Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Last Exit to Normal and Brutal by Michael Harmon

I decided to read Harmon's books because they circulate frequently in our library and I was curious. I read Brutal first. Poe, goth girl, is living with her father for the first time in her life. She is in a new school, new environment. She is a rebellious girl who picks every little issue to argue about, endlessly, relentlessly. Her father is the counselor at her new school where see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil reins. Since people are always looking the other way its easy to find lots to pick on. Sometimes her dad supports her. Goth boy already knows all the issues in the school but chooses to stay separate from them and pretty much every one else, though Poe tries to involve him. Velveeta, an awkward misfit, endures much bullying and some of Poe's arguing is sort of to help him but not really. I wanted badly to know more about Velveeta and wanted Poe to care about another human being and help him and/or love goth boy and pick one important issue and make a difference rather than arguing every little thing. I wearied of her arguing with limited affect. I don't think this is an especially good book. The Last Exit to Normal
has a rebellious young man who's mother vanished when his father announced he was gay and had a life companion. Ben has a lot to deal with and is not surprisingly very angry. When his dad and momdad move with him to Rough Butte Montana to get away from bad influences, things begin to change though , appropriately, slowly. He meets neighbor boy Billy, aged about 11, who is also without mother and is abused by his father. Mae, his momdad's mother is a hard task master who demands much from Ben. He finds himself willing to give it. He falls in love with a girl he meets and gets pulled into life in town and on ranches without really expecting to. His father kicks him out of their home towards the end of the book in exasperation. Ben just cannot give his dad any respect. Their issues are not totally resolved by books end, but there is hope. This book has gotten recognition that I think it deserves. Tough topics are well addressed here. Main characters have some depth not nearly as present in Brutal. JDW 11/09

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