Saturday, January 14, 2012

LEVERAGE by Joshua C. Cohen

Joshua C. Cohen pairs two unlikely protagonists in his powerful, new novel LEVERAGE.  He takes aim at bullying without softening the edges of this very real problem plaguing schools across the country.

Kurt is adjusting to yet another foster care situation.  In the system for years, he has suffered some of its worst nightmares.  He's a huge kid with an attention grabbing scar on half his face, and if that's not enough to attract the bullies, he stutters.  Fortunately, his size and strength have earned him the attention of the football coach and maybe a way to attract some positive attention for the first time in his young life.

Danny spends much of his time alone because his mother is dead and his father is a busy doctor.  His physical strength comes as a surprise and isn't noticed by most until he demonstrates it doing amazing tricks on the high bar as a gymnast.  As powerful as he is on the bar, he is almost helpless when it comes to dodging his tormentors in the high school hallways and locker rooms.  His best defense is to avoid the bullies whenever possible.

As a result of their unlikely friendship, Danny and Kurt are in the wrong place at the wrong time and witness a brutal attack on one of Danny's teammates.  The bullies involved are confident that their power and popularity allow them the freedom to mistreat anyone without suffering the consequences.  Like most bullies, much of their power comes from the fear their victims have of seeking help.

LEVERAGE portrays the efforts of two teens to overcome their fears to find justice for a friend.  This is not an easy book to read, and I found myself needing to put it aside to digest some of the most disturbing scenes.  What brought me back each time was knowing that as disturbing as these moments seem, I know they reflect the truth of events suffered by real victims every day.  LEVERAGE will encourage readers to never fall into the role of passive bystander if they should witness the acts of bullies.

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