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Vandal Hardcover – April 4, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up–Will, a musically gifted teen, is making his mark in a semiprofessional Chicago band. He is saddled with an abusive older brother who torments him and who, despite bottomless remorse, continues to commit stupid acts and crimes that create ongoing chaos and challenges for his family. Writing in a journal of sorts, Will tells his story in colloquial language, describing his futile crush on Amanda and the outrageous behavior of the adult band members who create a cult following as Kiss Forever, which both memorializes and satirizes the infamous band Kiss. Loving parents and understanding school and police officials try everything with Jason, and Will even gets him a job with the band, but Jason continues on his self-destructive path. The seemingly final blow happens when he has a car accident in which their younger sister sustains permanent, crippling injuries. Does Jason finally learn? No. Do Will and his parents ever wash their hands of him? No. Is there hope for Jason changing? No. Sadly, the characters are as flat as the ending, making it difficult to believe or care what happens, and the journal device works only erratically. Readers wait for some insight or resolution that clarifies the relationships and brings the challenges alive, but they aren't forthcoming.–Mary R. Hofmann, Rivera Middle School, Merced, CA
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 7-10. "Just in case you've been thinking that I'm a funny, lighthearted guy, and that this is going to be a funny story, let me say one more thing: this is a sad story. Really." No disagreement here, but it's also a deftly structured, refreshingly unsentimental, and witty analysis of the resilient, complicated bonds that connect siblings. Sixteen-year-old Will has conflicted emotions about his delinquent older brother; he fears Jason's wild, frightening behavior but continues to yearn for a closer relationship. When Jason returns from a stint in juvenile hall, he accepts a job with Will's up-and-coming KISS tribute band, triggering events with consequences devastating to the entire family. Evolving alongside the tense drama is the equally fascinating story of Will's guitar-playing career, well stocked with behind-the-scenes glimpses of gigs and as articulate about the joys of music as Christopher Krovatin's Heavy Metal & You (2005). The boys' "unblemished, totally enchanting" younger sister is too angelic, but other off notes are difficult to find: the character study of a bully who "was more than just a brute" is nuanced, the pacing is skillfully modulated, and the conclusion, free of nostrums about catharsis and rehabilitation, feels touching and true. For another novel about a teen grappling with a sibling's misdeeds, look to David Klass' Dark Angel. Steer teens looking for more books with a music theme to Mike Tanner's Resurrection Blues (2005) or Blake Nelson's Rock Star Superstar (2004). Jennifer Mattson
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 6 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 820L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; First Edition edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596430702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596430709
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,433,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Judith Miller VINE VOICE on June 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
VANDAL is the story of Will Brenner, a sixteen-year-old boy who has a pretty good life. He`s a decent student, has reasonable parents and great kid sister named Olivia. He also plays lead guitar in a rock band called KISS FOREVER. The various members dress up and imitate the rock band KISS. Will is the youngest person in the group. The other guys are in their thirties and were big fans of KISS when they were teenagers.

The only thorn in Will's side is his older brother Jason who is a bully and a jerk. He's attractive and athletic, but is constantly in some kind of trouble. As a young kid, he was difficult at home, then in school, and as he gets older his bad behavior becomes more serious. His teenage years lead to petty theft and police involvement. The family is in turmoil because of Jason's conduct. They have even sought family counseling and professional help for Jason, but nothing has helped. Will is the over achiever to the difficult big brother. Perhaps Will's good-boy behavior is a shield and defense against Jason and the problems that he causes. This story brings up serious family issues when Jason's thoughtless actions cause a disastrous situation. It also gives an interesting look at how a difficult child can effect the lives of his siblings. As a parent myself, it made me think how I might have handled Jason.

Michael Simmons has a unique talent for delving through the minds of his teenage characters and giving us some insights about how they think.
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Format: Hardcover
Simmons did very well in developing his characters. I could picture the Brenner family very clear.Vandal depicts a family that is made up of two parents, two adolescent boys, and one younger daughter. One of the boys, Jason, is very rambunctious and carefree. He acts without questioning the impact he may have on others. Will is his younger brother. The format of the novel was a little confusing for me, because I was unsure of who the novel was suppose to be focused on. Then I realized this was more of a narration. We take a look into the lives of the Brenners through Will's experiences. Some were good, while others were bad, very bad. I appreciated the introduction of the impersonation band, KISS FOREVER. There were so many funny moments throughout the chapters. The end, however, is a tear jerker and very unpredictable, such as the character of Jason. I'm sure anyone with children or siblings could appreciate this novel by Michael Simmons.
My only complaints: Too short! No resolution.
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By Andrew K. Thompson on September 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
The book Vandal is the most inspirational novel I have ever read. Michael Simmons book tells the story of two brothers going through it all. It tells about the main character, Will's, trouble-making brother. Will is the average every-day teenager. He goes to school, and plays in the band Kiss Forever (which imitates the rock band Kiss).
Will's brother, Jason, goes to jail multiple times and has detention almost every day. The story shows how Jason's behavior affects the whole family. When Jason's actions nearly destroy his family, only then do they all start to find a way to heal. This book is extremely exhilarating because it really showed the feeling of the characters, almost as if I could see it in my own eyes.
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