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4.6 5
by David Hernandez

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It's the summer before senior year, and Marcus should be hanging out, filling his sketchbook, maybe asking a girl out for once. So why is he in a car with his brother, his brother's girl, and the pistol, headed straight toward his dad?

David Hernandez writes with striking lyricism and unfaltering poise. Suckerpunch marks the debut of a superb and


It's the summer before senior year, and Marcus should be hanging out, filling his sketchbook, maybe asking a girl out for once. So why is he in a car with his brother, his brother's girl, and the pistol, headed straight toward his dad?

David Hernandez writes with striking lyricism and unfaltering poise. Suckerpunch marks the debut of a superb and important new literary talent.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Hernandez (A House Waiting for Music), an award-winning poet, turns for the first time to fiction with a beautifully executed, frequently brutal coming-of-age story. Marcus, the narrator, stakes out his position from the opening sentence: "At the funeral for Oliver's father I daydreamed about killing my own." The 17-year-old is keenly aware of his losses, beginning with the index finger that got severed during a Rollerblading accident and including the departure of his father, who walked out after Marcus finally stopped him from beating up his younger brother, depressive Enrique. He is equally aware of the space these losses create for rage. This is not an easy or comfortable novel to read: Marcus gets wasted frequently, Enrique turns increasingly cruel and few of the characters have viable options. Their suffering is palpable; as Marcus says of his home, "Our dad's rage followed us after he left. It trailed behind our footsteps from room to room, invisible." When Marcus and Enrique's mother informs them that she is thinking about letting their father move back in, she galvanizes their anger, and the plan they hatch resolves in an unforeseeably violent, life-altering climax. The author's imagery, sometimes subtle, sometimes searing, invariably hits its mark. Ages 14-up. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Marcus, nicknamed "Nub" because he lost part of a finger in a Rollerblade accident, lives with his younger brother Enrique and his mother. He spends his time getting wasted and stealing CDs with his friends in the summer before his senior year of high school, though he also loves to draw. A year ago, his father left--the father who viciously beat up Enrique on the least pretext--but now he wants to return to the family. Marcus and Enrique hatch a plan to drive to Monterey, where their father is staying, and confront him with a starter pistol, to frighten him the way he frightened them. Along for the ride is Enrique's green-haired girlfriend, who shy Marcus secretly has a crush on, and their friend Oliver, whose own father recently committed suicide. To make things even worse, Enrique has forgotten his antidepressants, and he's beginning to fall apart. Despite his anger at the world, despite his difficult circumstances, Marcus must figure out how to do the right thing. This bleak, anguished tale is reminiscent of Chris Crutcher's novels in its realism and its depiction of a sensitive young man heroically struggling to come to grips with the rough hand he's been dealt. A melodramatic scene near the end, when Marcus must shoot an injured horse on the roadside, is a bit over the top, but on the whole this first novel by a poet effectively evokes Marcus's world and engages the reader's sympathies. Some profanity and drug use. Age Range: Ages 15 to 18. REVIEWER: Paula Rohrlick (Vol. 42, No. 1).
Jennifer Lee
Marcus, the main character of the book, and his younger brother Enrique are glad when their abusive father suddenly moves out. While the boys try to return to a "normal life," Marcus is plagued by questions: Why did his father only beat Enrique? And why didn't Marcus ever step in to help Enrique? After their mother says that Dad will be moving back home soon, the boys decide to confront their father, who is living in California. Told using realistic language and scenarios, this book may best be suited for older readers, due to language and content, which includes recreational drug use. Readers will be able to connect with Marcus and Enrique, as they learn to stand on their own two feet as men, instead of boys. Reviewer: Jennifer Lee
Children's Literature - Kenneth Wheeler
In this coming-of-age novel of a troubled teen, Marcus, a young Latin American living in a suburb of Los Angeles, has grown up in a dysfunctional family but is trying to get past it. Marcus' father, who used to beat his younger brother Enrique, has been gone for over a year, and still Enrique suffers from severe depression. But much to Marcus's chagrin, the girl he likes is beginning to show an interest in Enrique. The two brothers have been hanging out with their friends all summer long, getting "wasted" and listening to music. When in the last part of the book the brothers learn their father's plan to come back home, the two set off with friends to find and confront him. This confrontation, they hope, will lead to some closure. As the plot progresses, Hernandez employs flashbacks to explain how the characters have become who they currently are. The flashbacks are never happy ones and usually involve the two brothers' father beating Enrique. David Hernandez infuses his book with real contemporary bands and common situations that modern day teens face. The characters in the novel have a ripe knowledge of drugs and alcohol, which paints the believable backdrop in which the story takes place. Reviewer: Kenneth Wheeler
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.

This edgy story examines the lives of two Hispanic brothers living in suburban California. Marcus is sort of a geek, shy around girls and soft spoken. His feisty, younger brother Enrique has the good looks and is aggressive with girls. Both were abused by their father who has since abandoned the family. They run with a loose crowd that enjoys casual sex, drug use, and vandalism. Enrique is on medication and Marcus is expected to look out for him. Their mother works hard, but the brothers are shocked to discover that their father has been sending money to pay the bills. Now to their horror, he wants to come back home. Discovering where he lives, the boys take a road trip, plotting to scare him away with a fake gun. In tow is Enrique's girlfriend, for whom Marcus secretly longs. Marcus suspects Enrique is not on his meds and prepares for a violent encounter. Their climactic meeting does not go off exactly as planned and another event on their way home will have a more profound effect on them in the long run. There is a lot of coarse dialogue and drug use by the main characters in this realistic portrayal. The brothers are no angels, but side stories involve the rescue and adoption of a stray cat and a crow, and Marcus seems to want to break out of their current circumstances. Hernandez provides a powerful book that will ring true for urban teens facing similar circumstances. Reviewer: Kevin Beach
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)

School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Suckerpunch is as powerful as its title implies. Marcus is quiet and artistic; his younger brother, Enrique, is a charismatic ladies' man. Both boys have been scarred by their father's constant physical abuse directed at Enrique and witnessed silently by guilt-ridden Marcus. The man left a year earlier, but the boys are far from healed. Enrique turns to fighting and dating and dumping girl after girl, while Marcus gets stoned. Then they get the news that their father may be returning home, and it sends both siblings, along with Enrique's girlfriend, Ashley, and Marcus's friend Oliver on a road trip that will change their lives forever. Using dark, descriptive text and explicit dialogue, Hernandez paints a very realistic portrait of the aftereffects of abuse. Not only does he create memorable and sympathetic characters in Enrique and Marcus, but he also brings life to Oliver, who is dealing with paternal demons of his own, and headstrong but caring Ashley. In the end he does not tie everything up neatly, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions. Older teens looking for gritty urban drama are sure to embrace this gripping, well-written story.-Shari Fesko, Southfield Public Library, MI

Kirkus Reviews
Marcus Mendoza, aka Nub because of a severed index finger, narrates this hard-hitting and profane novel about parental abuse. From the opening sentence, the writing shocks, then mesmerizes readers, making its title an apt choice. Hernandez powerfully describes the harsh life of working poor families and their children as victims. Marcus imagines there are others like him, a "whole dissatisfied throng, T-shirted and disheveled and angry at the world." As readers ride with the brothers on their journey of vengeance, Enrique, Marcus's younger brother, steps into the spotlight. Enrique has suffered years of physical beatings from their father, a man who bolted to Monterey, Calif., a year before the story opens. The journey to hunt down their father is fueled by hits of acid and "gourmet marijuana," as Hernandez skillfully produces sobering descriptions of prior tragedies. The climax crackles with suspense, but the last 20 pages have a tacked-on vibe that's a slight letdown. Nevertheless, Hernandez's solid first YA effort will have readers clamoring for his next work. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.81(d)
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Suckerpunch SNY

Chapter One

At the funeral for Oliver's father I daydreamed about killing my own. I'd come at him with a switchblade while he was in the garage, the table saw whirring in his hand as it chewed through a 4x4. I'd come at him with a hammer. I'd come at him with a baseball bat, his head splitting open like rotten fruit. With stealth I'd come at him, his back always turned, the way he finally turned his back on us early one morning and drove off to who-knows-where.

The minister had a comb-over and silver-rimmed glasses. His face was pink as a slice of ham and his lips were thin, almost nonexistent. With his thin lips he spoke highly of Mr. Thompson—what a great father he was to his son, what a great husband—and I remember thinking, How the hell would you know? Did you have a hidden camera in their bedroom and watch him make Mrs. Thompson come? Were you there when Oliver wiped out on his bike and Mr. Thompson sprayed Bactine on his knee, then ruffled his hair and called him a tough guy even though Oliver was bawling his eyes out?

I looked over at Oliver, who wasn't bawling now. He wore a white button-down shirt, black slacks and shoes. He had the pamphlet with his father's face on the cover rolled up into a paper baton. He slowly turned toward me, his dilated pupils large as dimes, then turned back to the minister, who was going on and on about Jesus and the valley of darkness and the glory of the Lord Almighty.

Mrs. Thompson wore a black veil and barely moved.

There is nothing more precious than life, the minister said, than to do the will of God. And the only thing more powerfulthan death is the supreme power of Jesus.

I imagined Jesus with lightning bolts zigzagging out from his palms. I imagined one of those bolts striking my dad through his chest, his eyes rolling back, skin smoldering and foam bubbling out of his mouth. I imagined my dad in the mahogany casket instead of Mr. Thompson.

After the service, Oliver wanted to know what I had planned for the evening. Even though the sun was right on his face, his pupils were still huge.

I've got nothing going on, I said.

Want to get wasted?


My dad left behind a lot of booze.

How's your mom doing?

She's on Valium. Want any?

Before I could answer, Mrs. Thompson came out of the wooden doors of the church and walked up to Oliver.

I know you're still angry, she said, her voice quivering, watered down. You don't have to come to the burial if you don't want to.

I don't want to, Oliver said.

You sure?

I'm sure.

It's something you might regret later on when—

I won't regret it, he said, cutting her off.

Fine, she said.

Mrs. Thompson glanced at me. Sometimes when I beat off I thought of her sucking me. Now she was standing before me, wrecked. The black roses sewn to her veil looked like flies on a window screen.

I'm sorry for your loss, I said, which sounded stupid after I said it. As if she'd misplaced her husband. As if he were wedged between the couch cushions. As if she'd opened her purse and Mr. Thompson slipped out and fell through the bars of a grate, and all she could do was watch him glinting down there at the bottom.

What actually happened was he walked down to the basement with an orange extension cord and hanged himself.

You're a good boy, Marcus, Mrs. Thompson said to me. Then she squeezed Oliver's arm lightly and then headed toward the inky black car that waited to take her to the cemetery. She climbed into the backseat and closed the door, her face hidden behind the tinted window reflecting the fat white clouds sailing above us.

So what time should I pick you up tonight? Oliver wanted to know.

Anytime after eight, I said. Honk when you get to my house.

My horn stopped working.

Rev your engine then.

All right.

More people spilled out from the church and down the concrete steps. An elderly woman with a back curved like an awning. A man with an eye patch, tapping a cigarette out from a pack. This little girl in a powder blue dress, holding her father's hand.

Oliver and I stood there in our black clothes, watching. I didn't know what to say. I looked over at Oliver, at his large pupils.

What happens when you try to honk? I finally said.

Nothing happens, he answered. A small wind played with a piece of hair that had fallen across his forehead. Just silence, he said.

My home was a two-story house with cream siding and a shrub at the entrance that my mom kept clipping into some dumb animal. One month it was a cow, a couple months later it was a grizzly bear, and sometimes I didn't know what it was, a creature half horse and half antelope. The front door of our house was chocolate brown, as was the roof, where a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee was stuck on the shingles, as if someone had gone up there to eat dinner and left their plate behind. My home had a swimming pool and a giant lemon tree sagging with fruit. It had four bedrooms and a chandelier dangling over the foyer like a garish earring.

The day of the funeral, I came home and found Enrique standing in his room with his head bowed, his palms pressed flat against the wall. Between his hands there was a hole, the knuckles of his right hand were dusted with drywall. What? he said, even though I hadn't said anything. He was sixteen then, one year younger than me.

You okay?


What happened?


It doesn't look like nothing happened.

I was just pissed, that's all.

Suckerpunch SNY. Copyright © by David Hernandez. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

David Hernandez is a web designer and a poet whose collections include Always Danger, winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, and A House Waiting for Music. He also wrote the novel Suckerpunch. He lives in Long Beach, California, with his wife, the writer Lisa Glatt. No More Us for You is his second novel.

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Suckerpunch 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Nathan Guerena More than 1 year ago
Please tell me
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Justin & Kimmia Montgomery More than 1 year ago
defonatly not a kids book
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
SUCKERPUNCH is the story of two brothers - narrator Marcus and his younger brother, Enrique.

Marcus, the shy one, has spent most of his life looking out for Enrique. For some reason that Marcus has yet to fully understand, their father physically abused Enrique. Why one boy and not the other? That is a question Marcus would love to have answered. As a result of the abuse and then abandonment, Enrique is medicated for depression and violent tendencies, and Marcus is trying to keep things under control as the "man" of the family.

When the boys learn their father has continued to send money to help their hardworking mother, they are pleasantly surprised. When their mother tells them that their father is planning to return home to live with them, their reaction is anger and fear. Enrique decides he must be stopped, so with the help of a friend and his car, the brothers set out to visit their father. Armed with a starter's pistol, Enrique's green-haired girlfriend, and minus Enrique's medication, the positive outcome of this confrontation is in serious doubt.

SUCKERPUNCH is gritty and hard-hitting. Readers will soon bond with both Marcus and Enrique. The story flows smoothly, although my English teacher side did have trouble dealing with the lack of quotation marks in the dialogue. I did get over it somewhere around the halfway mark, but it could be a distraction for some readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved this book and i even recommended it for my best friend to read. the end could have been better but hey i cant complain. overall this book is a good read!