July 1, 2015

Brutal Youth Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

Brutal Youth
Author: Anthony Breznican
Genre: YA, Contemporary/Thriller/Mystery
Release Date: June 2nd 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin


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 upperclassmen 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.
My favorite stories are the ones that kidnap you. The kind that steal you away and drop you off at the end wondering how you’ll get back, knowing you won’t be the same. Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night and Cat’s Cradle. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Stephen King’s The Body and Pet Sematary. Carson McCuller’s The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.

When I think of the novels I love best, they don’t fit on any shelf together except one labeled: heartbreak. Franz Kafka famously wrote: “We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves… A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” When I read that for the first time, it spoke for something inside me that I struggled to articulate. I’m not a grim person or a sadist. I’m a goofball. But the stories I love most are the tragedies. The ones who give you characters you love, then let them make choices that break your heart.

There’s a time to nourish the brain with the comfort food of pure escapism, but nothing makes me more depressed than an undeserved happily ever after. I’m fascinated by ambivalence, by love/hate relationships with characters, by stories that make you want to hit the brakes even though you are not in the driver’s seat. Rather than languishing on a couch, they make you climb the face of a windswept mountain. In the end, which provides the better view?

I’d never compare my novel to those beloved books mentioned above, but I will confess to thinking of them the same way a kid might think of LeBron James while shooting free-throws in the alley. When George stands behind Lenny with the handgun at the end of Of Mice and Men, or the regretful spy Howard W. Campbell lamenting “We are what we pretend to be” in Mother Night, my heart catches and then shatters. There is a movement out there against so-called “unlikable characters,” but I often find those to be the most interesting and relatable ones. I don’t know what it’s like to be an unabashed hero. I know what it’s like to try hard, mess up, and keep trying. When writing Brutal Youth, which is about good kids in a bad, bad place trying to protect themselves without losing who they are, it’s the characters who make the worst mistakes that I found myself loving the most.

I have a soft spot for stories with sharp edges and jagged souls, maybe because I’m like that myself. Whenever readers say they care about the troubled characters in Brutal Youth, my heart swells, because I think of all the times people loved me despite my flaws. I think of my high school English teacher, Mr. Carosella, who looked at a smart-ass, troublemaking kid in the back of his room and saw potential others didn’t. I think of my wife, who took an angry young guy and found a good heart in the rubble. I think of my kids, who pull on their neglectful dad’s arm when he’s too busy trying to wrap up the day’s work at his computer to see it’s actually time to play.

Funny. For a guy who said he didn’t like happy endings in fiction, I’ve been blessed with a lot of them in real life.

Maybe tragedies help us find them, like signposts along a high, twisting road, warning of danger ahead. Keeping us safely on the path.
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Anthony Breznican was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsurgh in 1998. He has worked as a reporter for The Arizona Republic, Associated Press, and USA Today. He is currently a senior staff writer for Entertainment Weekly.

Brutal Youth is his debut novel.


1 comment:

  1. I have heard a lot of good buzz for this book and I can relate to the Catholic School woes. (I swear, I can still feel Sister Imelda's brass ruler hitting my hands)