Brutal by Michael B. Harmon

Poe Holly, punk rock extraordinaire and “the outcome of a sperm donor program called Poor Choices and Bad Mistakes” is straddling a fine line of two separate lives. One life is full of fun, friends, her punk rock band, and Los Angeles. The other life, her new life, lands her is small town California, friendless and begrudgingly.

Poe’s surgeon mother conveniently decided to take up medicine in South America. And because Poe is only sixteen and can’t take care of herself (even though she’s been doing just that for quite some time) she’s shipped to live with her father – a man she doesn’t know. A man who doesn’t know her, and doesn’t know what to expect.

Armed with a punk rock attitude, Poe sets out to conquer the first day of her high school life. She’s angry and defensive, yes, but more than anything she suspects she be judged and misunderstood because of what she looks like, because of the close she wears, and because she’s an all around individual. But high school proves to be more than just judging and misunderstanding in Poe’s eyes. It’s a place that creates and fosters social injustice and pits students against students. Infuriated, Poe stands up for what she believes in – whether it be challenging the gym uniform policy or taking on the school bully to protect new-found friend Velveeta (yes, he loves cheese that much).

With guts, courage, and new a new raging mohawk Poe finds that saving the world of social injustices isn’t as easy as speaking your mind.

Brutal written by Michael B. Harmon is honest look at all the social injustices people face in high school and beyond – the strong vs. the weak, the geniuses vs. the average, the jocks vs. the uncoordinated. Exceptionally well written, Brutal is a story, mostly about said injustices, facing them and standing up against them, but at the core of the book it’s an emotional rollercoaster full of family dysfunction and growing relationships.  

The smartness and wit found within Brutal’s pages is apparent. Each character brings new insight to Poe’s life and to the overall story. It’s especially apparent in Velveeta. When he isn’t sharing too much information with the world, he’s imparting his worldly wisdom of what makes an outcast an outcast. As he tells Poe, it isn’t always the people around us that make us the outcast, but it very well may be us who make ourselves the outcast.

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