The nail that sticks out farthest gets hammered the hardest.
Flint Southwestern High School is run by a cult: the jockarchy. And Bret Hendricks could never fit into their conformity cult. Bret doesn't mind standing out from the crowd when he's on stage acting or singing in his band. And he feels at home in his funky girlfriend's arms because sticking out together doesn't seem as hard.
But loyalties aren't what Bret thinks they are, as his safe havens seem to disappear one by one, and he learns that sometimes you just have to risk getting hammered in order to build a great future.
For any teen who feels that standing out is harder than just conforming. Patrick Jones's second novel nails the real truth about the high price of hiding one's true self.
Jones's (Things Change) forthright, message-driven novel explores the relationship between teasing and school violence. Sixteen-year-old Bret's life is becoming intolerable, both at home and school. He's ignored at home for not being just like his older brother (who "does oil changes for a living"), and tormented at school for not being a jock. Bret, who narrates, is not interested in working on cars or playing sports. Instead he'd rather act onstage or make music with his band, Radio-Free Flint (inspired by "hometown antihero Michael Moore"). As he grows frustrated at being harassed by the school's bully, he writes an essay expressing empathy towards the Columbine gunmen: "I... pointed out that how they had been treated at their school was wrong, too. I said they were the first victims." Teens will applaud Bret's spunk as he goes up against the school principal. But life takes a turn for the worse when Bret sees his girlfriend making love with bandmate Sean and reacts with violence, a response he's been taught to abhor. Eventually, with the aid of his father (who has a rather abrupt change of heart), Bret makes amends with Sean. Through the first-person narrative, readers see Bret's shortcomings and his struggle to fit in where he feels like an outsider. At times, however, it seems as though the author has set up his characters to serve his issues, even if his message is one that teens in a similar situation may find beneficial. Ages 14-up.