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Brutal Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 10, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, March 10, 2009
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From Booklist

Sixteen-year-old Poe Holly is “the outcome of a sperm donor program called Poor Choices and Bad Mistakes.” Her workaholic mother has taken a year off to practice medicine in South America, unloading Poe into the custody of a father she’s never met, a straitlaced counselor at Poe’s new school. The pierced and mohawked Poe mostly abhors the homogeneity and elitism of her suburban classmates, though she finds two exceptions: the whip-smart punk-rocker son of the town mayor, and Velveeta, the troubled pariah on the hit list of Colby, the school’s untouchable bully. There is little earth-shattering here, but that’s part of the book’s low-key charm; Harmon’s dialogue is crystal clear and authentic, his youth characters intelligent, and his adult characters finely drawn. The central conflict—the growing hostility between Colby and Velveeta—leads to an ending of contrivance, but that should not take away from an admirably realistic portrayal of a rebel coming to realize that rebellion can be elitist, too. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus

About the Author

Michael Harmon is the author of Skate (“A remarkable first novel” according to Kirkus Reviews) and The Last Exit to Normal (“An excellent read” according to a starred School Library Journal review). He lives in Washington state.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (March 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375840990
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,269,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By OpheliasOwn VINE VOICE on March 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is a great, big beast in our schools that we can't control. Try as we might, as strict as we can be, we can't stop the bullying that happens among our students. I think the greatest feeling of helplessness for a parent or educator is knowing bullying will happen no matter how many conferences we attend, how many times we bring the students together to have an open conversation, how many horror stories we share or how many times we try to appeal to the conscience of our children. I am not a pessimist, but I consider myself a realist. Bullying is out there, and we just have to hope all our preparation and proactive actions will help in the long run. Michael Harmon's Brutal shows how one school had good intentions, but feel far too short to protect one young man.

Poe Holly is the product of some bad decisions. Her mom is an amazing doctor who selflessly goes to South America for a year to help people, but she isn't so great at being a mother. Instead she leaves Poe with her father, the same father Poe has never met and has only spoken to a handful of times in her entire life. When she arrives at her father's house, she realizes not everything is the way it seemed. Her father is the school counselor and he is actually a very kind and understanding man. Despite her previous feelings of abandonment, she can't help but start to care about him.

The same thing happens when Poe meets the students of her new school. Her next-door neighbor is a boy named Velveeta (really Andrew, but he really likes cheese) who seems to be the target of the worst kind bullying. She also meets a cantankerous young man named Theo who seems to subscribe to Poe's exact philosophy of anti-establishment-ness. Turns out, though, Theo is the mayor's son.
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Format: Hardcover
I started this book and loved Poe's voice but then things got long winded.

The characters are general cut outs with Poe Holly (a rebellious Gothic teen with a parent complex), he mother (a neglectful work obsessive socialite doctor who left her to go work on a charity project), Her father (the quiet school counselor/writer who left when she was born but is really cool), Velveeta "Andrew" (her weird friend who is picked on), and Theo (her very intelligent best friend/boyfriend who is a rebel and mayor's son). The cast is entertaining enough (I loved Theo even though he was unrealistic), but Poe's attitude becomes really annoying. She is so angry at the world when she has a lot more than other kids have, like Velveeta. Her family is very dysfunctional but at least she has the support. Her rebellious act gets old after awhile. Also, all her speeches and arguments were so well planned she becomes a megaphone for the author.

The heart of the story is Poe finding out who her father is and fighting the system. Poe fights against bullying and how high school forces students to form cliques. The school has a policy that everyone is in one giant school clique but that is broken down.

The book was okay. The characters are a little too perfect and sound a little too "adult" for teenagers. Their fight against bullying and cliques felt tired and unresolved. It is written in a very down to earth style and Poe's narration was always fun to read but you just get tired of it.

It is okay if you like spunky girls with all the answers but it would be better from a library than purchasing it.
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Format: Hardcover
Brutal's main character Poe Holly is a girl too tough to be bullied. Sassy, savvy and street smart, she is forced to live with her father in a perfect little house in a perfect little suburb giving up singing in her punk band so her doctor mother can go to South America to help "world citizens." Writer, Michael Harmon, puts Poe in the impeccable Benders High School where Poe finds out their dirty little secret; the adults don't look the other way during bullying incidents- they perpetuate it.

It's subtle and important distinction that Harmon explores in Brutal. If the teachers are supporting the intimidation of some students by the popular and athletic ones, what hope is there of eliminating the problem. Certain students are given privileges and it's those students who are the bullies. Colby Morris is Brutal's untouchable football hero who has singled out Velveeta, a misfit of a boy who lives near Poe, for his put downs and degradations. Poe won't allow it, and the tenacity she used to get herself kicked out of three elite Los Angeles private schools will be needed if she is going to take on the system starting with her father who is Benders High's guidance counselor.

Readers will root for Poe, because of her for her inability to let go of what she knows is right.
-- Reviewed by Cathy Castelli
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although less then strong on character development, still an entertaining and in-depth read, addressing the issue of individualism and bullying in High School. Double standards are huge in school; especially in the last four years... we've all either experienced it personally or witnessed it at some point during our academic career. BRUTAL focuses greatly on the adult's role in the harassment of a student by adding to the problem in refusing to protect the weak in the name of "tolerance", and/or turning a blind-eye to the torture, favoring the bully due to their popularity, athletic higharchy or family's social standing in the community.

Michael Harmon did a good job addressing some very serious issues that face teens today with the at times over the top, but definitely strong and very likeable, sassy punk rock Poe; as she puts it all on the line to stand-up for what she believes in. I also appreciate that Harmon saw fit to have Poe called out when she was out of line; pointing out that even when intentions are in the right place, how a person goes about addressing a problem can be the difference between improving a situation or making things worse.

As a story of friendship, compassion, respect, deliverance, character, support and forgiveness; BRUTAL has a fantastic message geared for young people, but can be appreciated by readers of all ages.
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