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The Brimstone Journals Hardcover – February 1, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; 1st edition (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763613029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763613020
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,663,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on July 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Welcome to Branston High, nicknamed Brimstone by it students. As in "fire and brimstone." As in Hell. And if they don't act fast, a demon will break loose.

Through a series of short, journal-like poems, acclaimed author Koertge catapults us into the lives of some Branston students. The cast of characters is all too familiar and almost too dysfunctional --- each with their own burdens to bear. There's the fat kid, the smart kid, the rich kid, the anorexic, the jock, and so on. Rounding out the mix is Boyd. Left to his own devices by his alcoholic father, Boyd has became a white supremacist with a major chip on his shoulder.

Tension within the school is mounting. Mercilessly, Boyd compiles a list of people he hates, his "hit list," student by student. And around him, everybody else's problems are ripping them apart. You'll have to read this inventive and engrossing poem-novel to find out what ultimately happens. THE BRIMSTONE JOURNALS explores the timely and all too real topic of teen violence in a story that is as haunting as it is illuminating.

--- Reviewed by Tammy L. Currier
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. I connected with all the different characters, they were just like kids at my own high school. This is a must read for any teen, and even any parent of a teen. It seemed so true. Almost as if the author wrote it from being a student at my school.
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Format: Paperback
Branston High School, nicknamed Brimstone by its occupants, is a typical suburban high school in America. You have the jock, the nerd, the fat kid, the lesbian, and every other "label" high school students give each other. In The Brimstone Journals, Koertge gives readers a glimpse into the personal thoughts of each of these fifteen students by recording their thoughts and feelings in journal form.
What joins the students together, whether they know it or not, is Boyd, an angry young man with a list of "everybody who ever blew me off, flipped me off, or pissed me off" (Koertge 51). When he meets Mike, Boyd begins to plan a Columbine type event where he gets revenge against all those he thinks offended him. Other students are sucked into his plan either by joining in the attack or having their name added to the list. One student bravely thwarts Boyd's plan, and the aftermath of the "event" showcases teenagers at their best: living in the moment. Although a few students have their lives changed like Sheila opening up to her mother about her struggle and Allison telling the counselor what her stepfather is doing to her, most students immediately go back to the frivolous cares of high school. Damon, the controlling boyfriend jock, immediately goes back to wondering when his girlfriend will come back to him. Rob still doesn't understand why he was on the list. Even Lester, the hero of the book, contemplates his actions for a minute and then immediately thinks about going to prom with Meredith. Boyd exemplifies this even further as with one sentence he is choosing to help kill his peers and in the next, he's thinking about a tattoo.
Boyd
I was gonna drop out of school until
Mike got me to see how we need
People who can lead the foot soldiers.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joyce Bratton on July 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I really liked Ron Koertge's book, The Brimstone Journals. It was an interesting quick read about suburban high school kids and it gave me some insight into the mindset of kids who plot shooting rampages. I was equally intrigued by what the author wrote at the back of the book, "Usually I choose characters and settings that are humorous and off beat. The Brimstone Journals, however, chose me. I began the book before the tragedy in Colorado, and the characters woke me up at night."
There are fifteen haunting student voices. All are seniors at Branston, a suburban high school. This story, written as journal entries, focuses on the many problems that suburban teens find themselves struggling with. The journal opens with the geeky kid, Lester, playing with his father's gun and toying with the idea of "getting back" at the jocks and girls at his school who have "dissed" him. Damon is one of those jocks and is also very controlling with his girlfriend, Kelli who is struggling to break his hold on her. Then there is Sheila, who wonders if she's a lesbian because she loves her best friend, Monica. Boyd is an outcast at school and neglected and abused at home by his alcoholic father. Joseph is an environmentalist and the offspring of two "weird" parents who "drink a lot of wine and boogie to the Grateful Dead". Allison is being sexually harassed by her stepfather, who her mother makes excuses for when she complains. Kitty is the fat girl, Jennifer, a religious zealot and Meredith has "loose morals". Neesha, Tran and Carter are the minorities. Neesha has black revolutionary leanings, Tran, Vietnamese, is under pressure by his immigrant father to fulfill the American dream and Carter is a rich black kid who flaunts cashmere sweaters and drives an expensive sports car.
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