“[An] ultraviolent, dystopian debut novel from Ryan Gattis, the spawn of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Cormier.” —Publishers Weekly
High school is brutal, but Jen B. has learned to pick her battles. Except the first one—that one is mandatory. At the Good Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King High School, aka “Kung Fu,” everyone gets beaten to a pulp in their first week. Getting “kicked in” helps Ridley, the drug kingpin who runs the school and everyone in it, maintain order. He's the reason that 99.5 percent of the students know some form of martial art, and why they suit up in body armor and blades before class.
Jen’s life is savage but simple until the day her cousin Jimmy, a world-famous kung fu champion, shows up. Everyone at Kung Fu wants a piece of him, especially Ridley, but Jimmy’s made a promise never to fight again—a promise that sends the whole school hurtling toward a colossal clash, ending in an epic bloody showdown.
Ryan Gattis’s dystopian satire, Kung Fu High School, is a cult classic in the making—a darkly comic, gleefully graphic, barbaric opera about loyalty, survival, and the horrors of high school, which earned comparison with the works of such icons as Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Price, and Anthony Burgess.
The student body of the titular high school is armed, girded with armor and versed in martial arts in this ultraviolent, dystopian debut novel from Gattis, the spawn of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Cormier. With a corrupt, ineffectual administration, Kung Fu High has become a prisonlike society ruled by gangs and neglected by the law. The novel's teenage warrior narrator, Jen B., tells the story of her cousin Jimmy Chang, a world champion martial artist and hero to his peers who vows to his mother that he'll never fight again after he's arrested for drubbing a band of thugs. But Jimmy faces a brutal initiation ritual when he transfers to Kung Fu High, a beating he takes without resistance until Jen's brother, Cue, attacks Jimmy's tormenters. Cue, in turn, is murdered, and Jen must negotiate complex school politics while fighting for survival and trying to avenge her brother's death. Jimmy, her only trusted ally, must break his pacifist vow or see his cousin destroyed. With clinical detachment, Gattis splashes graphic descriptions of violence and gore throughout the novel. The " 'gangbanger' Armageddon" final chapters of this story may feel predictable, but the martial arts mayhem is as detailed and balletic as a John Woo movie.