Friday, February 3, 2012

Guy Pick: Cracked

by K.M. Walton
Simon Pulse
312 pages

A bully and his target are on a collision course with destiny. Victor and Bull (William) go to the same school and Bull has harrassed Victor since grade school. He goes out of his way to call him names, bump into him, smashes his face in his cafeteria food, pantsed him in front of the entire p.e. class, including the girls, and beats on him nearly daily. Victor hates Bull--he wishes he would die--that some parent in a big SUV would run him down on the way to school.

What Victor doesn't know is that Bull is bullied, too--by his drunken mother and his mean, abusive grandpa who uses his fists to do his talking. Not that it would matter; Victor is bullied at home, too--only verbally. His parents say demeaning things to him, they never compliment him, only berate him for his stupidity, telling him that they never planned for him, wishing he wasn't ever born. His beautiful "perfect" family goes to church every Sunday and appears the picture of "happy" family, yet Victor knows that no one has ever loved him except his toy poodle Jazzy.

Everyone has a breaking point and both boys are nearing theirs. When Bull has finally had enough and won't take his Pop's beatings anymore and when Victor finds his beloved poodle Jazzy dead of old age, the two boys break.

As luck would have it, they both end up in a psych ward of the local hospital...wait for roommates!

For Bull, being around other kids with problems is helpful. He gains some insight into others' lives and wonders why he can't talk about his feelings like some of the other kids. He is even jealous of Victor who tells a girl about Jazzy dying. He keeps getting lunch bags with snacks in them and one time a nice note and a poem about hope from Frank, the grounds-keeper at the cemetary where he used to go when he ditched school, sitting under a tree and reading books. He didn't know that Frank ever even saw him, but now Frank is leaving him uplifting notes. He wonders why a poem can mean so much.

Readers will empathize with Victor and Bull--both boys have rotten lives and awful parents. Even though Victor grows up in the "lap of luxury," he is unloved. He feels like "nothing." He feels invisible. Bull remembers the last time he had a piece of fruit--3rd grade! Bull's mother is a pitiful alcoholic who spends their food money on booze; there's never anything--and I mean nothing--to eat in their home.

The hospital staff and nurses help and the group sessions make both boys see the others have pain, too. Victor finally finds his voice and really tells Bull off in a venomous, but cathartic, rant. Bull realizes his actions have impacted another human being.

I found myself crying a few times while reading this novel. Both boys endure horrible childhoods, but there is hope for both when they leave the hospital. Have the tissues ready; you're going to cry! Even though I titled this "Guy Pick," sensitive girls will enjoy this novel as well.

Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up. Language, petting, alcoholism, child abuse, mature situations.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not received monetary compensation for this review.


  1. Cracked sounds like an amazing, powerful read!

  2. I agree, this is a great review. I'd love to have this in my library collection. Greenfield, NH

  3. I keep hearing about this book! The more I hear the more I want it for the HS collection. Thanks for a really great review; I cannot wait to to read it. Jean. Selah HS. Selah WA

  4. I love!This book would be a perfect addition to our library

    books for young adults

  5. I think this would be a great book at the HS level and easy to book talk. Can't wait to read it.