Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Scrawl: The Compelling Story of a Bully

Tod Munn is a bully. Times are tough, but Tod is tougher. Only now the wimps have stopped coughing up their money, the administration is cracking down, and Tod and his buddies got caught doing something really bad. Now he's being forced to sit in the hot detention room with Mrs. Woodrow, the guidance councilor, every day until she tells him he's done. Tod isn't sure why he's there and not suspended or outside raking leaves with his buddies, but Mrs. Woodrow does, and she's not telling. As punishment, Tod has to write his story in a beat-up notebook. Can this bad guy be redeemed? Read Scrawl and decide for yourself.

Written in a journal format addressed to Mrs. Woodrow, readers will have to dig deeper for the kind of information that is generally revealed in a diary or a first person narrative. There is no introductory paragraph that reveals Tod's age, grade or even his appearance, but by reading between the lines of both his entries and Mrs. Woodrow's comments back to him, a lot of important details are revealed. We learn that the school (and Tod's home) are likely in an inner city. The kids have to pass through metal detectors on their way in and out, and armed security guards police the school. We also learn that there are the "haves", and "have nots", and that Tod definitely falls into the latter category. Perhaps the biggest secret/surprise that readers will figure out is that Tod is extremely smart and is a gifted writer. He gets good grades in school (and especially English) but tries not to let on to the other kids that he's smart for fear of tarnishing his reputation as a tough guy.

I absolutely fell in love with Tod (and not in a romantic way) and his character is so rich and deeply layered that you will absolutely be pulled into his story. Yes he is a bully, but he believes it's the only way he can get what he needs. He is also extremely vulnerable, and that vulnerability comes out in entries that are both funny and brutally honest. Everybody thinks that they've got Tod figured out. They think he's a thug and criminal and they all treat him accordingly. Tod will tell you til kingdom come that this is just how he likes it, but his scrawl says something different. What Tod desperately wants is for someone to believe in him, and even if he doesn't say it outright, it becomes painfully honest as you go deeper into his notebook.

So what was the cataclysmic event that put Tod one step away from Juvie? You'll have to read it to find out.  Recommended for Grade 7 and up.