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.
If you read one book about bullying, make it this one. Brutal Youth got me completely by surprise and I absolutely loved its unique take on such an important topic. By taking on such a topic, I never thought this book would make me laugh out loud but it did, and that without ridiculing the topic.
Brutal Youth starts with a bang. I only wanted to read a few pages to see if I was in the mood for it and was really impressed by the first chapter. What a great way to start this story. Not at all what I expected but way better.
What I absolutely loved about Brutal Youth is this mix of tragic and comical. On the one hand you have all this bullying going on in this school, which is so over the top and handled so very badly by almost all adults that it makes you laugh out loud. It’s not depicted in a way that the topic itself isn’t taken seriously though. I actually felt bad for laughing about this. On the other hand there are also a lot of other things that these characters have to deal with and they are handled in a more serious manner. These things kind of balance each other out but also make for a roller coaster ride of feels. And no matter if it’s depicted in a serious or comical way, you still take something important away from this.
I also enjoyed Brutal Youth a lot because you get to see so many different perspectives on these events. First of all there is victim, bully and outsider. There are more than just these three kinds though. There are also very distinct characters within these groups, who all handle the events in various ways.
During most of the book, I thought it was going to be a solid 3 star read for me. I enjoyed it a lot but it dragged on a bit in the middle. The last 100 to 150 pages were so very good again though, that I read the second half in one sitting without wanting to stop.
Brutal Youth is not only brilliant in its way of depicting tough, upsetting topics but also very entertaining with its comical portrayal. I enjoyed it a lot and I’m looking out to read more by Anthony Breznican.