There's a group on Goodreads called "Books Stephen King Recommends," and I'm beyond thrilled that they've selected Brutal Youth for their September/October read.
It's especially cool because I was already a member of that group, and have seen many reviews that start out by saying something like, "I only picked this up because of the praise blurb by Stephen King." I happened to write him recently to thank him one final time for helping introduce a first-time author like me to new readers. The very next day, this whole Goodreads group based around his likes chose Brutal Youth for their next discussion. Maybe that's Fate – or Ka.
He informed me that a group of SK fans is not called a "gaggle," "flock," or "murder" but . . . a "grue." "As in, a grue of fans showed up for the book signing."
I'm very grateful to this grue.
If anyone is into his other picks, "Books Stephen King Recommends" is a great group, and a wonderful place to read the thoughts of other fans. Give 'em a join, if you're into Uncle Stevie's favorites . . .
Anyway, here's the message I wrote to them as their group read began:
I'm the author of "Brutal Youth" and thought I'd drop in here to say hello and thank those of you who decide to participate in the read of my book. As Almeta and Debra explained, I'm also a member of this group, so I found out about the novel’s selection in the same announcement as all of you. (That was a happy-dance day.)
Whenever I see that someone is picking up my twisted little coming-of-age story, I feel a mix of excitement and dread. It was especially acute when I mailed this book to Stephen King, hoping he might read it, and – if he liked it – grant it a vouch. He did, and that was happy-dance day, too.
Still, I find people enjoy it more if they know what they're getting into. I like stories with sharp edges and jagged souls, but not everyone does. (I suspect that won't be a problem with this group.) I tell people "Brutal Youth" is a novel that tries to break the heart, because that’s how we find out what's inside.
One of the things that made King such an inspiration to me was his willingness to show the cost of doing the right thing. I guess the word for that is “tragedy.” We love his characters, even though they are flawed, even though they are sometimes consumed and destroyed by more powerful and malevolent forces around them. Sometimes they join those forces, maybe because they're weak – or simply not as heroic as we’d hoped.
"Brutal Youth" began as a question: "Why are there so many bastards out there?" What makes some people – especially in large packs – go mad and dive deep into cruelty? Why are some parents hostile instead of loving to their kids? What happens when you're bullied at school and you can't get help because *the teacher* is the bully? It’s a high school story, but anyone can relate who has had a boss they were afraid to stand up to, battled an out-of-control parent, or confronted corrupt authority in the throes of a power trip.
King writes often about the battle between good and evil, and even though the good guys don't always win, there is victory in just having been good. I hope you find that in the pages of “Brutal Youth,” too.
I'll try not to look over anyone's shoulder as you discuss the book, but I'll be popping into the "Ask the Author" thread to answer questions, share some stories about SK, his specific influences and homages in the book, and talk a little about how he came to read it and give it the thumbs-up.
I hope you find "Brutal Youth" to be a worthwhile journey. Lots of double-crosses and broken hearts await. It's a story that means a lot to me . . . my attempt to write a high-school tragedy, a teenage wasteland of sorts.
What else can I tell you … “Abandon Hope Ye Who Enter Here”?
You don’t have to abandon it. Just check it at the principal’s office. It’ll be waiting for you when you’re done, good as new. And maybe more valuable than before.