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Punkzilla Hardcover – May 12, 2009

14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up–Fourteen-year-old Jamie–street name Punkzilla–is AWOL from military school. He's already lived hand to mouth in a west coast city, stealing iPods, doing cheap drugs, and getting the occasional joyless hand job. Now he is headed to Memphis where his oldest brother, Peter, a gay playwright, is dying from cancer. His story is told through his letters to Peter as he hitchhikes across the country, written in the backseats of cars, under a tree where a man hanged himself, and ultimately in retrospect when he reaches his journey's sad end. Along the way he meets the good, the bad, and the skewed, including a girl who gives him his first experience of loving intercourse. Like his brother, punk boy Jamie will never fulfill the expectations of his rigidly conservative father or meet the needs of his ineffectual mother. As in 33 Snowfish (Candlewick, 2003), Rapp pulls no punches in depicting the degrading life of children on the streets. The choice to live free from parents and school comes at a cost–to survive Jamie becomes both exploited and exploiter. But there is more here than the sordid streets. Impulsive and naive as he may be, Jamie is struggling for something that just might come close to integrity. Readers can see the good in him and even in his infuriating parents. In the end he finds shelter with his brother's lover, who opens the door to the creative life, a more intelligent and focused world-outside-the-box where Jamie just might find what he needs. Exquisitely true in its raw but vulnerable voice, this story is a compulsive read.–Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* The 61-word run-on sentence on the first page sets the stream-of-consciousness tone, and then two pages later there’s hand jobs and meth—yep, it’s a Rapp novel, all right. And the quality hits the high standards of 33 Snowfish (2003) and Under the Wolf, Under the Dog (2004). Fourteen-year-old Jamie (aka “Punkzilla”) has gone AWOL from his military school, is off his meds, and is making his way from Oregon to Memphis, where his older brother, Peter, is dying of cancer. Though he is thankful to leave behind his career as an iPod thief, life on the road doesn’t seem much better: his fellow Greyhound riders are frightening, he gets jumped in a roadside restroom, and his androgynous features land him in increasingly disturbing situations. You expect such bleakness from Rapp, but it’s the flashes of humor and optimism that exhilarate. Beneath a surface of disease, despair, and disfigurements, Rapp’s road trip is populated with good souls who, despite their circumstances, make significant sacrifices to help Punkzilla. Rapp constructs the book as a series of unsent letters to Peter and punctuates them with correspondence, some old enough to be heartbreakingly out of date, that Punkzilla has received from friends and family. This is devastating stuff, but breathtaking, too. Grades 10-12. --Daniel Kraus

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763630314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763630317
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,669,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on June 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Written as a series of long, descriptive letters, PUNKZILLA tells the story of a fourteen-year-old on a cross-country journey to visit his dying older brother.

Jamie (Punkzilla) is AWOL from military school. His father, a retired Major, convinced his mother that Buckner Military Academy would straighten out their youngest son. Jamie is the first to admit he was out-of-control. His ADD - combined with meth, pot, and drinking - had turned him into a punk. But Buckner is way more than he can handle with its emphasis on morning drills and athletic competitions; it's just not who he is.

As Punkzilla boards a Greyhound bus heading from Portland, Oregon, to Memphis, Tennessee, he begins writing letters in a notebook. The letters are addressed to his twenty-seven-year-old brother now dying of cancer.

Through the letters, readers learn about family tensions that began when Peter announced he was gay and then left to pursue a career as an actor and playwright. This left middle son, Edward, and youngest son, Jamie, at home with a demanding father and an emotional mother. A few scattered letters from these other family members help fill in the gaps in Jamie's tale.

One colorful letter after another reveals cross-country adventures as Punkzilla first travels by bus and then hitches rides with one disturbing character after another. Some encounters are helpful and kind, while others are downright creepy and dangerous. Through the letters is Punkzilla's attempt to make sense of his past and come to terms with who he has become. He has very little idea about his future other than his determination to reach Memphis before the death of his beloved brother.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
14 year-old Jamie (known by some as Punkzilla) has run away from his problems. After leaving his Missouri military school, Jamie finds himself in Portland, Oregon where he steals items from unsuspecting individuals in order to make a living. As the novel opens, we meet Jamie on a Greyhound bus as he is traveling to Memphis to be with his dying brother. As Jamie travels cross country, he meets numerous characters and finds himself in various situations that force him to take a look at who he is and the decisions he has made.

Told through a series of letters, primarily written by Jamie, Author Adam Rapp is able to take a character who makes questionable decisions and is not the most likable person, into a sympathetic individual you sometimes feel sorry for. Sometimes, the reader may cringe at the actions of several characters, mainly Jamie, but it shows how invested the reader can become with Jamie and his journey.

Several letters throughout the novel are written by other characters, and Rapp masterfully captures the voice of each character. Not all of the letters are presented in a chronological order, which may be jarring to the reader at first, but it adds to the overall interest and heartbreak of the story.

This is a story that may be targeted to an older male teen audience, but I could see it appeal to adults in their 20's and 30's also. With some sexuality, language, and drug use, it may not be the best read for younger teens, but do think it may also appeal to them, particularly boys.

As Jamie embarks on this cross-country journey, the reader will feel sympathy for this sometimes unlikable character. Even though his decisions and actions may leave the reader upset at times, ultimately Jamie is a tragic figure trying to get to his dying brothers. Rapp weaves a fascinating tale full of memorable characters and moments that the reader will remember long after finishing the novel.
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Format: Hardcover
On a bus from Portland, Oregon, to Memphis, Tennessee, is a 14-year-old boy all alone. Jamie, known to most recent acquaintances as "Punkzilla," is on his way to see his older brother, Peter. Peter, or P, is just 27 and dying of cancer, and Jamie is hoping to make it to him in time. Jamie's journey is a complicated one; he is AWOL from a military academy having been sent there by his parents after getting into a series of disruptive and criminal troubles. He has spent the past five months living on the streets of Portland, stealing, living in a sleazy motel, and smoking and drinking. On the night before he left to see P, he did methamphetamine for the first time.

In PUNKZILLA, the latest from Adam Rapp, we read about Jamie, his journey, the family he is fleeing and the brother he is trying to reach. Told in a series of letters to, but mostly from, Jamie, we learn why he was sent to Buckner military school, why he ran away from it but didn't go back to his parents in Ohio, and why P is also estranged from the rest of the family.

Jamie's letters to P are all written in the notebook he carries with him. Though he is broke and with few possessions, even mugged and robbed, he hangs on to the notebook, keeping the letters with him at all times. More like a diary, Jamie doesn't plan on sending the letters to P, but hopes to get to Memphis in time to share all his adventures, trials, dreams and ideas with the brother who has inspired him and loved him unconditionally. Jamie's letters are raw and often brutal in their content: drug use, violence, abuse, teenage sex, strong language. Jamie holds nothing back.
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