Saturday, January 14, 2012


Rapp, A. (2009). Punkzilla. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press.
YA Fiction / Realistic Fiction ? I hope not!
Michael L. Printz Honor Book

Wow.  I am not sure if I should let this one sink in a while before writing about it.  This book is a bleak and raw story, written in letter/journal entry format, about a fourteen-year-old boy who becomes a "street teen" after running away from military school and trying to get to his dying brother.  I hate to think of this as realistic fiction because I hate to acknowledge that kids are living this way.

As a warning, the book has everything that would make it a guaranteed challenge: vulgar language and situations, sex, pedophiles, drug use, alcohol use, gay and transgender characters, bigotry, racism, crime without remorse, violence  . . .  I'm sure I've forgotten some offensive item!  But the story is real, and the main character, Jamie (a.k.a. Punkzilla) is real.

At times, it did seem as if the author was intentionally shocking for the sake of being shocking and those scenes didn't really move the story along.  Jamie's intelligent and likeable, despite his deeply flawed and disturbed character, but I went back and forth between feeling sympathetic and angry with him. There was a shard of hope at the end, though my feeling is that Jamie maybe can't really be helped and probably won't change his ways.

Worth reading? Eh. Jury is still out.  Appealing to teens? Absolutely.

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