Candlewick Press, 2001
to Branston High School. The students here may nickname it Brimstone,
but really they're no different from high school kids anywhere in America.
thinks she's fat. Lester knows he is, and gets bullied for it regularly.
Kelli has just broken up with Damon. David and his parents disagree about
the computer games he likes to play. Neesha is angry about racism. Boyd
is angry about everything.
of them has a gun. The others are on "the list."
two more school shootings happening just a month after its February 2001
release, The Brimstone Journals is, unfortunately, still a timely
and immediate topic. Teenagers that they are, these kids lack the maturity
to appreciate fully the consequences of their actions. But while his characters
may be casual in their cruelty (and, to be fair, their wisdom), Ron Koertge
knows exactly what he is doing: making us think.
Think about all the things his characters did wrong, or did right, or
did not do at all; and think what could or should have been done differently.
Think about the different reasons, or perhaps excuses, for the guns in
this book: revenge, despair, frustration, or a warped, self-righteous
sense of justice. Think about the use and uselessness of labels, the way
people struggle against one label, or try to fit another. Even Boyd is
not all bad.
Brimstone Journals unfolds in a series of short, free verse poems.
First Lester speaks, then Sheila, then Damon, Boyd, Lester again. You
could be reading their diary entries, or poetry written for a creative
writing class. As the book progresses and tension builds, you forget even
that poetic conceit; all you notice are these kids' voices and the urgency
of their story. Reading The Brimstone Journals is like reading
raw thought. Wow.
by Wendy Morris. © 2001
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