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Brutal by Michael Harmon
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In this day and age when things are fast and new becomes old quickly, we tend to forget about books that aren’t on the best seller list. It’s nice, on occasion, to remind ourselves of some of the good books out there and Brutal by Michael Harmon is one that we should remember. An audio excerpt was on a CD about bullying, which is what first brought it to my attention.

Harmon’s dedication says it all. “This novel was written for all teenagers out there who have the courage to stand up for something they believe to be true, and the willingness to overcome mistakes made in trying to make a difference in this world. It’s also for the parents, teachers, and administrators who listen to them.”

Poe (named after Edgar Allan) Holly is new at Benders High School in Benders Hollow, CA, having moved in with a father she hasn’t seen in sixteen years when her surgeon mother decides to spend a year in South America helping to the people there. What Poe sees as she navigates her first few days at Benders High is the inequality among students: the sports team members are high on the totem pole, followed by cheerleaders and the championship choir. Lowest of the low are the geeks and dorks, some of whom literally get beaten to a pulp. She tries to convince her guidance counselor father that school rules, to some extent, foster this inequality, but he’s not on board yet. It can be something simple like football team members can wear their jerseys to gym instead of the authorized ‘gym uniform’ to something more severe such as the football star beating up a kid and getting away with it. Poe is out to make things right.

Having an affinity for non-conformists, I really like Poe, who dresses Goth or whatever fashion suits her, and I’m sure most readers will. She teams up with Theo, the mayor’s son and another outcast, making an interesting couple. She’s certainly got her own demons to conquer as she grows up and tries to exert herself, but as a sixteen year old, she’s making a great start.

In this era when it seems to me kids are apathetic and when bullying, especially bullying via social media is dominating the news, it’s refreshing to know that someone cares and one person can make a difference. Brutal is a quick, enjoyable read. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Oct 22, 2013 |
Enjoyed the spunky narrator in this novel and her war to right all wrongs-both at home and at school. My only complaint: Velveeta's disappearance at the end of the novel seemed a tad too convenient. ( )
  kimpiddington | Sep 25, 2013 |
Poe Holly is not an average high school student. She has quite a mouth on her and thinks nothing of using profanity when talking to a teacher or principal. She also speaks up whenever she sees things that in her opinion are not right. When Poe witnesses Velvetta being beat up as a result of something she did, she knows she must stop the ensuing consequences. ( )
  JRlibrary | May 12, 2012 |
When her surgeon-mother leaves LA and goes to South America on a charity project, 16 yr. old Poe Holly goes to live with her father in the small town of Bender. Poe has never met her father who also happens to be the school counselor at her new high school. Poe doesn't know why her parents divorced. She is a rebellious teen who doesnt' get along with her mother and blames her father for never being there for her. Poe meets two new friends...Theo, the son of the mayor and "Velveeta", a troubled teen who is the perpetual target of school bullies. Poe soon realizes that a major bully at the high school is Colby Morris, star football player. Colby is brutal and untouchable...his father is well-connected. Poe sets out to prove that Colby and his friends are responsible for a near-fatal attack on Velveeta, thereby putting her own life in danger.

Harmon does a good job of keeping the action moving. Brutal was hard to out down once started. The characters aren't fully drawn; it's very hard to understand the motivations and actions of Poe's parents. Poe's constant rants about the hypocrisy of the school and adults is a little over-the-top and not always believable...she gets pretty obnoxious sometimes. However, the issues are timely, the characters are likable and there is lots for teens to relate to. ( )
  lrobe190 | Sep 18, 2011 |
Great book about a girl who goes to live with her father when her mother travels overseas. She doesn't feel that she fits in, but it's as much because he won't allow herself to as it is because she actually doesn't. She befriends the misfit next door and the "counter-culture" loving son of the town's mayor. Moving-very much a modern book in the way that it deals realistically with the issue of bullying. ( )
  BrittDonohueWhite | Sep 1, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375840990, Hardcover)

With her martyr-doctor mother gone to save lives in some South American country, Poe Holly suddenly finds herself on the suburban doorstep of the father she never knew, who also happens to be a counselor at her new high school. She misses Los Angeles. She misses the guys in her punk band. Weirdly, she even misses the shouting matches she used to have with her mom.

But Poe manages to find a few friends: Theo, the cute guy in the anarchy Tshirt, and Velveeta, her oddly likeable neighbor—and a born victim who’s the butt of every prank at Benders High. But when the pranks turn deadly at the hands of invincible football star Colby Morris, Poe knows she’s got to fix the system and take down the hero.

With insightfulness, spot-on dialogue, and a swiftly paced plot, Michael Harmon tells the story of a displaced girl grappling with a truly dangerous bully.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:53 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Forced to leave Los Angeles for life in a quiet California wine town with a father she has never known, rebellious sixteen-year-old Poe Holly rails against a high school system that allows elite students special privileges and tolerates bullying of those who are different.… (more)

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