Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Home Truths: A Difficult But Essential Read

Fourteen-year-old Brick is counting down the days until he turns 16 and he can finally escape. Escape his father's temper, his self-absorbed mother's indifference, and get as far away as possible. In the meantime, he lets out his frustrations by bullying the kids in his school. Over the summer, Brick accepts Mr. Larkin's offer of work, even though he's been forbidden to "fraternize" with the neighbours. It seems like a good plan- stash away as much money as possible before he leaves, but there's just one problem- who will his dad knock around if he's not there anymore?

This was a difficult book to read, but an extremely powerful and important one. We all know that sadly, that the abuse Brick suffers isn't a freak occurrence. It happens to kids everyday, and far more than we'd like to admit. There are also oddles of statistics about the pattern of abuse, and it continuing with each generation, etc...but I don't think I've ever seen this type of story presented from the bully's point of view.

Brick is a bully, and while I absolutely felt empathy towards him for everything he's got on his shoulders, initially, its hard to like him. He doesn't just bully, but he enjoys making others feel small and scared, and he isn't really sorry for it. There are however a couple of key points about Brick that suggests to readers that there is still hope for him. Firstly, and most importantly is the way he is with his four-year-old sister Cassie. Sure she's a pain, and sure, he's annoyed that he's being forced to watch her for free the entire summer vacation, but he also looks out for her, and does the best he can to protect her from his father.

The regard that other adults seem to have for Brick, and how eager he is to be held in good regard is also telling, adding another dimension to his character. Behind that bullying, nasty kid is someone who just wants to feel like he can do something right, and that maybe he's not as much of a disappointment as his dad thinks. The fact that anyone's opinion actually matters to him is a surprise to Brick, and it causes him to look more closely at what kind of person he's becoming. It's also a shock to him that anyone would be willing to put themselves on the line for him, and it's extremely difficult for him to allow himself to trust anyone or their intentions.

I also really liked the contrast in the different adult characters, and that they didn't come off as being preachy or stereotypical. As terrible and unsympathetic as Brick's parents are, thanks to people like the Larkins, Brick's view of adults starts to change, and he starts to change.

The descriptions of his father's abuse are certainly not sugar-coated, and with every slap and punch that Brick described, I felt physically ill. There are many valuable lessons about strength of character, integrity, courage, and bullying that are important for kids to read, but I'd be careful of giving this to an especially sensitive kid. That being said, the writing is superb, the story is engaging, and it's the kind of book that deserves to be shared and discussed.