Names Will Never Hurt Me

Names Will Never Hurt Me

4.2 9
by Jaime Adoff

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During one day at school, the paths of four teens will cross in ways they never imagined. There's Kurt, the "freek" who tries desperately to escape bullying; Tisha, who doesn't feel she fits in with anyone; Ryan, the football jock who rules the hallways while losing control of his life; and Floater, who uses his connections to gain dangerous power. On this day,


During one day at school, the paths of four teens will cross in ways they never imagined. There's Kurt, the "freek" who tries desperately to escape bullying; Tisha, who doesn't feel she fits in with anyone; Ryan, the football jock who rules the hallways while losing control of his life; and Floater, who uses his connections to gain dangerous power. On this day, teasing, racism, loneliness, and secrets bring each of them to the breaking point. Now they must help each other prevent a tragedy. The voices of these four teens weave together in prose-poetry to create a powerful read.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Adoff creates palpable tension as he explores each character's state of mind through the physical and emotional pain of being ignored, rejected, or terrorized. [T]his is a powerful, complex, skillfully written novel that even the most reluctant reader will find accessible." -Booklist
Children's Literature
This compelling novel told in prose-poetry form tackles the sensitive but timely subject of high school violence. The novel opens on the one-year anniversary of the murder of a student at Rockville High School. Four teens tell the story from their different perspectives: Ryan is the football star with his own dark secrets, including an abusive father; Floater acts as the behind-the-scenes informant; biracial Tisha feels she does not fit in; and, Kurt, the so-called "freek," is tormented at school and nearing the end of his ability to cope. A reporter from a local television station appears at the school trying to find out what went wrong the year before and whether another violent event could occur. The anger and frustration grow as Kurt continues to be a punching bag, and he vows to himself that he will not be a victim anymore. When Ryan is suspended from the football game on the day the scouts will be there because of an accusation of sexual misconduct with another student, the situation at school becomes explosive. A wrenching narrative with authentic voices, the book explores the roots of violence and everyone's need for acceptance. 2004, Dutton Books, Ages 12 up.
—Valerie O. Patterson
On the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of one of their classmates, four Rockville High students struggle with the pressures of school. Tisha is tirelessly teased for being biracial and feels as if she does not fit in. Ryan is a popular football star, but he falls from grace when he sexually assaults a girl. Kurt is labeled a "freak" and is pushed almost to his breaking point by the endless harassment, and overweight Floater escapes bullying only because he is Principal Roberts's snitch. The students' cruelty to one another is unchecked by many of the school's teachers and administrators, who are shady characters with their own agendas. The only adult figure who genuinely cares for the students is the guidance counselor. Rockville seems like a pressure cooker about to explode, and it almost does. The lives of Tisha, Ryan, Kurt, and Floater intersect just as things reach their boiling point, but surprisingly, they reach out to help one another despite Rockville's hostile atmosphere. Adoff, son of the late Virginia Hamilton, received much acclaim for his book of poetry, The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth (Dutton, 2002/VOYA April 2003). Teens will enjoy his first work of fiction for its grim but popular topics of school violence and bullying. Although the characters are interesting and the ending hopeful, there is one glaring oversight. A reporter and her cameraman spend the day at Rockville interviewing students without the accompaniment of a school official. Few principals would allow a reporter unrestricted access to students. But more important, although this story line was probably meant to portray how the media needlessly sensationalizes school violence, it ironically dramatizesa plot line that needed no additional fanfare. VOYA Codes: 2Q 4P S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Dutton, 192p., Ages 15 to 18.
—Valerie Ott
Adoff's poetry has grown from the free-flowing rhythmic verse of his first collection of music poetry to a complex chorus of four voices telling the gritty back-story of high school life. Written as a novel in verse, the tale gets inside the heads of the star jock, the bullied outcast, the mixed-race girl who doesn't fit in, and the principal's self-important snitch. However, Adoff shuns standard stereotypes by creating multi-dimensional adolescents whose public personas mask their insecurities, anxieties, and longing for acceptance. The novel is divided into chapters, each panning the scene, showing the story from different angles. The setting is a typical high school during an atypical event—the first anniversary of the shooting death of a student. Periodically interrupting the plot, a hungry news reporter asks leading questions to random students hoping for an exclusive scoop. But she never gets the answers she expects. The events in each of the main characters' lives overlap until they are all brought together in a climax with an unexpected twist. Adoff addresses issues of social exclusion, sex and violence honestly and in the authentic voices of his high school students. He reminds his readers that, in fact, names always hurt, and being labeled in adolescence can lead to self-loathing and unforeseen consequences reaching well beyond the school walls. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Penguin Putnam, Dutton, 187p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Michele Winship
Almost a year ago, a student was violently murdered on Rockville High grounds. With suspense hanging in the air, four students battle their way through high school. Kurt tries his best to get through a day of school without turning into a human punching bag, or worse, having to swallow someone else's spit at the bottom of the drinking fountain. Tisha, who deals with bullies herself, wants people to accept her for who she really is, but who is that really? Floater is transformed (by the principal) from being picked on into something even worse: a power-hungry kid who looks to rule the school. Ryan, the star quarterback, is the king of the school. When the four of them collide, Ryan's dark secret comes out of hiding. Jaime Adoff brings to life a brutal story of the realities of high school via four intriguing main characters who cement the reader to the story. Adoff does an excellent job of describing events in a way that ensures the reader will enjoy it. 2004, Dutton Children's Books, 186 pp., Ages young adult.
—Barbara Wilson
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-There is an unsettling atmosphere at this Anytown, USA suburban high school-it is the one-year anniversary of a shooting death. The TV news crew is on hand to interview students, and the principal is on edge. The story is told through the eyes of four teenagers: Ryan, the football player who thinks he's a god; Kurt, the outcast oddball who regularly gets beaten but never fights back; Floater, the snitch filled with power lust; and Tisha, a lonely biracial girl who quietly watches all. Tension builds as the day progresses, as events unfold and worlds collide. As Ryan's perfect world begins to fall to pieces, Kurt's anger builds, Floater's dreams of fame go spinning out of control, and Tisha's frustration increases, it soon becomes apparent that something is going to happen, but what, and to whom? Writing in a free-verse, almost-poetic style, Adoff pulls off a young adult page-turner with literary ease. While readers may occasionally feel as though they've stepped into Columbine High School, rendering the purpose of the book clear, this does not hinder the novel's flow as the author shows who the real monsters are in this fictional world.-Angela J. Reynolds, Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Hillsboro, OR Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
On the first year anniversary of a shooting death at Rockville High, both the administration and the students are finding the day challenging. Except for the presence of a television crew, things-especially the bullying-are mostly normal for four students, the alternating narrators of events. Marvin, a.k.a. Floater, is the inside snitch, Kurt, a.k.a., Dirt is the consummate victim, Tisha is the half-white, half-black new girl looking for her place, and Ryan is the star quarterback. Each speak in realistic terms (including some cursing) about their day, including their own musings in such distinctive voices that identification by name gradually becomes unnecessary. Sometimes the ramblings are intense with cadence and delivery so clear that readers will be rapping along. At other times, the pain and hurt take poetic form on the page, slowing the eye. Each student's character is challenged in the end, when the tensions and inevitable consequences erupt. Adoff's keen ear overcomes an improbable plot in this outstanding first novel. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jaime Adoff was born in New York City but grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He received a Bachelor of Music degree from Central State University in Ohio, where he studied drums and percussion. Moving to New York City in 1990, he attended the Manhattan School of Music and studied drums and voice. Jaime then went on to pursue a career in songwriting and fronted his own rock band for eight years. He released two CD’s of his own material and performed extensively in New York City and throughout the US. 

He is the author of the "all ages" original poetry collection "The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth": A Celebration of Music,(2002)(Downloadable at 08') which was a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor book,(2003) an IRA Notable book (2003), A NY Public Library book for the teenage(2003), a VOYA poetry pick (2002) and a CCB Best Book for 2002. 

The critically acclaimed "Names Will Never Hurt Me" (2004) was his first young-adult novel and almost instantly became a MUST HAVE for teens around the country. In 2005 it was named a NY Public Library book for the teenage, and was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults.

"Jimi & Me" (2005) was the recipient of the 2006 CORETTA SCOTT KING/​JOHN STEPTOE NEW TALENT AUTHOR AWARD.
It received a *starred* review from LIBRARY MEDIA CONNECTION and was cited as "an exceptional story" and "a tremendous addition to any collection" by VOYA magazine.

Jaime's latest young adult novel "The Death of Jayson Porter" received the 2010 BuckeyeTeen Book Award. It received *Starred Reviews from *Booklist*, *Library Media Connection*, and *VOYA* magazine,(5Q). It was also selected for the 09' "Choose to read Ohio program." A project of the State Library of Ohio, to promote reading across Ohio. As well as an Ohioana Book Award finalist in the Juvenile category. 

His first picture book "Small Fry"(NOV 08) was cited as "Cathartic and Encouraging fun" by Kirkus Review.

Jaime is a highly sought after speaker, presenting across the country on teen issues, diversity, YA literature and Poetry. His Rock n Roll school visits have been knocking the socks off students and teachers alike, for years. Jaime has worked with students from Kindergarten through High School and even college and graduate students as well. Giving them all a "backstage- all access- pass" into the life, creative process, and works of one of the most groundbreaking, unique and innovative voices writing for children and teens today.

Jaime received his M.Ed. at Antioch University Midwest, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 2013 and has been teaching English/​Language Arts for the past three years in a nearby Ohio high school. 
Jaime Adoff is the son of the late Newbery Award-winning author Virginia Hamilton and renowned poet Arnold Adoff. 
Jaime lives in his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio.

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Names Will Never Hurt Me 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kurt, or better know as Freak, has always had problems at Rockville High School. Especially dealing with ostracism and bullying. There are two ways that he deals with his problems writing in a journal and listening to music. Floater a powerful student and he eyes and ears of the principal, knows everything about everyone. Tisha a biracial girl and her best friend are trying to overcome the racism and ostracism in the school. They are also trying to get enough courage to stand up to their own bullies that ruin their life. Ryan is the typical All-American football star, he has a perfect everything, except for his home life, but that¿s another story. At this high school everyone has their own problems and own situations, but you want to know one thing that they have in common, Secrets. Whose secret will come out, or better yet what secrets will ruin people¿s lives? This book was really good I think that a lot of people in high school or even middle school would enjoy this. It¿s a great book to relate to because everyone goes through their own problems in high school and they have things they need to overcome. The only bad thing about this book is that the switching of narrators makes it hard to understand. He would switch from one to another throughout the whole story but he would still get the point across. It was easier to understand when you got farther into the book. John Adoff¿s writing really reminds me of Caroline B. Cooney¿s. They both have books that are suspenseful and they have characters that are easy to relate to. They both write about real life situations that everyone can relate to somehow. The one thing that stood out to me in this book is how the characters show what they¿re feeling and what they thought of a situation. Even though they might not have done the right thing you could follow their thoughts and feeling. If you want to find out what I¿m talking about them you¿ll have to read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a sophomore in high school. This was a good book, even though some of it was depressing. I would recommend this book to any high schooler or young adult who has bullying/emotional problems. It also addresses other minor problems. I don't think that I could relate to any character in this book. Just because I gave it a four doesn't mean that you won't give it a five. I hope you enjoy!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book meant a lot to me,because I can relate to being bullied.I loved this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book was just wonderful. I was definately speechless I read from the very beginning to the very end in just one day. Pick up this book and fascinate yourself in a world where four kids who share different lives in the same school have to prevent a horrible tragedy that was so close to occuring. So I'm begging you, read it!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book because it shows all the different minds of people in high school. It's a perfect high school drama because the ending was exactly like it would happen in real life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a teenager in high school, and I felt like I could relate to each character in this book! I loved every minute of it. Names will never hurt me took me into a whole new world and let me walk the hallways of the school and see each incident happening. I enjoyed reading this book so much, I'm sure i'll end up reading it again!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is an excellent book. i picked it up randomly and read it in 2 hours. most appropriate for high schoolers and up, the writing flows from one page to the next. you will become interested in the characters and have empathy for their situations. a good read.