The Brimstone Journals

Overview

In a startling, often poignant student journal, acclaimed poet and novelist Ron Koertge creates a suburban high school both familiar and terrifying.

The Branston High School Class of 2001 seems familiar enough on the surface: there?s the Smart One, the Fat Kid, Social Conscience, Bad Girl, Good Girl, Jock, Anorexic, Dyke, Rich Boy, Sistah, Stud . . . and Boyd, an Angry Young Man who has just made a dangerous ...

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Overview

In a startling, often poignant student journal, acclaimed poet and novelist Ron Koertge creates a suburban high school both familiar and terrifying.

The Branston High School Class of 2001 seems familiar enough on the surface: there’s the Smart One, the Fat Kid, Social Conscience, Bad Girl, Good Girl, Jock, Anorexic, Dyke, Rich Boy, Sistah, Stud . . . and Boyd, an Angry Young Man who has just made a dangerous new friend. Now he’s making a list.

The Branston High School Class of 2001. You might think you know them. You might be surprised.

Narrated by fifteen teenage characters, this startling, often poignant poetic novel evokes a suburban high school both familiar and terrifying — and provides an ideal opportunity for young adults to discuss violence in schools.

In a series of short interconnected poems, students at a high school nicknamed Brimstone reveal the violence existing and growing in their lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Through poems, Koertge (Where the Kissing Never Stops) creates 15 separate narrators, all seniors at Branston (nicknamed "Brimstone") High School, struggling with major problems. Boyd, a white supremacist neglected by his alcoholic father, is staging a school shooting spree. Even the school nurse and at least one teacher are racist: "Our homeroom teacher,/ Ms. Malone... / says black/ people have their own Heaven, but it's/ far enough away from ours so we won't/ have to listen to their music." As Boyd prepares a target list (of "everybody who/ ever blew me off, flipped me off,/ or pissed me off"), the other characters reach their own breaking points; some even consider buying guns from him to solve their troubles. While Koertge's pacing allows readers to sense the building tension, the brevity of the poems provides readers with little insight into the characters, so that they teeter on the edge of melodrama: Kitty is anorexic ("I think if I'm thin enough, I can fly"), Sheila wonders if she's a lesbian because she loves her best friend ("I want to go farther with Monica/ than just good-bye hugs"). Despite some memorable lines ("His dreams are like a box I cannot put down," says Tran, a Vietnamese teen who feels pressured by his immigrant father to become successful), the novel does not have enough heft to compensate for a cast that does not seem fully alive. Ages 14-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2001: The Fat Kid, the Anorexic, the Slut, the Jock...and, most alarmingly, the Angry Boy with a Grudge and a Gun. We meet 15 familiar high school student types through the brief but revealing poems they write. Yes, the characters are stereotypes, but this story of simmering violence has an unexpected ending, in which tragedy is averted and an unlikely character becomes a hero. Like Mel Glenn (author of Split Image, Foreign Exchange, and other YA titles), Koertge, a poet and YA author (Where the Kissing Never Stops, The Arizona Kid, and Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright) employs multiple perspectives and a blank verse format to explore a topic of concern to all YAs. A good companion piece to Todd Strasser's Give a Boy a Gun, another recent YA novel about school violence. The format makes this a quick, easy read, and teachers may want to have students try this kind of writing themselves. Some profanity. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Candlewick, 113p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Paula Rohrlick
VOYA
Readers follow members of the Branston High School class of 2001 as they move toward graduation. A typical high school senior class, students include the Smart One, the Jock, the Anorexic, the Cheerleader, the Lesbian, the Rich Kid, the Environmentalist, and others. The Angry Young Man, Boyd, with the help of his friend, Mike, is amassing weapons, building bombs, and making a list of who is "expendable" in the coming conflict. Using free verse format, the story is effectively told through journal entries written by members of the class. Suspense builds as the reader wonders whether anyone will have the courage to warn authorities about Boyd's activities before it is too late. Koertge's novel joins a growing list of young adult books that explore the chilling mix of angry teens and access to weapons, and the resulting consequences. These novels include Give A Boy A Gun by Todd Strasser (Simon & Schuster, 2000/VOYA October 2000), Monster by Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins, 1999/VOYA August 1999), and Making Up Megaboy by Virginia Walter (DK Ink, 1998/VOYA August 1998). In a departure from his usual humorous situations and quirky characters, Koertge tells a powerful story that reflects today's frightening reality of teen violence. The book jacket illustration of a defaced page of photographs ripped from a high school yearbook will reach out and grab readers. Middle and high school students will find a good story and food for thought in this book. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Candlewick,113p, $15.99. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Linda Roberts SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
Children's Literature
Written as journal entries, these startling and poignant free verse poems capture the hurt, angry and confused voices of teens. Branston High's senior class is typical of any American high school with students like Kelly the anorexic, Sheila the lesbian, Damon the jock, Meredith the easy one and Kelli trying to break free from an obsessive boyfriend. Then there is Boyd, the angry young man stockpiling his weapons, culling his followers, and planning his violent attack. These powerful and chilling voices resonate with the echoes of Columbine. Each is strong in its individuality but it is their interconnection to one another and to the simmering violence waiting to explode that resounds from the pages. As each student reveals more about himself the reader is able to put the pieces of the puzzle together for a clear picture of this troubled class. The large number of personalities is at first difficult to sort through but the impression they leave on the reader will remain with him long after the last page is read. 2001, Candlewick Press, $15.99. Ages 14 to 18. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-The students at Branston (aka Brimstone), Koertge's "everyman's high school," know that violence is a fact of life circa 2001. But living in its midst, knowing it's there, and embracing it are very different things. In addition, the young people have other pressing concerns. Kitty's worried about eating-or, rather, not eating. Sheila's got a crush on another girl. Damon's looking for some action from his girlfriend. And Boyd is angry, just plain angry-and motivated. In short poems fashioned like journal entries, 15 kids are profiled, and their sometimes-raw voices provide poignant, honest, and fresh insights into today's teens. Branston could be anywhere, and, sadly, Boyd is an all-too-familiar character. He fuels his anger into a mental hit list of students who will be the target of his revenge. His credo is, "you're invincible until your number comes up." The profiles lead up to a clash of personalities and a strong conclusion in which tragedy is averted. It could have just as easily gone the other way. Young adults will have no trouble relating to the language and banter of these teens. They may even recognize themselves or their friends, for better or worse.-Sharon Korbeck, Waupaca Area Public Library, WI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763617424
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 12/23/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Ron Koertge is the author of several acclaimed novels, including THE ARIZONA KID, WHERE THE KISSING NEVER STOPS, and TIGER, TIGER, BURNING BRIGHT, all of which were ALA Best Books for Young Adults. Of The Brimstone Journals, he says, "Usually, I choose characters and settings that are humorous and offbeat. The Brimstone Journals, however, chose me. The characters woke me up at night, the entire first draft took just three weeks. Then the voices were gone and it was time to be a writer again instead of merely taking dictation from god-knows-where." Ron Koertge lives in South Pasadena, California, and teaches English at Pasadena City College, as well as in the MFA in Writing for Children program at Vermont College.

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Read an Excerpt

Lester
My dad’d freak if he knew I played with it, but I can’t help myself. And
I’m not hurting anybody.
The bullets are across the room in his sock drawer. The Glock is by the bed, same place as the condoms.
I like to hold it in my hand. Everything gets sharper, I don’t know why.
I feel skinnier instead of just this big bag of fries and Coke and pepperoni.
If I take off my clothes, it’s cool on my skin.
I’d never hurt anybody but if I did this is how I’d do it—butt naked.
And I’d start in the gym. They wouldn’t laugh then, would they? The jocks would crap their pants. The girls’d kiss my fat feet.

Tran
My father came here with his parents when he was ten. In the boat, there was room for two to sleep, so they took turns standing up.
By 1980 they owned a small market.
By 1990 three more. My mother and father often worked twenty hours a day. I started stocking shelves at age six.
Everybody warned against black people,
but who turned out to be full of hatred for our prosperity? Others like us, some from a village not five kilometers away from where my mother was born.
Father does not want me to forget the country
I have never seen. Every day an hour of
Vietnamese only. Then another of music with traditional instruments.
He wants me to be richer than he, more successful. Yet he begrudges one hundred dollars for the ugly new glasses I need.
His dreams are like a box I cannot put down.

Boyd
Dad drifts in about three a.m. a couple of nights ago, and I’m just finishing up Dog Day Afternoon for the nineteenth time.
He’s still a little faded and sometimes that makes him all paternal, so he gets us a couple of beers. I’ve seen this before when he’s shot some pretty good pool and some hootchie’s told him he looks like Harrison Ford.
Things are gonna change, he says. There’s gonna be a lunch for me to take to school every day, sandwiches with that brown mustard. No more doing his laundry.
And you know that dog I always wanted?
It’s mine.
Part of me wants it to be true so bad my teeth hurt. But I’m not holding my breath.
"So how’s school?"
Here we go.
After he calls me stupid about ten times,
I split. I run for like a block but I’m totally out of shape, so I just walk until I stop wanting to kill him. Then I crash in the basement.

Allison
A thirty-nine-year-old man in California drives his Cadillac into a playground and kills two kids because he wanted to execute innocent children.
That isn’t a sign of social collapse?
Twenty-five million teenagers go to twenty thousand schools in the U.S.
Ten kids, TEN KIDS, in seven schools did all the shooting, ALL OF IT,
in 1998-99.
In the same two years, grownups in southern California alone massacred forty people.
I know what I’m talking about. I did research for this paper I had to write.
I got a B- because my report "wasn’t focused."
Really? Could that be because when I
was typing it my stepfather kept trying to massage my shoulders because I looked
"tense"?
I’ve told him I hate that. I’ve told my mom.
She says he’s just being friendly.

The Brimstone Journals. Copyright (c) 2001 Ron Koertge. Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2007

    The Brimstone Journals

    The high school life at Brimstone is described through many journal entries that are written as meaningful poems. The entries are written by the jock, slut, prep, african-american, rebel, and many others. The life at Brimstone seems usual when described by most of the teens until the rebel, Boyd, makes an entry. He makes a plan to have a school shooting and tries to get others involved. The excitement of the story is, everyone who is writing their normal entries are actually the targets for the shooting, but they have no idea. This book gives you a true feeling of the life of the high school students at Brimstone. The entries keep your eyes going moving to see what happens next!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2007

    How About The Brimstone Journals?

    The book The Brimstone Journals by Ron Koertge is a great teenage book. Its a book compiled by indivisual journals about the life in a school. The kids rename the school to Brimstone because of the devilment that goes on in the school. In the book there's so many different personalities and people that pour out their feelings to the reader. A few of my favorite people are Neesha, Rob, Meredith, and Boyd. Neesha is a rebellionist, for her black pride. It's good to hear about that kind of audacity to represent yourself and your culture the way she does. Rob is just a modern day pimp who thinks he can get anything and anyone he wants or needs. He thinks of himself as the number 1 priority. Meredith is the 'slut' of the book, or that's what most people think. She uses men for money and other things. She continues throughout the book using men until she runs across someone that changes her. There's not much to say about Boyd except he's mistreated, Misunderstood, unapreciated, and just unhappy. He finds a friend who begins to change him for the worse. he and his friend begin to have racist thoughts and they both come up with a plan that is going to change Brimstone High, forever. The thing I liked most about the book was how it skipped around from person to person, but at the end they were all talking about the same problem.....Boyd.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Check This Great Book out for Teens

    Ron Keortge's The Brimstone Journals are journal entries written as free verse poems. Teenagersfrom brimstone High School express their feelings about their lives and their classmates. They're students like Meredith, the slutty one, Carter the prep, Shelia the lesbian, and many more that will have you wondering at the end. These students have minds that they shouldn't. Threw the book you will wonder if any of the other characters change for the better. Some do, others just change for the worse. You will also read about one certain boy who will end up in a very bad place. This book is very interesting, and you should buy this book and read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Great Teen Journals

    Ron Koertge,wrote the Brimston Journals based on the chairacters lives in their high school. These journal entries help teens understand they way of everday life. The things that go on in the Brimstone Journals are based on things that are at typical highschools, such as, Allison is always worried, Kitty has low self-esteem, Neesha has an attitude, and kelli is fustrated with her boyfriend. You have your Jocks, sluts, preps, geeks, and even those who try to kill people. This is all part of life 'Drama'. I do beleive you should purchase this down-to-earth book. This goes especially for teens, because you can relate to these problems. I beleive everyone will be interested in this insightful book. Purchase and Read! Its Great!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2007

    Leaves You Hanging

    Ron Koertge wrote The Brimstone Journal as journal enteries. This book has you at the edge of your seat and is full of suspense. At Branstion High School students are not any different from the students at Union High. You have the jock, Damon who is conceited and all about himself. Then there's Sheila, the lesbian, who is in love with a girl named Monica who doesn't love her back. Then there's Neesha, the hood girl who says whats on her mind. Then the angry Boyd. Boyd is basically fed up with being bullied around by everyone, and he is plotting to get back at anyone who has made his life hard. The characters in The Brimstone Journal have all types of problems like any normal person have. Although the book was good, it left you hanging wondering what was next. This book is so real.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2007

    The Brimestone Journal Review

    Ron Koertge wrote The Brimstone Journals in freeverse by teens who all go to the same school. One of the characters I liked was Kelli because she eas stressed at first and then she started taking control of her life. Another character that I liked was Lester who was negative at first but became popular. A third character I liked was Carter Because he is rich but then became respectful to others. These are just some of the great characters in The Brimmstone Journals.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Journals of Reality

    Ron Koertge wrote The Brimstone Journal, as journal entries by the senior class of Branston High. The way these kids wrote was very realistic, ranging from sluts to hypocrits, racists, people who want to solve things with violence, dudes who just want sex, sport freaks, lesbians, and people who are obsessed with their weight. Rob is the person in a teenage world looking for nothing but girls and sex, cooking for victims to take their virginity. Meredith is the teenager who would give up her body to older men with money, but later tries to turn her life around. Carter is the new kid rolling in to a new school, not knowing anyone, and thinks he's better than everybody before getting to know them. Boyd is the racist teenager, who had a bad father at home, and that anger towards his father results in hostality other people. This book is a great book, and after reading this you would look at the teens in your life closer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Student Connections

    Ron Koertge's will really connect to many high school students that are typical. Memorable characters are Damon,the Jock, Carter,the Prrp, and Allison, who has an issue with her step-father hitting on her. Brimstone Journals is a book with maximum effect. Each of the students are strong, Neesha is the onewho stands out with her Black Pride. Soon after you rad this book it will make you think back on how you act.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2007

    Good Characters

    Ron Koertge wrote The Brimstone Journals as journal entries. My favorite character from this book is Allison. I think she is very strong to take all the abuse from her step father. Another good character was Carter. I like him because he showed feelings for Neesha when nobody else does. Kelli was confused about her feelings toward her boyfriend. Boyd, who is violent an angry, plans to blow up the school. I really didn't like Boyd because of the way he acts and he is always threating people. This book isn't a book I would read on my own, and I wouldn't recommend it to others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2007

    The Hardy Review

    The Brimstone Journals by Ron Koertge is journal entries about how tens feel about life. the character that represents me is Neesha. She didn't care what people said about her. The students in the Brimstone Journals shows anger,confusement, and the hurt they felt throughout the book. Some of them changed, but very few . When you read this book, you will feel like you were there with them. You can probably relate to them. When you read the Brimstone Journals, it will have you on the edge of your seat. At first, you are going to think this book is going to be boring,but if keep reading, you will see how people like yourself can relate to the book. This book was based on the accident of Columbine. Once you start reading, you'll never want to put the wonderful book down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2007

    Very Interesting Book

    The book The Brimstone Journals, which was written by Ron Koertge, is really just a big journal entry written by many people in a first person view. It is a tell-all book about many students¿ lives at Branston High School over a short period of time (2-4 week period). This book has a typical high school setting. Of course you have your jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, rebels, and many other sets as well. It talks about all the drama and events that go on just like a typical high school, but some events are a little out of this world. This book overall is a very interesting book and a must read for an audience that likes high school stories.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Journals of life

    Ron Koertge's The Brimstone Journals.Can really connect to a lot of high school students.For example,Damon,the Jock,is so selfcentered.Carter is the prep whose fater has money that just shows money doesn,t make you happy.Allison has problems with her step father.This is a great book,and those are same of the characters in the book.If you pick up this book you will relate to at least to one of the characters.You may know somebody like one of the characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Gansta Kids

    The Brimstone Journals by Ron Koertge is about real life issues. It is about teenagers with problems at home and at school. Meredith is one of the girls at school the is a slut and uses guys for their money and stuff. Kitty has low-self esteem and wants to be skinny, and Lester is angry at the jocks and the prepy girls for making fun of him and calling him fat. I would recommened you to read this book because it is so exciting and intregging.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Teen' Relatable'

    In the Brimestone Journals there is alot of teen-related issues.There's this girl named kelli who is getting fed up with her man Damon cause he is so self-centred and cocky.Thats just half the drama.A guy named Boyd is misterated by his dad and he wants to take his anger out on others. So the book also contain family drama. This book shows diffrent views on differrent people's lives.There's also a girl with weight issues named kitty she is obsessed with being thin.There is also girl who's a slut, a guy who hates popular people , and some diffrent kid's with diffrent issues. This book is a must read in my eye's and it informs you on the day to day drama with teen's

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    brimstone review

    The Brimstone Journals Authored by Ron Koerrtge, is a great fun filled book. The Brimstone Journals is great for high school students, mainly because this book is journals from high school students. The book is filled with hilarious and realistic quotes. First off is Carter, the rich kid. Then Boyd the racist, Neesha who is a rebellious and has a way with words. This book has many more great characters you will have to read about. Each single character is different and waiting to be read and explored. Some of the language is strong so i recomend an age level of some sorts This book is worth you money, so when your at the store scoop it up and check it out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Good Teen Journals

    Ron Koertge wrote The Brimstone Journals as free verse poems by teenagers who are confused and angry. The characters are classmates at Branston High School and are talking about things that are happening in their lives. The teens in the book are like every teenager in the world with different problems like Kiddy who has low self esstem,lester who a bad attitude towards the jocks and girls, and Tran who is frustrated with his heritage! These teens are strong and are going through a lot.As the book goes on you find out who has a problem with who or what.I really like the book because every teenager can relate to each student and see how they are handling their problems if they could do the same or better. i love the way they write the poems and put everyday issues in their own words!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2007

    A Real Life Book

    The Brimstone Journals, written by Ran Koertge, is a book that pertains to real-life situations. You have the easy girl who gives it up to older men who spend money on her. There's Sheila, the lesbian, who is in love with a girl named Monica. Boyd, the angry boy, is tired of being pushed around and picked on. This book is based on the Columbine shooting. Each character captures your emotions through every page. This book is so true and keeps your mind going.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Check Out This Great Book.

    Ron Koertge's The Brinstone Journals has very great stories written as poems. The characters in the book are just like your everyday modern people. Everybody has problems of their lifes. Some not as extreme as others. There are people probaly at your school that go through the same things as people in this book. I bet there is somebody at your school that is anorexic like Kitty. I know there are a couple of jocks like Damon and girls like Kelli that are tired of their obsessive boyfriends.I know that there at least a few people that have the same kind of situation that the people in the book. I don't like all the people in the book. I don't loke the racist people, but overall it was a great book. The poems are short, but you get a lot of emotions and information from them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Teen Voices From Brimstone

    Ron Koertge's The Brimestone Journals is a very interesting book written as journals entires. This book is about the Branston High School senior class. These teens' lives are filled with drama and huge problems,like Meredith the slut and golddigger who sleeps with a lot of men. There is also Sheila, the lesbian, who is in love with her best friend. Then there's Byod, the dangerous and violent teen. He is planning a violent attack on the people on his hit list. There are much more. Branston High School is full of jocks,people with low-self esteem, preps, and bullies. Each character in this book has a different personality. If you purchase and read this book, I'm sure you will enjoy finding out much more about these intriging teens.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2007

    The Brimstone Journals

    In the story The Brimstone Jounals written by Ron Koertge, he has numerous journals about 15 high school kids. They all go to a school called Branton High. All 15 students are seniors. He wrote this book out of numerous poems he wrote from the shooting at Colmbine High School in Colorado. The 15 characters names were Meridith, Jennifer, Joseph, Lester, Tran, Sheila, Allison, Kelli, Damon, Rob, Carter, Neesha, David, Boyd, and Kitty. Meridith, the one that was easy to get, Jennifer, the trash talker, Joseph, the one that resents his parents, Lester, who is fat with no friends, Tran, who has a vaitnam obsesed parent, Sheila, the lesbian, Allison, the one that is scared of her father, Kelli, who is tired of her boyfriend, Damon, who is so conceted and controling, Rob, who is the freak, Carter, who has no friends, Neesha, who is the little ghetto girl, David the game freak, Boyd, the dangerous one, and Kitty the skinny one. Each of the characters has their own attitude and tone towards each other. The more you read their poems, the clearer the picture in your mind comes to life. In my own opinion I didn't like how the book ended, but in general it was a good book.

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