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Brutal Youth: A Novel Hardcover – June 10, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Peter Davidek agrees to visit the crumbling St. Michael’s High School to get out of a day of classes at his middle school. But when he comes to the aid of a student wounded in a vicious attack, he seals his fate. The father of the wounded student pressures Peter’s father into sending Peter to St. Michael’s, thus ensuring that he will be entirely miserable for the next year. Not only does the school promote bullying, but it also employs its fair share of loonies, including a disturbed guidance counselor and a devious priest with a gambling problem. Peter throws in with the enigmatic Noah Stein, who sports both a distinctive facial scar and an insouciant attitude. They both fall for the lovely but ostracized Lorelei Paskal, who is determined to belong to the popular crowd. In between the abuse heaped on them by seniors, the faculty, and their own clueless parents, the trio become friends. Eventually, a counterattack against the bullies is launched. 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. —Joanne Wilkinson

Review

“It's crackling good entertainment: arresting from the first page to the last, full of plot twists, characters to root for (or against) and plenty of suspense about how the various story lines will resolve themselves.” ―USA Today

“This quick, unsettling coming-of-age novel blends sympathy and satire with surprising effectiveness.” ―Shelf Awareness

“Breznican captures a perfect balance of horror, heartbreak, and resilience and takes the high school novel into deeper places. Great for the beach but not just a summer read.” ―Library Journal, starred review

“A story that confidently rips through tangles of high school insanity. The author molds real characters out of high school stereotypes, most notably the misfits, all struggling for a humble slice of dignity within St. Michael's wretched, bleeding walls. The satiric narrative is as brilliantly hilarious as it is poignant and heartrending.” ―School Library Journal, starred review

“Readable and clever.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“While it certainly contains elements unique to parochial school, those who remember the passing of their high school years with relief rather than regret will feel the unease and quiet fear dripping off every page.” ―Book Reporter

“If you thought high school was hell, has Anthony Breznican got a story for you…Every bully who stalked you, every sadistic teacher who ever terrified you, every stupid prank, every hopeless crush and false friend: they're all here, along with a few kids who hang together and try to do the right thing in a brutal environment. By turns funny and terrifying, Brutal Youth is an unputdownable tour-de-force, a Rebel Without a Cause for the 21st century.” ―Stephen King

“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

“Anthony Breznican's debut screams with undeniable talent. Part The Outsiders. Part Stephen King's The Body. The aptly named Brutal Youth is a funny, tough, and heartbreaking book about the darker side of growing up.” ―Stephen Chbosky, New York Times bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican is one of the most thought-provoking, troubling, captivating stories I've read in a long time. My heart still hurts when I think of what those characters went through. Breznican does a fantastic job of creating people you fall in love with, making you experience their pain and cheer their triumphs as each page goes by. Their stories will haunt me for some time to come. 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. Life isn't fair... but high school is brutal.

This is the most richly detailed and nuanced academic microcosm since Dead Poets Society. You may have never been to St. Michael the Archangel High School, but you will fear it after reading this powerful and hilarious debut novel. Never has a story brought me back to the merciless teachers and ruthless bullies with such poetry and wit.” ―Jason Reitman, writer/director/producer of JUNO, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, UP IN THE AIR and LABOR DAY

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (June 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250019354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250019356
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #850,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nathan Webster TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First, if you're one of those people who are all like "high school was the best four years of my life, and it made me who I am today and blah blah blah," then you were part of the problem. Happily, I don't think this book is for that audience.

Author Anthony Breznican's narrative is set in 1991, which avoids today's social media being part of the plotline, while accurately reflecting the last gasp of an era where high school kids really were an island unto themselves. As readers who grew up in that time know, there was often little oversight or knowledge of what you were up to - it's not like parents could check 'status updates,' etc. They had to pick up the phone and start calling, and the parents at the other end were equally unaware.

The point being a lot of the behavior that would be hard to accept in 2014 is perfectly believable in a 1991 setting, and Breznican does a good job reflecting that.

Fans of Pat Conroy's "Lords of Discipline" should find a lot to like in this book - those familiar with Conroy's tangled web of betrayed friendships, unrequited love, shocking revelations, etc., will appreciate this storyline (which is not saying that the events are similar to Conroy's). Just as Conroy took the reader to the brutality of a military academy, Breznican brings his readers to a failing Catholic school, and a variety of students and faculty both detestable and redeemed.

Since I'm the first reviewer, I don't know what's a spoiler and what's not - so going into main plot points is a bad idea. The three main characters of the narrative are high school freshmen that weather the brutal storms of adolescent life, and you can expect St.
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When he attends a visiting day for prospective high school freshmen at St. Michael's, Peter Davidek doesn't expect to witness a student having a nervous breakdown on the roof or duck flying glass jars. Nor does he expect not to read something substantial about the occurrence in the papers, but there is almost no press. Instead a genial stranger shows up at his front door and manages to persuade his parents to send him to St. Mike's. When he gets there, he quickly realizes that hazing by the seniors is relentless, unavoidable and seemingly condoned by the administration, who either turns a blind eye or makes weak attempts to intervene. The following exchange between the adults responsible for these impressionable souls is typical.

"Do we have a fail-safe if an especially cruel senior chooses an especially weak freshman to be a personal punching bag?" Zimmer asked.
"Then we intercede," (the principal) said. "But in the meantime, at least he will have only one punching bag."

Good to know, isn't it? Strangely, this isn't too reassuring to Peter, or his new friend Noah Stein, or the girl they both have a crush on, Lorelai, or their mutual friend, Green, the only African-American there. Or an unfortunate looking girl who is recruited by a priest to spy on her classmates and report back.

You see, the school is in serious financial trouble, which results in Father Mercedes, the one at the top of the power pyramid, scapegoating the principal, Sister Maria, and so on, all the way down to the outcasts of the senior class, who manage nevertheless to get some of their own back.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Do you remember cliques, outcasts, bullies, and hazing from high school? Then BRUTAL YOUTH will relive those days with you.

St. Michael’s School in western Pennsylvania has a declining enrollment, reputation, and budget. Many of the students were expelled from other schools. Many of the teachers and administrators truly don’t need to be in their positions. The gym for required physical education really doesn’t exist because the chapel burned down years ago, and the gym has become a makeshift chapel. The building leaks with every rain, but there is no funding to repair it properly.

This is only some of what rising freshmen Peter Davidek, Noah Stein, and Lorelei Pascal see when they visit St. Michael’s at the end of their eighth-grade year for open house/orientation. They even witness an incident in which an upperclassman loses control, injures himself, and damages the school.

When Peter, Noah, and Lorelei begin their freshman year at St. Michael’s, they find out even more: the inmates (the upperclassmen) seem to be in charge of the asylum. Hazing doesn’t just go unpunished; it’s encouraged as a so-called means of team-building.

So Peter, Noah, and Lorelei – outcasts even within their own class -- set out to do something about this situation. Do they succeed? What happens to the unprincipled people in this school? Read and find out.

I read THE CHOCOLATE WARS for a class in library school, and I do see hints of CHOCOLATE WARS in BRUTAL YOUTH. There is some strong language (though nothing atypical for a high school setting), some hints of sexuality, and violence, so I recommend this for sophisticated older teens. Perhaps they will learn to be more compassionate toward outcasts and underclassmen, but .... we’ll see.

Who am I: I am an instructor of English at a two-year college who also has an MS in library science.
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