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Punkzilla by Adam Rapp


by Adam Rapp

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I’ve put off writing a review for Punkzilla by Adam Rapp because I’m a little intimidated. Punkzilla was given a Printz Honor medal, which means this book is legit. That shouldn’t matter but it does because people who actually know what they’re talking about hold this book high in esteem. What more can I say about it?

Books like Punkzilla send conservative parents in a book-banning tizzy. It touches on drug use, homosexuality, pedophilia, the struggles of transgendered individuals, sex, mental abuse, and death. It’s hard to believe that all of that exists within 200 pages of a young adult novel. None of it is gratuitous, but I’d be lying if I said parts of this book didn’t make me uncomfortable. Sometimes that’s the point though.

The story of Punkzilla is told through a collection of letters. Most of the time, Punkzilla is writing to his dying brother, but letters from Punkzilla’s family are sprinkled throughout. These letters from Punkzilla’s family present a different side to the story or at least provide a richer reading experience. Throughout his letters, Punkzilla’s voice seems genuine. I mean, if you can get over the fact that few thirteen year olds could write that way stylistically, then it seems genuine. He writes like his mind if going a mile a minute from the meth he did the night before. He’s so honest in his letters about all the horrible things he’s done. But what’s even more interesting is, despite his hooligan tendencies, his innocence shines through when he meets various people on his travels. It’s in these instances the reader catches a glimpse at how vulnerable Punkzilla is, and really it’s kind of heartbreaking.

The only letdown in Adam Rapp’s Punkzilla was the ending. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the ending. Punkzilla’s decisions left me satisfied. But, I thought it ended rather abruptly, like Rapp ran out of steam. ( )
  books_n_tea | Apr 1, 2014 |
This is a completely conflicting book. Very readable. Great story. There's meaning here. But damn. What a freaking downer! Even the high points are depressing. You feel like things are pretty good, and then you examine it, and it's extra depressing that that's what good is like for this character. And I don't think there's improvement on the horizon.

But if you like teen realistic fiction of the gritty, depressing variety, then by all means. This fits the bill and is worth the read. ( )
  librarymeg | May 30, 2013 |
Fourteen-year-old Jamie (aka Punkzilla) is AWOL from military school. He's already lived hand to mouth in a west coast city, stealing iPods, doing cheap drugs, and getting the occasional joyless hand job. Now he is headed to Memphis where his oldest brother, Peter, a gay playwright, is dying from cancer. His story is told through his letters to Peter as he hitchhikes across the country, written in the backseats of cars, under a tree where a man hanged himself, and ultimately in retrospect when he reaches his journey's sad end. Raw, devastating, astonishing, exquisitely bleak. Rapp never disappoints. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Grade 10-12. Fourteen-year-old Jamie ("Punkzilla") has run away from military school, spent time living hand-to-mouth, and is now traveling across the United States to see his gay brother, Peter, who has been cast out by his parents and is dying of cancer. Told through Jamie's stream of consciousness letters to his brother, the narrative feels both wandering and authentic. Coming down from his last hit of meth as he hits the road, Jamie is not a blameless youthful narrator. His journey puts him in contact with a whole host of disenfranchised, broken characters, and further introduces him to the grittier side of life. Through his letters, Jamie reveals to his brother (and readers) his history of isolation, crime, sexual discover, family frustration, and hope despite it all. Raw and filled with the clash of idealism and reality, "Punkzilla" reveals the rougher edges of modern life while still offering a glimmer of hope both for readers and for Jamie. Recommended, though not for all readers. ( )
  LeafingLight | Oct 18, 2012 |
This book follows the journey of fourteen-year-old Jamie, also known as “ Punkzilla” from Oregon to Tennessee in order to visit his brother who is dying of cancer. Along the way, the main character sees the darker side of the U.S. and meets odd and dangerous characters. During this time, he also writes a series of letters to his brother disclosing the troubling events in his life including his drug use, his sexual encounters, and his "job" robbing runners. According to Amanda MacGregor, Jamie is “willing to do almost anything for a free ride, place to sleep, or meal, Jamie often finds himself in bad situations, but he never dwells too long on anything, [and is] determined to get to his brother no matter what it takes.

Who will benefit by reading this book?

I think that high school students or even college students in an adolescent literature course will benefit by reading this book. It follows a boy on a very complex journey of his past and his present and portrays many issues that may face adolescents today. In a high school setting, the reading of this book should be guided and discussed thoroughly.

Reviewed by RS
  LGBTQresources | Apr 20, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0763630314, Hardcover)

An award-winning writer and playwright hits the open road for a searing novel-in-letters about a street kid on a highstakes trek across America.

For a runaway boy who goes by the name "Punkzilla," kicking a meth habit and a life of petty crime in Portland, Oregon, is a prelude to a mission: reconnecting with his older brother, a gay man dying of cancer in Memphis. Against a backdrop of seedy motels, dicey bus stations, and hitched rides, the desperate fourteen-year-old meets a colorful, sometimes dangerous cast of characters. And in letters to his sibling, he catalogs them all — from an abusive stranger and a ghostly girl to a kind transsexual and an old woman with an oozing eye. The language is raw and revealing, crackling with visceral details and dark humor, yet with each interstate exit Punkzilla’s journey grows more urgent: will he make it to Tennessee in time? This daring novel offers a narrative worthy of Kerouac and a keen insight into the power of chance encounters.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Punkzilla" is on a mission to see his older brother "P", before "P" dies of cancer. Still buzzing from his last hit of meth, he embarks on a days-long trip from Portland, Ore. to Memphis, Tenn., writing letters to his family and friends. Along the way, he sees a sketchier side of America and worries if he will make it to see his brother in time.… (more)

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An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

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Candlewick Press

2 editions of this book were published by Candlewick Press.

Editions: 0763630314, 0763652970

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