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Punkzilla
ISBN: 9780763630317
Author: Rapp, Adam
Publisher: Candlewick Pr
Published: May 2009
Retail: $16.99    OUR PRICE: $2.99
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Binding Type: Hardcover
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Annotation: An award-winning writer and playwright hits the open road for a searing novel-in-letters about a street kid on a highstakes trek across America.
For a runaway boy who goes by the name "Punkzilla," kicking a meth habit and a life of petty crime in Portland, Oregon, is a prelude to a mission: reconnecting with his older brother, a gay man dying of cancer in Memphis. Against a backdrop of seedy motels, dicey bus stations, and hitched rides, the desperate fourteen-year-old meets a colorful, sometimes dangerous cast of characters. And in letters to his sibling, he catalogs them all -- from an abusive stranger and a ghostly girl to a kind transsexual and an old woman with an oozing eye. The language is raw and revealing, crackling with visceral details and dark humor, yet with each interstate exit Punkzilla's journey grows more urgent: will he make it to Tennessee in time? This daring novel offers a narrative worthy of Kerouac and a keen insight into the power of chance encounters.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Runaways; Fiction.
Voyages and travels; Fiction.
Brothers; Fiction.
Dewey: [Fic]
LCCN: bl2009011484
Lexile Measure: 1300
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 10-12, Age 15-18
Book type: Juvenile Fiction
Target Grade: 10-12
Grade level: 10-12
Physical Information: 0.75" H x 75.00" L x 5.25" W
Bargain Category: Social Issues, High School
Grade level(s): 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
 
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.
Publisher Description:
An award-winning writer and playwright hits the open road for a searing novel-in-letters about a street kid on a highstakes trek across America.
For a runaway boy who goes by the name "Punkzilla," kicking a meth habit and a life of petty crime in Portland, Oregon, is a prelude to a mission: reconnecting with his older brother, a gay man dying of cancer in Memphis. Against a backdrop of seedy motels, dicey bus stations, and hitched rides, the desperate fourteen-year-old meets a colorful, sometimes dangerous cast of characters. And in letters to his sibling, he catalogs them all -- from an abusive stranger and a ghostly girl to a kind transsexual and an old woman with an oozing eye. The language is raw and revealing, crackling with visceral details and dark humor, yet with each interstate exit Punkzilla's journey grows more urgent: will he make it to Tennessee in time? This daring novel offers a narrative worthy of Kerouac and a keen insight into the power of chance encounters.

Contributor Bio(s): Adam Rapp is the acclaimed author of UNDER THE WOLF, UNDER THE DOG, a LOS ANGELES TIMES Book Prize Finalist and winner of the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award, and 33 SNOWFISH, an American Library Association Best Book for Young adults. He is also an accomplished playwright and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2007. He lives in New York City.
Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #3)
Nobody writes about the disposable, marginalized youth of America with the same sense of uncomfortable, voyeuristic fascination as Adam Rapp, though his novels, featuring characters ill-equipped to deal with life's problems, can feel gratuitously brutal. Still, with several years having passed since the publication of his last YA novel (Under the Wolf, Under the Dog, rev. 10/05), fans will be eager to read this new one-and with good reason. Rapp's quirky idiomatic expressions, striking word choices, and stream-of-consciousness prose style are ample evidence that his facility with language remains as impressive as ever, while his use of an epistolary format adds a degree of narrative sophistication. Fourteen-year-old Jamie feels a strong connection to his gay older brother (both of them black sheep in their family), and writes him a series of letters while traveling from Portland, Oregon, to Memphis for a visit. These are interspersed with earlier missives written to Jamie from various friends and relatives. Gradually, Jamie's history emerges: how he felt disconnected; how he ran away from military school; his time on the streets, the ennui punctuated by drugs and sex and crime; and finally his long, strange trip. That his brother is dying of cancer adds urgency (not to mention poignancy) to Jamie's race to beat the clock. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2009 May #4)

At 14, pot-smoking, DVD player-stealing Jamie is no angel (though his androgynous good looks get him plenty of attention). He is sent to military school, but soon goes AWOL, spending some rough months in Portland, Ore. (mugging joggers, trying meth), before heading to Memphis by Greyhound bus to visit his gay older brother, Peter, who is dying of cancer. Rapp (Under the Wolf, Under the Dog) tells the story through Jamie's unsent letters, with additional letters from relatives and friends giving more background and context. Jamie, who has ADD, details every step (being taken advantage of sexually, getting jumped, befriending a female-to-male transsexual, losing his virginity) in expletive-filled, stream-of-consciousness narration with insights into seedy roadside America ("I think that as a general rule lonely people give other lonely people money a lot") and his own situation. Whether Jamie will survive his bad luck and make it to Memphis in time gives the story tension, but while Jamie leaves much behind each day on the road, little is found. The teenager's singular voice and observations make for an immersive reading experience. Ages 14–up. (May)

[Page 59]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2009 July)

Gr 9 Up–Fourteen-year-old Jamie–street name Punkzilla–is AWOL from military school. He's already lived hand to mouth in a west coast city, stealing iPods, doing cheap drugs, and getting the occasional joyless hand job. Now he is headed to Memphis where his oldest brother, Peter, a gay playwright, is dying from cancer. His story is told through his letters to Peter as he hitchhikes across the country, written in the backseats of cars, under a tree where a man hanged himself, and ultimately in retrospect when he reaches his journey's sad end. Along the way he meets the good, the bad, and the skewed, including a girl who gives him his first experience of loving intercourse. Like his brother, punk boy Jamie will never fulfill the expectations of his rigidly conservative father or meet the needs of his ineffectual mother. As in 33 Snowfish (Candlewick, 2003), Rapp pulls no punches in depicting the degrading life of children on the streets. The choice to live free from parents and school comes at a cost–to survive Jamie becomes both exploited and exploiter. But there is more here than the sordid streets. Impulsive and naive as he may be, Jamie is struggling for something that just might come close to integrity. Readers can see the good in him and even in his infuriating parents. In the end he finds shelter with his brother's lover, who opens the door to the creative life, a more intelligent and focused world-outside-the-box where Jamie just might find what he needs. Exquisitely true in its raw but vulnerable voice, this story is a compulsive read.–Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

[Page 90]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.