Brutal by Michael Harmon

March 18, 2009
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Brutal
Michael Harmon

Knopf
3/18/2009
Hardcover/229 pages
ISBN: 978-0-375840999

". . . highly developed sense of right and wrong . . ."

Brutal: Stunning and timely coming of age novel.

Her mother is a doctor more interested in saving the world one person at a time than in her. Her father is a quiet and orderly counselor at the high school in Benders Hollow, California. What is an independent and rebellious teenager like Poe Holly to do?

Leaving behind her band and her life in Los Angeles to meet her father for the first time is not Poe’s idea. She’d rather stay home and live her life the way she always has, alone and ignored. It isn’t as if her mother cares, except to criticize. Her father, David Holly, certainly hasn’t cared about her these past sixteen years. She doesn’t even know him. Now she has to live with him while Dr. Nancy Holly saves some tribe in South America. And he’s the high school counselor. Life just doesn’t get any better.

As if being the new girl in school isn’t bad enough, Poe is out of step with everyone except the mayor’s son Theo whose view of the world is only slightly different from hers. His rebellion stretches to wearing Black Sabbath t-shirts and a sarcastic, world-weary attitude while he follows the rest of the herd. Poe is more direct and outspoken, ending up in the principal’s office after her first week in school and on star quarterback Colby Morris’s hit list after the first day.

Beneath the perfect clean and orderly exterior, Benders Hollow seethes. Velveeta next door, the snuff chewing cheese lover, is an outsider just like Poe, and he doesn’t fit in either. Poe’s black clothes and black dyed hair aren’t the only things that set her apart from the rest of the herd. She sings like an angel and has a self-righteous attitude. Poe is slightly vulnerable with a highly developed sense of right and wrong in Michael Harmon’s Brutal.

The novel describes not only Poe’s precise and deadly sarcasm but the ugly truth at the heart of Benders Hollow as well. Harmon’s prose is sugar-frosted venom with a sharp twist of idealistic authenticity. It speeds along like a cruise missile and strikes with equal accuracy.

Reviewer: : J. M. Cornwell

 

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