in reviews for this year, so you’re going to see lots of short and tweets, and reviews for books I read months ago. I read Brutal Youth in August and hand wrote my review… and am only just now typing it up. Suckage on myy part, sorry! Here it is though:
My book club is very diverse, which makes for very interesting discussions. It also means that some of our selections can be quite polarizing. Brutal Youth was definitely one of the ones that we were split on.
A few members of the book club just couldn’t bring themselves to finish the novel. We’ve got quite a few teachers or former teachers in our group, and the way the teachers and staff at Saint Michaels bullied and berated the students, or turned blind eyes to their problems and struggles, was just too much for some of us.
Not me though, I liked it. Yes, it’s an aggressively unhappy book. And while I give Breznican full marks for making all of his student characters complex, the adults in the novel tend to be very unrealistic. Most of them delight in punishing children, even if they’re their own childrend, as if to make up for their own miserable existences. Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads, right after I finished:
|This is a hard one to rate, but I loved the narration and the writing. Even the most despicable characters interested me, but it’s an aggressively unhappy book. There are no puppies and rainbows here, and if there were they’d all be Old Yellers and lead to witches crushed under houses. It was like a horror movie, knowing that the character is about to be run through with a pitchfork, but you keep hoping that the wise cracking class clown or sarcastic goth girl will survive. But they never do.|
The narration definitely made this book for me, but I think I would have been hooked even if I’d read the book in print- although I guarantee I’d have flipped to the end because I was so invested in some of the character’s fates.
This is an example of why I love my book club. I don’t know if I’d have picked this book up on my own. I’m so weighed down with TBR books that unless a book really catches my fully attention, I just don’t get to it. Book club has forced me to read books outside my comfort zone (although, Brutal Youth was definitely in my Midnigy Reading Zone), and while this book is dark and sure to be too much for some readers, I found it to be a fantastic book to discuss!
Matthew Brown was a new to me narrator, but I very much enjoyed his style. I would gladly listen to him again!