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Ryan DeJonghe - The Avid Reader

I didn't always read, but that changed in June of 2013. I dropped the unnecessary stuff and picked up the awesome stuff--like reading! I started posting my reviews on Amazon and within a few months rose to the top 0.1% of reviewers. My reviews then went to Goodreads, and now my blog (http://ryandejonghe.wordpress.com) and Twitter (@Ryan_Reads). If you are reading this, why not leave a comment or send me a note? I love talking to other folks about books and my reviews. Publishers and authors, feel free to drop me a note if you want me to review your book. I usually stick to mainstream publishing, but I'll consider anything. If I review your book, I’ll give you a fair and thorough review and let you know when the review goes live. You can reach me at dejonghes@gmail.com. Happy Reading!
Brutal Youth: A Novel - Anthony Breznican

The problem I have with BRUTAL YOUTH is its incongruous nature. At times, it reads like Young Adult, but its size and dark content pushes it into literary or adult fiction. Worse, those guest author blurbs. If you haven’t already, don’t read them! In the recent book THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY, they called these blurbs “the blood diamonds of the book industry.” Here, I can see why.



Stephen King said this book had teachers that terrify; Gillian Flynn said it would be as “sharp as a well-carved stick”; James Dashner said my heart would ache at this “perfectly paced” novel; Jason Reitman said this would be “powerful and hilarious”. Then, underneath the title BRUTAL YOUTH is a picture of a school blazer aflame. My friends, the expectations are TOO HIGH!



This happened last year when a huge chunk of money was paid to “the next J.K. Rowling” for a seven-book series beginning with THE BONE SEASON. (Hint: not on Rowling’s level.) In cases like this, you feel bad for the author. How can they stand up to this expectation?



BRUTAL YOUTH is okay. It’ll actually make a terrific movie. The freshmen get hazed; many have heartbreaking backstories; the teachers don’t give a damn. If anything (and it is) the teachers are part of the problem. Things twist together, the youngsters crack, and it all ties together. It works.



Besides the unrealistic set-up, the main issue I have here is the pacing. When I see fire on the cover and the word “brutal”, I expect high-impact pacing, but what I got was meandering. I could have put this book down and moved onto something else without needing to go back. Sure, each section ends with a bit of a drop and hook, but the middle parts wondered around.



The solution: tighten it up and drop all the celebrity author endorsements. This isn’t as sharp as Flynn’s works, nor should she say it is. King has done much, much more terrifying stuff than this: no nightmares here.  Let’s take this book at its own merit and enjoy it for what it is. Oh, and I can’t wait to see the movie.



Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Thomas Dunne Books for providing me with an electronic review copy of this book.