“It’s not enough to step in front of other people’s bullets; you have to be bulletproof, too. You have to be harder than anything anyone else can throw at you, and sometimes you risk losing yourself just trying to save yourself.”
Brutal Youth is indeed brutal. This isn’t some coming-of-age, feel good story where the good guys win, and you’re left feeling lighthearted and hopeful when you turn the last page. This is, frankly, an all too honest and depressing look at how cruelty ruins lives, and how social isolation and peer persecution can push someone completely over the edge. Somewhat in the vein of 13 Reasons Why and The Truth About Alice, Youth takes us inside the deteriorating walls of St. Michael the Archangel High School where everyone from the priest to the guidance counselor to the upper classmen are bullying and abusing anyone they see as inferior, where the weak are taunted and tortured by the “perceived” strong and where everyone is undermining everyone in an attempt to reach the top, remain at the top, or just become invisible so they’ll be left alone. Lies, deceits, rumors, betrayal. Nothing is off limits when it comes to tearing down someone else.
Within this toxic environment, friendship blooms and dies, love blossoms only to be poisoned, lives are destroyed, and all trust is lost.
Though I constantly asked how such behavior could be allowed to continue, how authorities within a school could not only ignore but encourage such cruelty, and how parents could be so uncaring, it never detracted from the overall story. Anthony Breznican crafted a twisted, terrible environment that plays as much of a part in the story as the characters themselves. He turns high school and home life into a literal living hell that had me guessing who would still be standing when the last brutal act was finished. I definitely encourage you to read this book, but don’t expect sunshine and happy endings. This book is as dark as it is brutal.
June 10, 2014 – Thomas Dunne Books