Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Brutal” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  844 Ratings  ·  165 Reviews
With her martyr-doctor mother gone to save lives in some South American country, Poe Holly suddenly finds herself on the suburban doorstep of the father she never knew, who also happens to be a counselor at her new high school. She misses Los Angeles. She misses the guys in her punk band. Weirdly, she even misses the shouting matches she used to have with her mom.

But Poe m
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 8th 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Brutal, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Brutal

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,553)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for

When sixteen-year-old Poe Holly's doctor mother decides to take her practice to the jungles of South America for a year, Poe finds herself living with the father she has never really known. She was a baby the last time her parents were in the same room together, and now she's moving into his house.

Since her mother is usually busy 24/7, Poe is used to living on her own. It's a welcome relief to find out her father is willing to allo
Dec 03, 2009 Raina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Only got 13 pages into this. Stopped shortly after the appearance of the overly clownish hick (complete with detailed announcements of his defecation plans). I found the protagonist overly-aware of her otherness (she describes herself as a "counterculture being") and thus, not believable. The snark was too contrived. I was thinking it might be a fun remix of Beige by Cecil Castelucci, but just read that instead.
Apr 18, 2009 Yan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this book funny, chuckle worthy, but in the ha-ha ironic type of way. Why? Because Poe really does represent everything she hates and fights against. Normally I would not dwell on this but the book goes into great lengths to talk and re-talk about this topic. We are talking cliques.

Poe mentions about the injustice in cliques and how certain groups receives special favors. She tries all she can to go against it and speak up to the “Man” about it. But what I found truly ironic was that, s
Ok, the cover of the paperback edition has a blurb on the cover that makes it sound like the book is simply a case of bully vs. protagonist. Thing is, it's not really about the bully at all. Sure Colby's a complete jerk and definitely the catalyst for action, but the book is really about about fighting the establishment that allows bullying to take place. You see, Poe Holly has just moved to a small, upscale winery town on the California coast. She's been living in LA most of her life, singing i ...more
Jun 11, 2009 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I have to say, I really, really enjoyed reading this novel probably because it exceeded my expectations.

I highly enjoyed the witty humor and the very interesting point of view, Poe.

The characters, Poe, Theo and Velveeta are highly personified and are developed nicely. I enjoyed Poe immensely because she's just so funny. I admire her courage to go against the school and its authorities to point out their errors. And even though she herself is the definition of the things she wants to get rid of,
Hmm, with Brutal, I couldn't decide between two or three stars. The topic of bullying and a main character who tries to do something to reform the educational system that not only doesn't prevent it but may actually encourage it are worthwhile. But the execution is didactic in many spots, and Harmon seems to sacrifice narrative, character, and writing style to message.

Nonconformist Poe Holly's doctor-mother has shipped her off to a father she doesn't know so that she can go play humanitarian in
Aug 13, 2009 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Poe feels spurned when her mother sets her on a plane to go live with the dad she's never met. Poe is sarcastic and witty, cutting and strong. She sees the wrongness in the school- that the school preaches equality, but that's never true. Teachers and adults turn a blind eye on the bullying, the fact that the athletes etc. have more rights and privileges than the other students. Poe sees all that- and she strives to change it. She fights, verbally, for a lot of different things. She fights just
Jun 27, 2015 Cinthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gotta say this book was very much your typical high school drama.. Poe got under even MY skin until she learn that to win the game you gotta play by their rules... I felt so bad for velvetta he is just trying to keep to himself... And theo is my favorite character by far...
soo, i really enjoyed this one. Our main character Poe, was a character!! She was a little rebel. She makes me want to be more spunky.

In this book we are following Poe. Your run of the mill teenager, who is quite the rebel. She quickly becomes a school outcast, voicing her opinions and cutting her hair into a mohawk, befriending a social leper and defending the school's kick-around kid. Her quest for school equality and defense for the weak and picked on becomes quite the journey. How far will
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steven Slaughter
This book was in our New Books Preview section, awaiting a read by an adult before putting it out in the student stacks. All books are previewed this way to see if they are generally suitable or not, and if they need to be flagged for more mature readers (grades 11 & 12). I don't know if this is ever done in public schools, but it is here at my Christian school. This is not done in a puritanical way. Plenty of books with a range of more mature content make the shelves; we just flag them for ...more
Harry Brake
Nov 23, 2014 Harry Brake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bullying. Conformity. What is right. Rage. Cliques. Fitting into the right crowd. Rage clearing a path of hatefulness. Michael Harmon's text is truly Brutal in the sense that he is not afraid to hit these issues head on. While you are exposed to the graphic results of bullying in a upper crust school, you also see how one individual's bravery in the midst of others who turn a blind eye, starts to change things, amid much chaos and stress to those around. Yet, it happens. All the while in seeing ...more
I've read over 1000 books and this is probably the worst book I have ever read. I can't give a review without it turning into a raging rant about the depth of my ire, so I will leave it at that.

If you want a book about bullying, please look elsewhere. This one is Pulitzer-worthy compared to Brutal: The Beckoners.
Feb 03, 2015 Kayla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating 3.5.

Ahhh Poe. Who doesn't love a rocker chick with too much eyeliner and a rebel heart? The 17 year old in me definitely agreed with Poe on a few points, but the adult in me thought she was ridiculous at times, or not choosing her battles wisely enough. I like that Poe cared enough (for someone who didn't seem to care much about anything, she definitely poured her soul into what she did care about) to help Velveeta out, because honestly most people probably wouldn't. I loved that i
The book Brutal by Michael Harmon started off with the sneaky character Poe holly. Poe is a young girl who lives with her mother who works as a docter in South America, which ends up causing Poe to have to move in with her dad who she has never met because he left before she was born.

After sixteen long years Poe is forced to move to live with her dad who is like a total stranger to her because he left but her mom has to travel to south America for her doctors buisiness. Poe and her father were
Alison Paulette
This is so much more than a bullying book. Poe Holly goes to live with her absent father in the small town of Benders Hollow, CA. In this small town conformity is key. Those that don't conform are singled out, as is Velveeta, her neighbor. He is constantly bullied and abused by the jocks in the small school. Poe, herself a nonconformist with her punk attire and black nail polish, seeks to help Velveeta face his abusers. The real story here is not the plot, but the character of Poe, as she questi ...more
David Jin
Michael Harmon's books are targeted for the mid-level teen, judging from his writing. I'm nearly an adult, and despite the simple language, I really enjoy his books. He has interesting plots and I like his characters. This is my least favorite Harmon book, but it was good for what it was. It was a simple, quick read, and I enjoyed it. Poe is a rebellious girl who struggles to live with her socially awkward dad and to deal with a messy school full of annoying teachers and bullies. The language is ...more
Mar 08, 2016 Dolores rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the parent of a middle schooler who deals with bullying every day, and an ultra-smart 21 year old who quit school and got his GED at 16 because he couldn't deal with the politics of school, I think this book should be required reading! I loved the character of Poe and I appreciated the debates she had with her father. I was cheering along as she made her points--preaching to the choir here, sister. I really enjoyed watching the evolution of Poe's family-everyone was beautifully flawed and hum ...more

The beginning was brutal to get through, but I enjoyed the ending.
Jun 29, 2016 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting look at school bullying, highlighting the fact that the adults in a school community can often, unbeknown to them, be the instigators of the bullying and harassment that occurs. Poe is a strong protagonist. Although a bit preachy and over-the-top at times, she is passionate, street-smart, rebellious and feisty, and determined to protect her friend. Harmon has done a great job drawing attention to some serious issues that our students face at school and showing the imp ...more
Laurel L. Perez
May 25, 2015 Laurel L. Perez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first solid, non-paranormal/sci-fi, non romance, non kids in a weird game trying not to die YA book I have read in a while. There were some moments, especially early on where I thought the book had too few or too many balls in the air, or I worries some characters were not given a fair shake. In the end, some of the sidelines characters could have been given a bit more due, and I do wish the bully had been a bit less flat. I just don't think people are bullies for no reason, even if ...more
I think books like these are important to keep awareness and dialogue about bullying open. That being said, while I think the issues in the book are important, the execution wasn't there. Poe, the protagonist, isn't always the most likeable person. (Not in and of itself a bad thing) She's extremely confrontational, and in many ways ends up being a bully herself, although she tends to point this towards figures of authority and power (i.e., parental figures, teachers, and "popular" kids). Poe bri ...more
Diane Ferbrache
Poe's mother is out of the country saving the world again, but this time Poe gets sent to live with the father she has never even met. He lives in a small town out in the middle of wine country, a far cry from her home in LA and her goth looks and LA attitude don't really fit in. When she enrolls in the local high school, she becomes fast friends with another outcast known as Velveeta. Poe tries to navigate the complicated social strata of Benders Hollow, but soon discovers that behind the rah-r ...more
This book is brutal. Tough issues, tough kids, tough town, and it's small-town America. Poe Holly is shipped to her father's because her mom is heading to South America to save lives. Poe's never seen her dad, and let's just say that she is a little bitter. She's the typical teenage angst girl--wears black, strange hairstyles, tests the rules, and very outspoken. Sure, her mom has money and Poe has a great voice, but Poe isn't happy. She's crying out for attention from her mother.

Poe's next-door
May 28, 2009 Saffy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story about a girl who's very opinionated and angsty, who goes out of her way to "improve" everything around her and "telling the truth".

I'll be blunt. In the beginning I didn't like Poe at all. I thought she represented everything she was against, and in fact she was.

However, later in the book, I came to realize that Michael Harmon was quite aware of that, and intentionally created Poe to be that way. He truly created a complex hypocritical character, and pointed out her flaws quite
When her surgeon-mother leaves LA and goes to South America on a charity project, 16 yr. old Poe Holly goes to live with her father in the small town of Bender. Poe has never met her father who also happens to be the school counselor at her new high school. Poe doesn't know why her parents divorced. She is a rebellious teen who doesnt' get along with her mother and blames her father for never being there for her. Poe meets two new friends...Theo, the son of the mayor and "Velveeta", a troubled t ...more
There are some things to really like about this book. Poe Holly is that character who loves the Sex Pistols and shaves her head for fun, and lots of punk-ish kids will like her take-no-prisoners attitude. The surveillance technology that took up much of Little Brother plays a role here as well. The map of bullying played out in the book is - mostly - realistic, escalating from petty to dangerous. If you're looking for a book about the accumulation of small wrongs that lead to evil, this might be ...more
Although less then strong on character development, still an entertaining and in-depth read, addressing the issue of individualism and bullying in High School. Double standards are huge in school; especially in the last four years... we’ve all either experienced it personally or witnessed it at some point during our academic career. BRUTAL focuses greatly on the adult’s role in the harassment of a student by adding to the problem in refusing to protect the weak in the name of “tolerance”, and/or ...more
Apr 29, 2013 Vick rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 23, 2011 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brutal is a brutal story. Brutal starts off almost lightly, with a little bit of seriousness. There was just something about Brutal that drew me into the story and made me love it. I didn’t really know much about Brutal when I started reading it and thought it would have been a light, contemporary story. It wasn’t though. Brutal was quite a heavy story in the end and I loved every part of it.
I liked Brutal, it was realistic even if Poe wasn’t and I think that was the point. Poe is supposed to be
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 85 86 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • I Wanna Be Your Shoebox
  • The Big Game of Everything
  • The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez
  • God Is in the Pancakes
  • Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto
  • Burn
  • Frannie in Pieces
  • King of the Screwups
  • The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin
  • Everything Is Fine.
  • 13: A Novel
  • Reality Check
  • Muchacho
  • Carter Finally Gets It (Carter Finally Gets It, #1)
  • Diary of a Witness
  • Beanball
  • Lola
  • Hummingbird Heart

Share This Book

“Sometimes the worst-tasting crap is the best for you.” 1 likes
More quotes…