Saturday, March 28, 2009

BRUTAL by Michael Harmon

When sixteen year old Poe Holly's doctor mother decides to take her practice to the jungles of South America for a year, Poe finds herself living with the father she has never really known. She was a baby the last time her parents were in the same room together, and now she's moving into his house.

Since her mother is usually busy 24/7, Poe is used to living on her own. It's a welcome relief to find out her father is willing to allow her a fair amount of freedom, but his neat and tidy house soon becomes her home, she is surprised how much she enjoys it. The shared meals and conversation aren't nearly as dreadful as she anticipated. The major weird thing about the arrangement is that when Poe starts school at the local high school, she's not sure how to handle the fact that David Holly, her newly inherited dad, is the school counselor.

Life in Benders Hollow is way different than the punk rocker life Poe is used to. Music is her life and leaving her band was one of the hardest things she had to do. When her father suggests she could join the school choir and maybe even be one of their soloists, she rejects the idea as too lame to even consider. But after some contemplation, Poe stops in to visit the music teacher. After hearing Poe's incredible voice, Mrs. Baird promises her a spot as the principal soloist. The result of that offer is one of Poe's first experiences with just exactly how the town of Benders Hollow works.

Poe soon learns that at Benders Hollow High School a select few have all the power. Although the school brags about its tolerance and its dedication to keeping its halls bully-free, Poe soon learns that the select few can do and say anything they want and those in authority will look the other way. Her father's odd neighbor, Velveeta, is a target for the rampant cruelty of Benders Hollow, and he provides just the reason Poe needs to stir things up a bit at her new school.

If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Michael Harmon, BRUTAL is a book you won't want to miss. His previous books, SKATE and THE LAST EXIT TO NORMAL, are excellent, but BRUTAL takes the prize in my opinion. Poe is an independent thinker, and the way she champions the underdog should be an example to us all. She is a terrific combination of the two people who have parented her in such different ways. Our world would be a better place if more of us reacted to injustice like Poe.

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