Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

18404289Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Length: 416 pages
Genera: Contemporary
Subjects: Bullying, Religion, Relationships, 
How I obtained the book: 
Netgalley, eARC

Rating: 

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 tells the inspiring story of three teenagers, each with their own troubles. While, technically, Brutal Youth was written as an anti-bullying book, it doesn’t feel like the average one. Most of the books I’ve read have extremely heavy messages that bog down the actual story and taint the overall experience. Often the characters are weak and flimsy as well. At the end of the day, the message fails to make a lasting impact with the reader.

However, Brutal Youth doesn’t seem to want to go with the flow and instead tells one of the most brutal and harsh stories I’ve ever read with characters abounding with personality and a story that really resonates with the reader. It’s one of those once in a blue moon reads that I’ll treasure for a long, long time.

The three main characters -Peter Davidek, Noah Stein, and Lorelei Paskal – were all incredibly realistic and well developed. I couldn’t really call any of them likable in the traditional sense, but I enjoyed seeing the story through their eyes. Their individual strengths and weaknesses added yet another layer to the book.

Lorelei was my favourite character in the book, and also one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read about. Nothing is ever simple with Lorelei. She’s selfish and self-centered and an all around awful person. But she’s also incredibly pitiful and weak. She is bullied mercilessly by her peers, yet she also does a lot of the bullying herself.

One of the shining aspects of the book was how Breznican addressed the theme of bullying. There’s nothing black and white in Brutal Youth. It’s all in shades of grey. Even the bullies are bullied.

The main characters aren’t completely innocent, like you’d expect from your average book. They’re sympathetic while still being at times awful people. It’s really amazing what having realistic, multifaceted characters can do to a story. I haven’t stopped thinking about this book since I put it down almost a month ago.

Overall, Brutal Youth is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s gorgeously written and incredibly heartfelt. I cannot wait to read any other works by this author. I loved it and I recommend Brutal Youth to anyone looking for a book that is unlike any you’ve read before.

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