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Title: Brutal Youth
Author: Anthony Breznican
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that’s even worse in Anthony Breznican’s Brutal Youth.
With a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.
To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive.
Brutal Youth mainly follows three freshmen – Peter Davidek, Noah Stein, Lorelei Paskal. Peter Davidek just wants to turn the other cheek and get through his freshmen year as quietly and quickly as possible. Noah Stein is mysterious, scarred, and refuses to take anyone’s crap. Lorelei Paskal will do just about anything to have friends and be popular. Anything to avoid her previously lonely and isolated school years. We also read other students perspectives, Hannah, Michael, Father Mercedes, and others, but the reader gets the most perspective from these three freshmen.
St. Michael’s, a private Catholic school, sees the school’s hazing as a way for the seniors to “bond” with the freshmen. While most schools would see this form of bullying cruel, St. Michael looks upon the hazing as a positive experience. The morals of the school aren’t lacking, but ceases to exist completely.
Father Mercedes is a character all his own. He has worked hard to have the school shut down. Why? Father Mercedes has been stealing from the parish fund for years. In order to cover up his tracks, he constantly looks for ways to have the school shut down. He has no problem extorting young freshmen, making false accusations of the teachers, and pointing his finger at Sister Maria, the school’s principal, to have the spotlight taken off of him.
I’m not going to lie, this was a very hard book to read. The hazing, aka torturing, and the tolerance the administration staff and parents had for the bullying was frightening. Fortunately I don’t know any school with this level of tolerance, but I did witness some cruel bullying in my high school. I feel like this is a book that not only all high school students should read, but also teachers and parents. Quite the eye opener.
3 out of 5 stars
Meet The Author
Anthony Breznican was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsurgh in 1998. He has worked as a reporter for The Arizona Republic, Associated Press, and USA Today. He is currently a senior staff writer for Entertainment Weekly. Brutal Youth is his debut novel.