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.