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Heart, You Bully, You Punk Hardcover – May 12, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Leah Hager Cohen has produced a slim little book that proves a point: in the novel, milieu is everything. Heart, You Bully, You Punk (and what a title it is) tells the story of Ann, a math whiz at a private high school in Brooklyn, and two people who loom large in her life: her father, Wally, who owns a restaurant called Game in Manhattan, and her teacher, a quietly mysterious woman named Esker. When Esker and Wally begin to fall in love, Cohen gives us a story that's immediate and elegant, characters who are lovable and maddening, dialogue that's silly and serious and wonderfully human. But what makes this small novel really terrific is its choice of venues: the school and the restaurant. Both locales are wonderfully novelistic, crowded with characters and lousy with rituals recognizable to anyone who has haunted such joints. Ann quizzes her classmate Denise on whether or not she thinks Esker is poignant. "Denise remained unconvinced. 'She's just eerie.' 'Eerie' is a big word this year at The Prospect School, where its connotation is not derogatory; it's a catch-all for anything enigmatic or unplumbed." Likewise, Cohen nails nice little details of the emotional life of a restaurant, like Wally's ritual of having a nightly cocoa with his maitre d', Nuncio. "They've had little manly crushes on each other for seven years; they always will." Cohen launches her characters into the waters of heartbreak, but these small noticings keep the book grounded, funny, and always very alive. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

"Prickly" Iphegenia Julia Esker, a math teacher at a private Brooklyn high school, is the guarded figure at the heart of this accomplished, lovingly crafted and somewhat suffocating novel by Cohen, whose previous books include the novel Heat Lightning and the poignant memoir Train Go Sorry. Esker (she goes by her last name) begins tutoring a brilliant and potentially troubled math student at home after Ann James's fall from school bleachers ("I was kind of nudged from the inside") leaves her wheelchair-bound with two broken heels. Ann adores her teacher and wants her father, the kindly, semimarried restaurant owner, Wally James, and Esker to get acquainted. Though Esker has lived a hermitlike existence for nine years, ever since her beloved Albert Rose, then 22, married the girl his family expected him to, Wally is able to get past Esker's defenses and make her, momentarily anyway, "baskingly, destabilizingly happy" in this odd tale of love and loneliness. As if Esker's natural resistance to happiness weren't enough, the Prospect School frowns on her nascent relationship with Wally, and Wally's wife (and Ann's mother), who left three years ago to act in independent films, visits at Christmas. But this slim novel is short on plot, which leaves Cohen room for enchantingly poetic observations and romantic similes, a sustained metaphor of physical injury, and characters who compulsively take their own emotional temperature. Small gestures carry great weight, and images and details reverberate throughout, as tension builds, not organically from situations, but from Cohen's descriptive layering. One wishes her characters-especially Esker-would stop thinking so much about how to live and just start doing it.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (May 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670031674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670031672
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,198,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on April 2, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am so ANNOYED! I just spent the past four days completely engrossed in Leah Hager Cohen's "Heart, You Bully, You Punk." I couldn't wait to finish it and write a fabulous review on Amazon, because I thought it was one of the most amazing books I'd read in a long time. By the time I read the last chapter, however, I was singing a different tune.

Up until the final few pages, I was absolutely in love with this book. It's a very moving story about Esker, a quirky math teacher at a private New York high school who agrees to tutor one of her students, Ann, following a peculiar incident that leaves both of Ann's legs in casts. Esker eventually meets Ann's father, Wally, and they form an unlikely relationship that is largely based on their mutual loneliness.

Cohen's writing style is exceptional. The novel constantly shifts perspective among the three main characters, but Cohen manages the transitions with ease. The author reaches deep into the minds of Esker, Wally, and Ann, and the reader is instantly able to bond with these three very unique personalities. I was so eager to see how the story would wrap up, but I thought the ending was incredibly rushed and I am very pissed at the way Esker chose to leave things...why did she DO that?! I don't get it! And what the heck happens to the other two characters? Everything is so open-ended and I feel like Cohen completely ripped me off. It's a real shame, too, because I can't say enough good things about the first 200 pages of this 214-page book. I am amazed that a writer as exceptionally gifted as Cohen could manage to screw up what would have been a perfectly wonderful novel, all in the course of about a dozen pages. What a shame. (In spite of my anger about the ending, though, I still have to give the book four stars.
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Format: Paperback
This novel is perfect. The ending is also perfect. After you've finished reading Heart, You Bully, You Punk, it stays in your mind, the whole thing in motion, so that you can pick it up on a random page and start reading, and still be enthralled, and understand exactly what's happening, see how well it's written, and grasp how everything in this book is just where it should be, reflecting and illuminating everything else. It's ridiculously well written. Far and away the most beautiful book I've read in years.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. The characters are crafted so honestly and realistically. The story line is not too dramatic and the author does not feel the need to write elaborate events, she instead writes elaborately large and implied between the line emotions within every little moment. This book is a great solid account of life, and I would recommend it to people of any age or gender.
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Format: Hardcover
I must say I have never read a book by Leah Hager Cohen but this must take the cake! It is absolutely inthrawling. It used great imagery and at times made my head spin with flashbacks! I loved the book...until the end! I must say Heart, You Bully, You Punk seemed to end rather abruptly...but all in all its a rather good book.
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