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3.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,486 ratings  ·  276 reviews
An award-winning writer and playwright hits the open road for a searing novel-in-letters about a street kid on a highstakes trek across America.

For a runaway boy who goes by the name "Punkzilla," kicking a meth habit and a life of petty crime in Portland, Oregon, is a prelude to a mission: reconnecting with his older brother, a gay man dying of cancer in Memphis. Against a
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published May 12th 2009 by Candlewick Press
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Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,486 ratings  ·  276 reviews

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Cross-posted at Outlaw Reviews and at Shelf Inflicted

I really enjoyed this story about 14-year-old Jamie’s journey from Oregon to Tennessee to see his dying older brother. Jamie’s story is told in letters – long, honest and revealing letters, mostly to and from his brother Peter. Jamie keeps his letters in a notebook that never leaves his sight, many of which are not mailed. These letters tell of his brief experience in a military academy, his demanding father and unhappy mother, his strait-lace
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I’d basically like to hold this up to all those people in camp “YA has abandoned boys” as an example of how YA has…you know…not abandoned boys. Of course, that might be problematic because I’m pretty sure that that particular camp shares a lot of members with camp “YA is too dark.” And this book is plenty o’ dark. Or at least, it certainly contains the hallmarks of what those lovely campers like to label as “dark”. This book contains drug use, violence, sex, parental abandonment, cancer, and a v ...more
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kid-lit
I must give the full disclaimer here that the author, Adam Rapp, is my older brother, but that's not going to stop me from saying that I consider this to be his richest novel yet. As always, Adam unerringly captures the voices of his narrators (the book is a series of letters, most of which are written between two brothers), but in this novel he has reached his deepest level yet of compassion for all of the flawed and courageous and terrified characters he has created. I'm thrilled for his succe ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

3.5 Stars

Jamie (a/k/a “Punkzilla”) has been on the run. Running from his past, running from his father, “the Major”, running from the boarding school he was sent to in Missouri. After being contacted by his dying brother, Punkzilla makes the decision to stop running and head to Memphis and see his brother before it’s too late.

What did I think of Punkzilla? Hmmmmmmmmmm . . .

Screw it – I’m writing this before my brain gets a chance
Dawn C
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: media-audible
This is a story that consists of letter correspondence mostly between a younger brother of 14 and his older brother of 27, as the younger has escaped the military school he was enrolled in by his controlling father, to visit his older brother who is dying of cancer far away. It’s a very realistic and unsentimental account of the events that occur as he travels cross country and I freely admit to crying by the end, which is one of the best things a story can make me do. A very powerful, brutally ...more
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly heartfelt, delightful, and touching.

The narration, in form of letter correspondence, creates an unobscured view between the reader and the characters, bringing worth their distinct and authentic individualities, and giving their voices clear, directly affecting sincerity: their bright-eyed naiveté, their fears, excitement, care and worry, their support of each other and their disappointments, their capacity and the incapacity to connect with one and other... - all laid on the pages in an u
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully crafted and touching book. It's written as a series of letters mainly from Jamie (Punkzilla), a teenage runaway, to his sick older brother as he hitchhikes across America to see him.

I found this to be very compelling from the first page and the ending brought a tear to my eye. Each of the letters are very raw and honest and I couldn't help but sympathize with some of the characters. An absolutely breathtaking read.
Jennifer Wardrip
Jun 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for

Written as a series of long, descriptive letters, PUNKZILLA tells the story of a fourteen-year-old on a cross-country journey to visit his dying older brother.

Jamie (Punkzilla) is AWOL from military school. His father, a retired Major, convinced his mother that Buckner Military Academy would straighten out their youngest son. Jamie is the first to admit he was out-of-control. His ADD - combined with meth, pot, and drinking - had tur
Ryan Mishap
Aug 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
Anything with "punk" in it always grabs my eye at the library, so I picked this up as the jacket said that 14 year old Jamie (Punkzilla) writes letters to his brother--who is dying of cancer--while riding the Greyhound from Portland to Memphis. This book will get tons of shit if "concerned parents" ever get a hold of it.
Jamie starts by saying how burnt out he is because they did meth last night, then he tells about life in Portland: robbing joggers for their Ipods, getting handjobs from Buckto
Aug 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
This new YA novel is the gripping story of 14 year old Jaime (known as Punkzilla, or P. to his friends) after he runs away from military school and travels across the country to see his dying older brother in Memphis. His brother is estranged from the rest of the family due to his homosexuality, but Punkzilla has a close connection with him and is racing to see him before his expected death to advanced cancer. The story is told in a series of letters from Punkzilla to his brother, some of which ...more
I've kinda found Rapp's other books to be a bit too gritty (and I like some gritty too) but this one I found just perfect. Jamie is 14 and has run away from military school and is living on the streets, basically, in Portland. As the book starts, he's coming down from some crystal meth and on his way, via Greyhound, to see his older brother before he succumbs to cancer.

I felt like I knew (or could know) these people. Mostly, I liked that the people most marginalized (other street kids, obviously
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Jamie’s story is told in a series of letters that fully embody the voice of a 14 year old on the streets. After running away from military school and living on the streets of Portland for a few months he attempts to travel cross-country by bus to see his older brother who is dying of cancer. Life on the road for is scary and Jamie finds himself needing to ask for help from strangers. Realistic YA fiction.
Ringo The Cat
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya, young-adult
Even though Punkzilla received the Michael L. Printz award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the ALA, I was completely new to Adam Rapp and the reputation that preceded him. I didn’t have any expectations about this novel (thematically or otherwise), which I think is the best way to approach it if you really want to be smitten with it as I was.
The first thing that came to my mind was that it’s like reading a teenage version of Kerouac’s On the road. But then, I don’t actually like O
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"...and my hands wouldn't stop shaking all through breakfast if you don't let me come home think I'm going to run away like go AWOL and never look back or maybe I'll stick a fork in my eye and get kicked out I swear Mom I'm going to do that if you loved me you would let me come home. Okay fuck this I just read this letter and there's no way I'm sending it to you. No way no way no way no way. It will live in this notebook forever or I will burn it."


I kid you not, I shouted that e
Angela Bailey
Title / Author / Publication Date:
Punkzilla. / Adam Rapp. / 2009.

Genre: Young Adult Realistic Fiction.

Format: Book - print (epistolary novel). 256 pages.

Plot summary:
"As a runaway on the streets of Portland who sustains himself through petty crimes, a 14-year-old boy nicknamed Punkzilla decides to try to kick his meth habit and turn his life around; putting him on a cross-country, soul-searching journey to Tennessee to visit his older brother who is dying of cancer" (NoveList).

Considerations or
Adam Rapp hits the nail on the head again with Punkzilla. I wondered if he'd permanently lost his touch with Year of Endless Sorrow, but he's got it back. Punkzilla revists many of the things Rapp has written about in previous books: the military academy, intellectually precocious children, pedophilia, drugs, aimless wandering. The only thing missing were his gorgeous similies and believe me, I felt the loss.

The book consists of a series of letters concerning Jamie "Punkzilla," who went AWOL fro
Dyonte Hutchins
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The book punkzilla is a fiction novel. Its about a 14 year old boy Jamie who is traveling from Oregon to Memphis to see his brother who is dying from cancer. On the way he goes through tough times and struggles on his journey.
I loved the book, it kept me interested and wanting to read more. On the other hand I didnt like some of the details in the book; such as the old man giving him a hand job in a motel. My favorite character was Jamie because this is the only character that was given a lot o
Vic Constantine Cochran
Whenever I first started reading this, I was really disappointed. The back of the book made the main kid sound like a trouble maker but killer smart. Instead, I found a misogynistic little a-hole who made bad choices at all times. I don't know when my view of him changed, but I ended up growing really close to the kid. I hated watching him be used and watching as he made bad decisions. When his brother didn't respond to his letter, I got really nervous for him. When he found people that treated ...more
Grace Gotelaere
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a great book. I loved h perspective of Punkzilla. I really enjoyed reading his journey and hope whoever reads this book does too.
Sep 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
4 1/2 stars. This is now my favorite book by this amazing writer, and it's knocking North of Beautiful off of my 2009favorites list. I love that Punkzilla/Jamie/James comes from a solidly middle class background, and how believable it is that he could end up on the street. Love his (literally) pain-filled road trip, and how one of the adult characters calls his own road trip a "thinking vacation". I've taken lots of those long driving trips where all you do is think, myself. I tried to start rea ...more
Apr 28, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2009, 1dayread
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Edward Sullivan
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fourteen-year-old Jamie (aka Punkzilla) is AWOL from military school. He's already lived hand to mouth in a west coast city, stealing iPods, doing cheap drugs, and getting the occasional joyless hand job. Now he is headed to Memphis where his oldest brother, Peter, a gay playwright, is dying from cancer. His story is told through his letters to Peter as he hitchhikes across the country, written in the backseats of cars, under a tree where a man hanged himself, and ultimately in retrospect when h ...more
Feb 12, 2010 rated it liked it
I always have to give props to a book told in letters that I didn't put down. BECAUSE I HATE THAT STYLE.

(And yet I'll get over it really quickly if I'm absorbed. So props!)

So heartbreaking, extremely spot-on voice, vivid pictures painted of all the people Jamie encountered. Wish some of them had been a bit less... well, a bit less.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm saying. I guess it's that at times this felt so scripted. This dramatic encounter means this which is symbolic of that which lends dra
Jun 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book would be the high school version of Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius or Running With Scissors. It was so depressing, yet hard to put down. It also reminded me of Into the Wild. I guess I felt it was difficult to feel sorry for the main character when he was so bent on self-destruction. I know his parents were extreme, but he didn't have much in the way of a conscious. The redeeming characteristics were present in his letters to his brother, which were often hilarious and tragi ...more
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
I must admit that I am a Rapp fan and have been since I saw an early play of his at NY Theater Workshop. This Printz honor book tells the story of a young teen on a road trip from Portland, OR to Memphis where his older brother is dying of AIDS. Surprisingly, the moneyless boy makes it there in one piece. The 14 year old's long continued letters to his brother tell his story with raw realism.
Apr 04, 2009 added it
I think Rapp's writing is breathtaking; his use of language floors me. But I must admit I didn't love this novel wholeheartedly. I never made that deep emotional connection with Zilla. I think I kind of felt the hand of the author on the page, and so while I could appreciate it intellectually, I never completely believed enough to feel it.
Aug 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teen, runaways
This was the most real (for lack of a better term) teen book I have read in a long time. Running away, drug use, drinking and sex are real and gritty. Not overly gritty in a fake way. But not so smooth and shiny as in other books.

I know this review makes no sense.
Aug 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen
I'd almost give it five stars. All his other books are 5 stars for me, but this one I liked just a little bit less.
Kate McCartney
Apr 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinshed
I am sort of stalled in this book. It hasn't engaged me.
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