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3.57  ·  Rating details ·  1,362 Ratings  ·  257 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
Paperback, 256 pages
Published December 28th 2010 by Candlewick (first published May 12th 2009)
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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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 to
Jennifer Wardrip
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
juan carlos
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Una historia que narra verdaderamente el universo de la calle, los moteles y la oscuridad de la delincuencia y la juventud pérdida en el asfalto.

¿Para qué leer Punkzilla?
1. Los temas que abarcan son bastantes originales, ya que pasa de familia modelo a familia disfuncional, a cadenas subyugantes llamadas padres y terminar con el amor de hermanos.
2. Explica perfectamente los temas de drogadicción, homosexualidad, transgéneros, prostitución infantil y los peligros de la calle.
3. El tema de confian
Samantta S.
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un libro que nos muestra el viaje de un adolescente que poco a poco se va forjando una idea de la vida.

¿Qué es lo que verdaderamente importa?
Léalo usted mismo.
Ringo The Cat
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, ya
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  ·  review of another edition
"...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 eve
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
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Esta es, probablemente, mi novela favorita dentro del género "juvenil". eso se debe a que aborda su tema sin la menor condescendencia pero, a la vez, sin caer en la sordidez o el cinismo que suele caracterizar al "realismo sucio". La trama de esta novela es simple: nos cuenta la historia de Jamie, un adolescente que huye de una escuela militar y que ha de atravesar Estados Unidos para buscar refugio con su hermano mayor que, por cierto, es gay. Y tiene cáncer, muy avanzado. Aquí empiezan las com ...more
Dyonte Hutchins
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tori 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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Adele Griffin
Feb 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Punkzilla is a really great ride across the country, but don't be fooled, it's not a straight road trip story. The voice is so sharp and fierce and funny that it becomes addictive, and the character is so real and lost and sweet that he becomes unforgettable.

(oblique spoiler alert)

I'm not sure I would have been so actively attempting to solve the question about whether these letters were getting out or not if it hadn't been the question posed on the flap copy, and I think that this might be a mi
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, 1dayread
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinshed
I am sort of stalled in this book. It hasn't engaged me.
Este libro rompe tanto en ti. Es duro, pero muy similar a Jaimie: por fuera puras espinas y problemas...por dentro, necesidad.
Me gusta el estilo de Rapp para representar a Punkzilla, pero me ha dejado muchos vacíos en medio de la lectura y una sensación de que no llegamos a reconocer del todo a los personajes que habitan el libro (en especial a la familia de Zilla, pero ¿quién necesita de los demás?). La idea de hacer una correspondencia para hilar la historia (aunque no en una secuencia tempora
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Adam Rapp says that when he was working on his chilling, compulsively readable young adult novel 33 SNOWFISH, he was haunted by several questions. Among them: "When we have nowhere to go, who do we turn to? Why are we sometimes drawn to those who are deeply troubled? How far do we have to run before we find new possibilities?"

At once harrowing and hypnotic, 33 SNOWFISH--which was nominated as a Be
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P.S. I can't believe you're dying. Please don't die.”
“I asked her if she liked PJ Harvey and she said that she liked her old stuff mostly and that Uh Huh Her was pretty good too and then I tried not looking at her for a minute because she was starting to mad own my gaze like in a magnetic way and I didn't want to sweat her too much.” 0 likes
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