4.6 8
by Patrick Jones

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The nail that sticks out farthest gets hammered the hardest.

Flint Southwestern High School is run by a cult: the jockarchy. And Bret Hendricks could never fit into their conformity cult. Bret doesn't mind standing out from the crowd when he's on stage acting or singing in his band. And he feels at home in his funky girlfriend's arms because sticking out

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The nail that sticks out farthest gets hammered the hardest.

Flint Southwestern High School is run by a cult: the jockarchy. And Bret Hendricks could never fit into their conformity cult. Bret doesn't mind standing out from the crowd when he's on stage acting or singing in his band. And he feels at home in his funky girlfriend's arms because sticking out together doesn't seem as hard.

But loyalties aren't what Bret thinks they are, as his safe havens seem to disappear one by one, and he learns that sometimes you just have to risk getting hammered in order to build a great future.

For any teen who feels that standing out is harder than just conforming. Patrick Jones's second novel nails the real truth about the high price of hiding one's true self.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jones's (Things Change) forthright, message-driven novel explores the relationship between teasing and school violence. Sixteen-year-old Bret's life is becoming intolerable, both at home and school. He's ignored at home for not being just like his older brother (who "does oil changes for a living"), and tormented at school for not being a jock. Bret, who narrates, is not interested in working on cars or playing sports. Instead he'd rather act onstage or make music with his band, Radio-Free Flint (inspired by "hometown antihero Michael Moore"). As he grows frustrated at being harassed by the school's bully, he writes an essay expressing empathy towards the Columbine gunmen: "I... pointed out that how they had been treated at their school was wrong, too. I said they were the first victims." Teens will applaud Bret's spunk as he goes up against the school principal. But life takes a turn for the worse when Bret sees his girlfriend making love with bandmate Sean and reacts with violence, a response he's been taught to abhor. Eventually, with the aid of his father (who has a rather abrupt change of heart), Bret makes amends with Sean. Through the first-person narrative, readers see Bret's shortcomings and his struggle to fit in where he feels like an outsider. At times, however, it seems as though the author has set up his characters to serve his issues, even if his message is one that teens in a similar situation may find beneficial. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Bret Hendricks is reaching his breaking point. Daily verbal and physical abuse at school has him boiling inside, and his fuse is short. "Bret, what the hell is wrong with you?" his working poor father demands. Odd clothes and a ponytail separate him from the popular jock crowd, making him the proverbial nail waiting to be hammered down. But the Flint, Michigan, junior has talent. He plays a decent bass guitar, scores lead roles in school plays, and sees the big picture beyond the bleak boundaries of the economically depressed city. When sexy Kylee, a senior from another school, enters the picture, Bret falls hard, believing that she is the one great thing that will change his life. Chronicling Bret's junior year, much happens in this hard-hitting novel, perhaps too much. Bret's many problems-he conflicts with at least five other characters-are formed over the first hundred pages and initially the story's focus is unclear. In a stunning twist, however, the plot zeros in on Bret's blind love for Kylee, and here the author hits his mark. Jones writes about the pain of romance from a teen male's point of view and the tone becomes pitch perfect. Male and female teens will instantly feel Bret's agony when love goes bad. Several melodramatic sections of dialogue interrupt the story's flow, but teens will forgive this flaw. More important, it is one of the few teen novels involving a teen male struggling emotionally with both male and female relationships. It belongs in all teen collections. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Walker, 244p., Ages12 to 18.
—Rollie Welch
Judy Beemer
The nail that sticks out the farthest, Bret Hendricks just invites someone to hammer him down. At school, the "jockarchy" call him "Freak Faggot" because of his preference for theater and music over sports. At home, his tough-guy dad criticizes Bret's green-tinted ponytail and baggy Goodwill clothes, then ignores him to spend time, instead, with a cherished vintage red Camaro. Bret's one refuge, girlfriend Kylee, even dumps him when he refuses to fight the jocks who taunt him. After a year of being hammered on, Bret decides not to yield but to stick out even more. He runs for student body president on an anti-bullying platform that endangers both his school career and his physical safety. He also learns he has support from unexpected quarters. Bret's voice will call to adolescents who feel they also don't quite fit in and will urge them to consider constructive, rather than token, ways to take a stand.
Children's Literature - Valerie O. Patterson
In this unflinching look at the meaning of conformity, sixteen-year-old Bret Hendricks enters his junior year of high school misunderstood by his car-wash employee father for wearing Goodwill clothes and a tinted ponytail, and for preferring theater to understanding the inside of a car engine. Bret also does not fit into the "in" crowd at school. His nemesis, all-American jock Bill Hitchings--who had been his friend in elementary school before sports separated them--sets the tone for the new school year when he calls Bret "freak faggot" in first period. Bret tries to persevere, not wanting to believe his father's saying that "the nail that sticks out farthest gets hammered hardest." He likes acting, singing in his band with his close friends Alex and Sean, and spending time with his girlfriend, Kylee. Trouble still manages to find Bret--earning him a suspension the second week of classes and again during Homecoming when he and his friends launch their alternative live music in the parking lot as "Radio-Free Flint." A speech he writes for forensics, in which he argues that the two teen killers at Columbine were also victims, nearly sends him over the school's three-strikes limit. He gets into a fight with Sean and later finds him making love to Kylee. He learns the extent of Kylee's betrayal through her journal. Tensions at school finally erupt into violence, setting off a chain of events that lands Bret in the hospital when he stands up for what he thinks is right. Bret reconciles with his father and, thanks to his father's actions and the support of a sympathetic teacher, he gets to finish out his senior year at school.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Bret does most things the hard way, according to his father, and the teen is sure his dad hates him. He's more interested in acting than sports and covers his long green-tinted hair with a fedora. It takes Bret most of his junior year to understand what his dad always told him: "the nail that sticks out the farthest gets hammered hardest" as he struggles to deal with the "jockarchy" at school and their constant taunts (mostly being called a faggot or a homo because he's a born artist). As in Jones's Things Change (Walker 2004), the father/son relationship is central to this story. While readers may feel a bit hit over the head with the nail imagery, tension and frustration build naturally. Subplot relationships are believable and well developed, such as tender sexual moments with Kylee, Bret's girlfriend, and language is realistically raw to reflect Bret's anger and frustration. Issues of free speech, conformity, and the power of the in-crowd all surround Bret as he begins to buck the school's establishment and to stand up for himself. References to pop culture such as WWF, The Green Mile, and Austin Powers will attract many teens. Without being too preachy, Jones gives Bret several mentors: his theater teacher, his school counselor, and, yes, even parents, who help him sort out the roller-coaster ride of his life.-Kelly Czarnecki, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg, NC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Bret loves three things: his band, his acting and his funky, free-spirited girlfriend. He despises three other things: his father's disapproving indifference, the "jockarchy" that rules his school and any possibility of settling for a "normal" life in working-class Flint. From these very familiar materials Jones builds a warm, wise and surprisingly witty tale about heartbreak, honesty and just holding on. Bret's voice is the magic that makes it all work: fresh, funny and filled with alliteration, allusion and aching self-awareness. For the most part the characters are many-layered and believable, and the frank depiction of sex and violence as teenage commonplaces is graphically honest but never gratuitous. Readers will hurt for Bret when he falls, cheer for him when he triumphs and feel glad for the privilege of getting to know him. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Walker & Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.49(h) x 0.97(d)
920L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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