Summary (from Goodreads):
“Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that’s even worse in Anthony Breznican’s Brutal Youth
With a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.
To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive.”
The blurb list for this book reads like a who’s who of authors I love: Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Stephen Chbosky. I’d probably read it based on one of their recommendations, but with all three? OBVIOUSLY.
This book made me so happy that I’m not in high school anymore but I also love that it doesn’t paint a rosy picture of those four years. I always feel sorry for people who say that high school are the best four years of their life. (Why in the world would you feel like your best years ended at around the time you’d be able to vote? And even if you felt that way, why would you tell people?)
My own high school years weren’t as bad as theirs, but I think most people will be able to recognize parts of their teenage years in this even if they will then think, “Thank God it didn’t go that far.”
This book absolutely redefines bleak. Davidek, Stein, Lorelai and Hannah are all completely damaged in varying ways, and obviously the school is to blame for most (but not all) of it. This book is set before the rise of cell phones and pre-internet, which is also a huge saving grace for them. (I don’t even want to imagine how bad the hazing would become with texting and social media.)