Remember high school? I was an angsty teenager and I wouldn’t consider high school my “glory days” by any means. (Have I mentioned the ginormously baggy pants I used to wear?) That said, even when I was in high school, I managed to have fun sometimes. Sure I was rather morose and had questionable taste in cosmetics (I legit glued craft glitter to my eyelids using chapstick), but I certainly didn’t suffer any major trauma. Maybe that’s why Anthony Breznican’s novel Brutal Youth hit me like a ton of bricks. *I received a complimentary copy of this book in conjunction with a blog tour coordinated by Be Books Consulting.*
Brutal Youth focuses on the lives of three freshman enrolled in a troubled working class Catholic high school. The school has a long standing policy of hazing where the senior class torments the freshmen. Think Dazed and Confused, minus the bell-bottoms and the good-natured untertones. It’s intense.
Peter Davidek finds himself thrown in the tumult of St. Michaels and soon strikes up a friendship with fellow freshmen Noah Stein and Lorelei Paskal. The trio clings together in order to survive. With a culture of systemic bullying and corrupt leadership St. Michael’s is more like the seventh level of hell than the haven of godliness to which the devout parents imagined they were sending their children.
Bullying is such a hot topic these days. Though Brutal Youth was set in the 90s, I was shocked at the idea that a high school would condone any type of a hazing ritual, let alone a full year of cruelty. It’s a work of fiction, but there’s a disturbing truth about it as well. The environment in St. Michael’s is a psychological war zone, the strain of which puts friendships, love, and faith to the test.
Brutal Youth is not an easy read, but it is worthwhile. Of course, if you have kids about to start high school and don’t want to turn into a paranoid mess you should probably hold off on reading this one. (My mom used to watch 20/20 and become convinced that I was into a new dangerous fad every Friday night. She seemed to overlook the fact that I spent so much time in my bedroom brooding over boys who didn’t like me. Where would I have found the TIME for such illicit activities?) If, however, you don’t mind walking on the dark side, Brutal Youth gives you humanity in all its twisted broken glory.
Talk to me Bookworms. What’s the last truly disturbing book you read?
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