Author: Kevin Emerson
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 24, 2014
Number of Pages: 304
Source of Book: ARC from author in exchange for honest opinion
When Anthony's angst-ridden rock 'n' roll lyrics go viral, he's unwittingly cast as the school rebel. The truth is, he's not trying to be anyone's hero.There is something about this book that struck a chord with me as a middle school teacher. Anthony reminded me of students I have currently and had in the past who feel misunderstood by their teachers...and seeing events from his perspective makes me want to do better by them. For this reason, I think Breakout is a book that teachers should read (especially Emerson's author's note about the inspiration for this character).
Anthony Castillo needs a new life. His teachers are clueless autocrats except for Mr. Darren, who’s in charge of the rock band program. The girls at school are either shallow cutebots or out of his league. And his parents mean well, but they just make things worse. It’s as if Anthony is stuck on the bottom level of his favorite video game, Liberation Force 4.5. Except there is no secret escape tunnel and definitely no cheat code.
Fed up, pissed off, and feeling trapped, Anthony writes his first song for his rock band, the Rusty Soles. His only problem: Arts Night. If he exercises his right to free speech and sings his original lyrics—where his own bombs will drop—he and his band will be through.
The clock is ticking. Time for Anthony to pick his battles and decide what’s really worth fighting for.
Breakout will appeal to the boys in my classroom, but also some of the girls who want to get into the head of the boys and figure out what they're really thinking. But the best audience for this book will be the musicians or kids who feel misunderstood. They will relate to the main character and root for him as they go along on this twelve day journey with Anthony, to Arts Night when his band will play for the school, to figure out how to stand up for what he believes and be true to himself.
At it's heart, this is a book about perspectives and words and choices and wanting to be heard and being true to our feelings. That f-bomb word is a major factor in this book (although the actual word is never written out), but it's about so much more than just one polarizing word and a choice about whether to use it during a performance or not. The power of one word comes more from the intent behind it and the purpose for using it - it's about the emotion that caused that word to come out, as Anthony figures out and defends.
All of that being said, there were some specific references to things woven throughout that at times felt a little overused to me, but they did all end up connecting together at the end in a way that made sense. This could be more because I do not play video games, and so these references throughout would connect more with the intended teen audience who have more familiarity with them.
Kevin Emerson has again written a novel that is an ode to the music-loving teen, a call to action for teachers to understand their students, a story with universal themes of acceptance and finding one's own strength and figuring out what's right that will resonate with many readers, and rocking good writing that teens will relate to and devour.
Although Breakout is a different tone (and gender of main character) from Emerson's Exile, it is one to hand to students who enjoyed his writing and the music-centric elements.