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Winter Readalong ~ Harry Potter Series

Sheila at Book Journey is hosting a winter readalong of the Harry Potter series. As my regular readers are probably aware, I’ve never read the Harry Potter series. It was one of the goals I had set for myself at the beginning of this year. I had even toyed with setting up a challenge similarly to Shaken, Not Stirred where we would read the (audio)book and then watch the movie. This year has not gone at all like I had planned. Thankfully my good friend Tanya pointed out Sheila’s readalong to me. I think it will be a lot more fun to go through this series with Potter Heads.

To join Sheila’s readalong you have to select a house and a year. Being almost entirely unaware of Harry Potter and his world, I had no idea which one to pick. So, I joined Pottermore and took the house quiz. I couldn’t believe how fun it was to select my animal (Siamese cat) and to have my wand selected for me (it’s really neat, I think) first. After taking the quiz, the Sorting Hat placed me in Hufflepuff. I have no idea what this will mean for me, but I love the name and it should make it interesting to know as I get started. I wonder if it will inform how I feel about the characters? As for the year, if you look up First Year in the Harry Potter dictionary, you will find a picture of me there.

Hufflepuff

 

Thanks for organizing this readalong, Sheila! I’m excited to get started. If you’d like to join the readalong, click on the Hufflepuff graphic. This is going to be fun!

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

Cover of Brutal Youth

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

Published by: Thomas Dunne Books
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Published on: June 10, 2014

Page Count: 410

Genre: Fiction

My Reading Format: Hardcover book purchased prior to being invited to join Breznican’s book tour.

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

Summary from the Publisher:

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 upperclassman 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.


Today it is my great pleasure to be Anthony Breznican’s host on his Be Books Consulting tour. This tour is to celebrate his debut novel, Brutal Youth. While the book I read was one I purchased on my own, the copy of the book I’ll be giving away next month with my interview with the author is courtesy of Be Books Consulting.


My Review

As I started kindergarten at the age of 4, I didn’t turn 16 until my junior year of high school. Like the characters in Anthony Breznican’s Brutal Youth, I attended a Catholic high school. I didn’t live near the school. It was located in perhaps a seedier part of Grand Rapids while I lived in the boondocks. Those few of us who had to take the 30ish minute bus ride to school rode what we not so sensitively called the short bus. Some of the time it was even a navy van. It was on those rides to and from school where I felt the most safe. That was never more true than the afternoon of my 16th birthday. When you had a birthday in Señora Vesbit’s Spanish class, she had you stand up while the class sang, “Feliz compleaños” to you. In and of itself, that was pretty embarrassing. Unfortunately, it got worse for me. I sat in front of our future senior class president in that class. When I sat down, he made a creaking noise as if me sitting down broke my desk. The others who sat behind me giggled. Oh how my cheeks burned as I spent the rest of the class working furiously not to cry. I had no idea what else he might be doing behind my back. I have never wanted out of one place so badly as I did then and there. Despite the fact that I had waited forever until my 16th birthday so that I could get my ears pierced, I have very little memory of doing that after school that day. When I think of my 16th birthday I remember what Jason did instead. Those mindless, petty cruelties committed in our youth aren’t always so easily forgotten.

That Brutal Youth prompted me to blog about the most shameful day of my high school career goes a long way to show how painful reading this book was for me. I had no idea when I first picked it up just how tender my teenage heart still is. As the book begins, it feels as if the brutality wouldn’t let up from beginning to the end. Those first few chapters were slow reads for me as I decided if I wanted to continue. Thankfully I made the decision to plow ahead. The story picked up for me when Stein and Davidek’s friendship became so strong that Davidek chose not to pursue his feelings for Lorelie because of how strongly his best friend’s feelings for her were. Those tiny sacrifices that feel so huge at the time they are made are what make life so meaningful. There was just something about Davidek that made me want to protect him and glad that Stein did just that. I loved Stein as well. I wish I had his fortitude. Watching the way he responded to the seniors at his school gave me so many ideas as to how I could have turned my own situation around. Picturing myself turning around to Jason and saying, “¡andate a la puta que te parió!was rather cathartic and I thank Stein for the inspiration.

It’s easy to focus on the high school students as you read Brutal Youth, but the adult characters are equally fascinating. As a student you never stop to think about how or why the adults around you became the people that they did. I enjoyed their back stories and motivations. I will be eternally grateful that my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Casey, was a warm and helpful man. I shudder to think what school may have been like had he been like St. Michael the Archangel’s Ms. Bromine. Father Mercedes, an extremely flawed priest, is one of the most fascinating characters in the book. It was interesting how his “penance” caused much more harm than his sin itself. My tweens often tell me that their lives at school are complicated. Father Mercedes is an example of how those complications multiply as time goes by.

Reading Brutal Youth was a very personal experience for me. Even the setting felt familiar to me since I’ve spent so much time visiting my aunt in the Pittsburgh area. I can’t tell you this book is easy, but I can tell you that for me the payoff was well worth the price of admission. I couldn’t recommend Anthony Breznican’s debut novel more highly.

If you’d like to read more about Brutal Youth, check out more of Breznican’s tour dates:

#BrutalYouth Blog Tour Presented by Be Books Consulting

October 20: Estella’s Revenge
October 21: Anita Loves Book
October 22: River City Reading
October 25: Beth’s Book Reviews
October 27: Words for Worms
October 28: Literate Housewife
November 3: The Relentess Reader
November 5: Anita Loves Book (Interview with Anthony Breznican)
November 6: The Novel Life
November 10: Girls Just Reading
November 11: Jenn’s Bookshelves
November 12: Literature Housewife (Interview with Anthony Breznican)
November 13: The Novel Life (Interview with Anthony Breznican)
November 14: The Steadfast Reader

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