And frankly, if you read King's books; he's quite adept at bringing up these perplexing questions too with his stories. Which is why after interviewing Anthony, I can see how these two authors relate so well to each other. Similar life experiences!
If you thought high school was hell, has Anthony Breznican got a story for you…Every bully who stalked you, every sadistic teacher who ever terrified you, every stupid prank, every hopeless crush and false friend: they’re all here, along with a few kids who hang together and try to do the right thing in a brutal environment? By turns funny and terrifying, Brutal Youth is an unputdownable tour-de-force, a Rebel Without a Cause for the 21st century. — Stephen King
Interestingly though, it would be interviewing Kristen Stewart and something she says that sticks with Anthony the most while writing Brutal Youth. I'm not surprised to hear this! Stewart, in my experience, has always been undervalued as an actress who can and does deeply think about her life choices and what she wants out of it.
How has it been working for Entertainment Weekly and does entertainment news coverage inspire your personal writing?
I’m curious how creative people work, so interviewing filmmakers, actors, and writers has had a strong influence on my personal writing. For example, I did an interview with Kristen Stewart for the movie Adventureland a few years ago, and we discussed how it was easier just a few years ago for kids to lead secret lives, try out different identities, and figure out who they wanted to be. Now there’s much more self-surveillance and it’s harder to explore that territory between who you want to be and what others think you should be. That’s one instance of an interview that stayed in my head and made its way into Brutal Youth.
Growing up, how did you handle bullying and now that you are older has that process changed?
When I was a kid, I was pretty much afraid. I would keep my head low and hope not to go noticed. I wish I’d been more fearless and fought back. The scariest thing was, it wasn’t just kids causing this trouble. Some adults were out of control and venting their anger, but that’s hard for people to believe or accept. Now that I’m older, I’m less tolerant of thuggish, bullying behavior – and it’s still everywhere in the grown-up world. I don’t think it’s something that happens only when you’re a kid.
Do you have advice for persons being bullied?
It’s very hard to stand up for yourself, but you can find great strength in standing up for others. Don’t stay quiet. The things I regret most from my childhood was being a bystander. There are many times I wish I’d stood up for other kids, even if it meant becoming the target. Brutal Youth is about the idea that good guys don’t always win – there’s victory in simply being good.
A coming of age tale reversed really stands out to me. Can you delve into that description? Explain a bit why it fits Brutal Youth?
I love the Breaking Bad/Darth Vader model of storytelling where a character you like and sympathize with goes venturing into the dark side. Most coming-of-age stories seem to be about kids who get wiser, stronger, and better. I liked the idea of a kid who starts the book by running out into danger to save someone he doesn’t even know, and then later finds himself tempted to become the one who is unleashing the danger. But maybe – maybe -- some surprises will change his course before it’s too late.
The tone of your synopsis gives me a The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys vibe? Can you talk about the things that inspired your plot in Brutal Youth? From where the seed of its beginnings originated?
I went to a Catholic high school where hazing was sanctioned. We were told just to deal with it and be good sports, or maybe it would be even worse for us. It was seen as a way for seniors to blow off steam and freshmen to bond, but I think it really just created this psychotic Darwinian environment. The school was a zoo when I first arrived, and the older kids were actually terrifying. Even the teachers thought so. It had become a place to stash troublemakers.
The main thing that inspired Brutal Youth from those days is mistrust of authority. I learned early on that some teachers were cruel, some moms and dads were terrible parents, and that just because someone was in charge didn’t mean they had your best interests at heart.
I also discovered that the rebellious kids were often the best people. Being rebellious is different from being a bully. They’re the ones who say: this is wrong; I’m not going with the program. They’re the ones who insist, “This has to stop. I’ll make it stop.” They’re the ones who learn that being good comes with a cost.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
By: Anthony Breznican
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that's even worse in Anthony Breznican's BRUTAL YOUTH.
Freshman Peter Davidek only wants to stay out of trouble. All his combative friend Noah Stein wants is to fight back. And Lorelei Paskal, their shared crush, needs a safe haven from her horrible home life, so she's desperate to make friends — no matter how many enemies she creates along the way. These three find themselves fighting for survival at St. Michael the Archangel High School, a once-prestigious institution that has become a crumbling dumping ground for delinquents, misfits, and the unlucky.
It's a place where bullying is sanctioned as "fun and games" hazing, where the unwritten rule is you can't hurt anyone who can hurt you back — and there's no one to turn to because the adults are part of the problem. The parish priest is embezzling from the church, the guidance counselor is coming unhinged with rage and regret, and the well-intentioned nun who runs St. Mike's mistakenly thinks compromise and cover-up can fix things.
A coming-of-age tale, a dark comedy, and a tragedy all rolled into one, Brutal Youth follows this band of students as they learn whether it's possible to protect yourself without losing who you are.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anthony Breznican was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1998. He has worked as a reporter for The Arizona Republic, Associated Press, and USA Today. He is currently a senior staff writer for Entertainment Weekly, covering Star Wars, Marvel, the Oscars, and whatnot. Brutal Youth is his first novel.
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