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God of Beer

God of Beer

5.0 1
by Garret Keizer

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High School kids in Salmon Falls are much the same as high school kids anywhere else: bored. In the far reaches of Ira County, Vermont, in the dead of winter, it seems there's nothing to do. But when eighteen-year-old Kyle Nelson and a handful of friends decide to challenge the status quo with an act of civil disobedience, they discover that there's more to


High School kids in Salmon Falls are much the same as high school kids anywhere else: bored. In the far reaches of Ira County, Vermont, in the dead of winter, it seems there's nothing to do. But when eighteen-year-old Kyle Nelson and a handful of friends decide to challenge the status quo with an act of civil disobedience, they discover that there's more to do than they ever bargained for.

Garret Keizer's gripping novel about young men and women desperate for change bears witness to the dangerous force of ideas and the searing power of friendship. Here is a novel that looks truth squarely in the eye, and dares to keep on looking.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"A promising debut novel with the ring of authenticity," said PW of this story about beer, class, protest and a group of teens in rural Vermont who form a group to "lower the drinking age, raise the drinker's awareness [and] destroy the non-drinker's stigma" through nonviolent protest. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
To quote from the hardcover review in KLIATT, January 2002: The title of this novel certainly catches your eye. What can it mean? Seniors at a small-town high school in Vermont realize that beer is like a religion in their world. Even though they aren't eligible to drink until they are 21, these teenagers regularly drink alcohol and couldn't imagine partying without it. A group of friends, each one carefully characterized by Keizer, decide to organize a protest-urging the lowering of the drinking age at the same time they point out the dangers of drinking. It's a misunderstood effort, with consequences they could have never foreseen. Their actions provide the spine of the plot, but their friendships and family relationships, their teachers and school dilemmas, and especially the character development of the narrator, Kyle, take precedence. Kyle is finishing his final year of school, watching his friends make plans to leave town to go away to college in the fall. His parents urge him to go as well, but stubbornly he says he wants to stay. He has many friends, of all ages: the star basketball player, Diana, whom he secretly adores; the class genius who is a Quaker and pacifist; his hunting friend, labeled retarded by many, struggling to graduate; an older, eccentric couple who are like grandparents to him. Keizer is terrific at setting the scenes, whether at a party or around a kitchen table or in a classroom, with dialogue just right, and thoughtful young people struggling to make sense of their lives. His dedication is "To Those I Taught, the Living and the Dead," so I'm assuming he is a teacher as well as a writer. KLIATT Codes: S-Recommended for senior high school students. 2002,HarperTempest, 242p., Ages 15 to 18.
— Claire Rosser
A good start—smart, well thought out, and daring—immediately involves the reader in Keizer's original work that discusses one of the most alluring topics for the teen audience: beer. Eighteen-year-old Kyle, Diana, and Quaker Oats are three friends who decide to challenge the beer-as-religion mindset of their high school mates in small town Ira County, Vermont. There is nothing else to do there but drink. It is the status quo. As part of a school experiment, Kyle and friends decide to buck the system and test whether or not the beer actually makes the party. This book presents an intriguing concept, and Keizer handles it well without coming off as preachy. Kyle, the story's narrator, and his old pal, Diana, have a nice friendship tinged with romantic possibilities—the book opens with Kyle staring at her legs. Quake is interesting and multidimensional, an almost-nerd except for the uniqueness that is his saving grace. Diana's semi-boyfriend, Condor Christy, fills the requisite town-jerk role. His bitter rival, developmentally slow David Logan, rounds out the fascinating cast of characters. Unfortunately, about three-quarters of the way into the book, Keizer uses one of the worst cop-out clichés around. It does not hurt the quality of the book or its story, but it is disappointing to see such a great start fizzle into something so expected. PLB
— Matthew Weaver <%ISBN%>0060294566
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-From the sobering dedication, "For those I taught, the living and the dead," to the predictable but necessary car-crash plot, an interesting cast of teen and adult characters populates this story set in rural Vermont. High school senior Kyle feels average, but has friends who excel. "Quaker" Oats is smart and a committed pacifist. Beautiful Diana is their longtime best friend, Kyle's unrequited love, and a good person. David is a redneck, backwoods hunter given to rages that Kyle and his friends often try to assuage. Newcomer Condor is inexplicably nasty to David. For a class project, Quake and the gang create an unofficial nonviolent social protest they call the Beer Rebellion, or SUDS: Students Undermining a Drunk Society. They cite three goals: "Lower the drinking age, raise the drinker's awareness, and destroy the non-drinker's stigma." During a party, Condor gets drunk and sober Diana is killed while driving him home. David rages, emptying the coolers of beer at the mini-mart, smashing bottles in the parking lot until arrested. At his trial, Quake follows suit in the courtroom. Kyle watches them work through their subsequent community service, gains a better understanding of Condor, and wrestles with his own choices. The plot wanders around, leaving readers a little unsettled about what the kids are really trying to accomplish. However, the book does mirror their attempts to reconcile our society's conflicting and often hypocritical attitudes. This message in a bottle is a brave, if uneven, attempt to provoke thought about this difficult, oft-ignored matter.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Devastating consequences ensue when a group of high-school students stage acts of civil disobedience to protest various legal and social issues involving the use and abuse of beer in this original, provocative-if muddled-coming-of-age story. At 18, Kyle Nelson, an unambitious everyboy who prides himself on his social fluidity-"drinks with the preps, hunts with the chucks"-is drifting through his last year of high school in the Vermont countryside. While studying protest movements in social studies, Kyle and his two best friends, Diana, a brainy, basketball-playing beauty, and Quake, a whizzy, non-violent Quaker idealist, conceive a term project linking social protest to the communal but illegal glue of high-school life: beer. The kids have three related but somewhat incompatible goals for their project: to "lower the drinking age," to "raise people's awareness of alcohol," and to "destroy the exaggerated status of drinking itself." Hampering their objectives-and by extension the novel-is that their aims require prolonged explanations and are multifaceted and ill-assorted. So when tragedy strikes in the form of an alcohol-related car accident that punishes the innocent more than the guilty, it's not clear what the reader is supposed to come away with. Keizer has an apt way with a description, an impoverished woman "looked a lot like the inside of her house . . . definitely poor yet very clean and pulled together," and his characterizations, particularly of the working-class Vermonters, are discerning and perceptive. Thought-provoking. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.96(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

My friend Quaker Oats says that I changed his life simply by answering one of Mr. Whalen's questions in senior social studies class. Maybe I did, and probably I changed my own life also, though at the time I had no idea what my friends and I would be getting into over the next several weeks. To tell you the truth, I had only the foggiest idea that we weren't all going to live forever. If I had anything on my mind that day, it was keeping my eyes off Diana LaValley's incredible legs.

She was sitting in the desk next to mine, all six foot four of her, in a majorly short skirt, stockings, and silver ankle bracelet like the other starters on the girls' basketball team were wearing because today they had a game. The boys' version of the dress-up custom was to put on a tie, maybe with a white shirt and maybe even with the knot pulled tight, which was a lot less trouble than the girls took, not to mention a lot less rousing to the old school spirit.

The thing was, though, that Diana and I had been very close friends, never more, for about seven years, and I was determined not to have her catch me gawking at those amazing legs of hers, legs that made her taller than any student, boy or girl, at Willoughby Union, and its girls' team center, and (along with her equally amazing brain) a likely choice for a full. scholarship at any one of the eight prestigious schools she'd applied to. Diana always said that I was like a brother to her, and although I wouldn't have minded being more, I would never have done anything to make her see me as less.

So I was just sitting there in class with my shoulders sort of hunched and my eyes straight ahead,something like the way you'd look driving a little foreign beater of a car when an eighteen-wheeler goes roaring by on your left side and you brace yourself on the steering wheel and wait for the powerful afterdraft. Who knows-maybe the expression on my face made me look like I would have some great answer when Mr. Whalen began to ask his question.

"Mahatma Gandhi once said" — Whalen was big on Mahatma Gandhi — "that if God ever came to India, held have to come in the form of bread because that is the only way that the starving masses of peasants would be able to understand him."

Whalen was circling the room like he does when he thinks he has an awesome question on his mind or when he's about to take a break from our thematic unit on "Protest Movements of the Twentieth Century" and stroll down memory lane to his early years as a hippie king.

"Now let's for a moment take God as a given, whether or not there actually is a God, and let's take Gandhi's quote and change India to Ira County," that being the part of northern Vermont where I live, along with a lot of deer, moose, and dairy cows. "Or even Willoughby Union High School."

All of a sudden Diana turned and smiled at me nothing big or sexy but this very kind and steady smile I'd often seen her give to the other girls on her team, especially the younger ones and usually when one of them was stepping up to the foul line. It seemed to say, "Just take your shots, babe, and if they go in, great, and if not, you're great just the same." Looking back now, I wonder if she knew, even before Whalen finished asking his question, that I was the one who was going to answer it.

"So if, according to Gandhi, the only way that God could come to India, the only meaningful way, was as bread, how would God come to ... let's just make it this school. What form would God have to take if he came to Willoughby Union High?"

I glanced across the room to Quaker Oats, who had started leaning into the question the way he does, with his square chin and his big Adam's apple like a couple of bird dogs' noses in pointing stance. I could imagine him running a billion-gigabyte mental scan of every object and person at Willoughby Union that God might become, not counting Quake himself, who in addition to being the most curious individual I've ever met is also one of the most modest. Everybody else was holding back. Class was almost over. The week was almost over too — five more periods and Friday would start turning into Friday night. God wasn't on the majority of people's minds, I suspect. More likely some party was.

When Whalen repeated the question, we all knew he'd pounce at the end of it. Best now just to wait.

"If God came to India, held have to come as bread. If God came to Willoughby Union, he'd have to come as what? Kyle."

That was me. Diana looked at me again with that same encouraging smile.

"Beer," I said.

A couple of kids laughed. Diana's smile went a little crooked.

"Beer?" Whalen was saying. "That's what you said, beer?"

"Beer, yeah."

"Can you explain yourself?" He perched his butt on the empty desk in front of Diana's row. I gave the little shrug guys give to let everybody know that what they're about to say isn't very important to them. Except, with Diana right beside me, it was important.

"I don't know," I said. "It's what people seem the most into. It's what they talk about all the time."

One of the guys in back called out, "That's 'cause there's nothing else to do around here."

"So beer is our bread?" said Whalen.

"I guess...

God of Beer. Copyright © by Garret Keizer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

GARRET KEIZER is the author of eight critically acclaimed books, including No Place But Here, Getting Schooled, and The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want. A former teacher and current contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine, he lives with his wife, Kathy Keizer, in northeastern Vermont.

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God of Beer 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this book on a shelf in a bookstore while walking around with my friends, the only reason i picked it up was because my friend laughed and pointed at the title. After reading the first few pages i thought maybe i might enjoy the book so i sat down in a corner of the bookstore and began reading the book, i sat there for about 2 1/2 hrs when i realized that my friends had left me and the store was closing up. The book drew me into it so much that i hadn't even realized how much time had flew. When i had finally finished the book i was so amazed because i can picture the very same thing that happened in the book taking place in my town. The book takes place in a small vermont town and i live in a very small new hampshire town. this book is a definate MUST READ
Guest More than 1 year ago
My English teacher reccommended this novel to me, and at first, I was hesitant to pick it up. Soon, students in my school who had read it were singing its praises, so naturally, I began to read it. Well, I couldn't put it down. I picked it up around 6 pm one night and finished it at 10:30 the same evening. Keizer uses excellent verbs and descriptions, and really lets you connect with the characters. I found this book incredibly powerful, the fact magnified that I am a senior at a small town Vermont school, and I was able to picture every single scene happening in my town with my friends. I've been reading all my life, and this is the first book that has ever made me cry. A must read.