Friday, July 31, 2009

Review by Alex- Brutal

Brutal by Michael Harmon
With her martyr-doctor mother gone to save lives in some South American country, Poe Holly suddenly finds herself on the suburban doorstep of the father she never knew, who also happens to be a counselor at her new high school. She misses Los Angeles. She misses the guys in her punk band. Weirdly, she even misses the shouting matches she used to have with her mom.

But Poe manages to find a few friends: Theo, the cute guy in the anarchy T-shirt, and Velveeta, her oddly likeable neighbor-and a born victim who's the butt of every prank at Benders High. But when the pranks turn deadly at the hands of invincible football star Colby Morris, Poe knows she's got to fix the system and take down the hero.

With insightfulness, spot-on dialogue, and a swiftly paced plot, Michael Harmon tells the story of a displaced girl grappling with a truly dangerous bully.

I had this book for ages but probably wouldn't have read it, if not for The Epic Rat's review for this book. And I'm so glad I did read Brutal. So thanks for the review! :)

Poe feels spurned when her mother sets her on a plane to go live with the dad she's never met. Poe is sarcastic and witty, cutting and strong. She sees the wrongness in the school- that the school preaches equality, but that's never true. Teachers and adults turn a blind eye on the bullying, the fact that the athletes etc. have more rights and privileges than the other students. Poe sees all that- and she strives to change it. She fights, verbally, for a lot of different things. She fights just because she can. She fights to help Velveeta, a messed up boy being physically harassed by the big popular athletes. She fights against any prejudices anyone has against her.

All of the secondary characters are also wonderful, interesting, and unique. Theo speaks in metaphors a lot of the time, and actually, is hard to understand at times. I pride myself on being intelligent, but it took a real brain workout at times to sift through all that he talked of. He dislikes the school hierarchy also, but doesn't believe he can do much until Poe comes around. Velveeta is a very strange boy that has many problems. Poe's dad is the school counsellor, and therefore speaks very coldly and clipped. Colby, the school bully, is a mean and vicious boy. Anna, cheerleader and head soloist in the amazing school choir, is probably my favourite character. She seems like a typical annoying cheerleader, but she has a good heart and will stand up when needed.

The dialogue is hilarious. The humor is perfect and quirky. In some scenes, I could feel Poe's anger (she yells and swears a lot) bounce off the walls. The atmosphere would vibrate with Poe's intensity. Then there were scenes that were quite cute- I loved the relationship between Poe and Theo. Some scenes, I didn't really know what to make of. Mostly, those scenes were with Velveeta, who I honestly couldn't understand. But what the different scenes all had in common, was that they were all well done.

Brutal comments on many of the social aspects of life in a small, closed-minded town. While Poe sets out to change the ways of the school, in the process, she also changes. She has to realize things about herself.

Actually, in some ways, Brutal seemed like the small-town version of Genesis. There's a lot of discussions about the deeper things in life. A different type of deep in Brutal than in Genesis, but I feel it's deep all the same.

Overall, great great read. I recommend it. It's quirky, it's powerful, and it gets across the message. Great, fun characters in a book that reads quickly. It packs quite the punch for being only a little more than 200 pages.


  1. I've wanted to read this for a while. Thanks for the great review Alex!

  2. Good review :) This kind of reminds me of that movie called Fab Five. Lifetime made it and it was about 5 cheerleaders that got away with EVERYTHING. Good movie haha.


  3. Nice review. You've made the book sound very appealing...I'll have to check it out (at the library!).


  4. Aw, thanks for the shout-out :) I'm really glad that you enjoyed Brutal - all the characters were noteworthy, and I'm glad you mentioned that! Interesting that you compared this to Genesis - definitely makes me take another look at BOTH books!


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