The Branston (a.k.a. Brimstone) High School Class of 2001 has got it all: Damon is the jock, Meredith the slut, Jennifer the good girl, David the computer game addict, Kitty the anorexic, Neesha the sistah, Rob the stud, Sheila the lesbian. And Boyd the angry and scared neo-Nazi with an arsenal in his basement and a list of "everybody who ever blew me off, flipped me off, or pissed me off."
Through a series of poetic journal entries from 15 students, author Ron Koertge chronicles the sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and ultimately chilling lives of fictional high school students in contemporary America. With just a few words from each character in each entry, readers glean more than a glimpse into their complex and often troubled worlds. Koertge's characterizations are compelling, if clichéd, although omitting two or three of the student roles might have made keeping up with who's who a little easier. Social messages covering racism, classism, homophobia, and an entire high school melting pot of "isms," come across a little heavy-handedly, but work well as an intentionally pointed illustration of the perils young people face today. Subject matter and language make this appropriate for older readers. Koertge is the author of several acclaimed novels, including Confess-O-Rama. (Older teens) --Emilie Coulter
From Publishers Weekly
Through poems, Koertge (Where the Kissing Never Stops) creates 15 separate narrators, all seniors at Branston (nicknamed "Brimstone") High School, struggling with major problems. Boyd, a white supremacist neglected by his alcoholic father, is staging a school shooting spree. Even the school nurse and at least one teacher are racist: "Our homeroom teacher,/ Ms. Malone... / says black/ people have their own Heaven, but it's/ far enough away from ours so we won't/ have to listen to their music." As Boyd prepares a target list (of "everybody who/ ever blew me off, flipped me off,/ or pissed me off"), the other characters reach their own breaking points; some even consider buying guns from him to solve their troubles. While Koertge's pacing allows readers to sense the building tension, the brevity of the poems provides readers with little insight into the characters, so that they teeter on the edge of melodrama: Kitty is anorexic ("I think if I'm thin enough, I can fly"), Sheila wonders if she's a lesbian because she loves her best friend ("I want to go farther with Monica/ than just good-bye hugs"). Despite some memorable lines ("His dreams are like a box I cannot put down," says Tran, a Vietnamese teen who feels pressured by his immigrant father to become successful), the novel does not have enough heft to compensate for a cast that does not seem fully alive. Ages 14-up. (Feb.)
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