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BRUTAL by Michael Harmon


by Michael Harmon

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: March 10th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-375-84099-9
Publisher: Knopf

An angry 16-year-old shakes up her school when she challenges its social order. When Poe moves from Los Angeles to suburban California to live with her father, a man she has no relationship with, she’s furious: furious at her dynamo doctor of a mother for deserting her to take a year’s sabbatical to care for the poor and furious at her dad for his neglect and emotional passivity. The focus of this highly charged novel is not Poe’s dysfunctional family, however, but a question that has dogged high-school students from time immemorial. Why is it that the more socially elite students get to prey upon the less so? And the rather savvy answer Harmon comes up with is that it’s because the adults who run the school allow it. A mention of Columbine at a faculty-student meeting somewhat negates this premise, as it reverses the power dynamic in readers’ minds, and some of the characterizations, such as Poe’s perfect boyfriend, seem more functional than fully human. Still, strong medicine with a strong message. (Fiction. 14 & up)