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Grim account of a runaway teen is intense and disturbing.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Jamie describes his theft methods in detail. He and a friend pretend to collect money for a kidnapping victim but keep it for themselves. Jamie shoplifts and steals a boy's backpack. Jamie's father tells his mother she has "sausage thighs" and posts her weight on the refrigerator. Jamie's squad leader bullies him and calls him the "dumbest of the dozen." The track coach tells Jamie he has a "vagina" when he stops to rest and screams "Nothing but vadge!" at him. On the positive side, people help Jamie out, giving him rides and money. 


A boy Jamie knows sticks mechanical pencils in cats' anuses. With little remorse, Jamie hits joggers over the head to knock them out so he can steal their iPods. Jamie says he sometimes feels like putting his head through a window so "the jagged pieces tear my neck apart." Jamie wakes up with another boy's hand down his pants "like he was intending to finger me in my sleep" (the boy thought he was a girl). An older man tries to entice boys into his room; he gives one boy wine and when the boy falls asleep, stands over him and masturbates. Jamie gets jumped in a bus station restroom; they break a forty of Budweiser over his head and steal all his money and gear. An older woman slaps Jamie across the face and he punches her in the chest.


Jamie describes getting a "hand job" from a prostitute on a couple different occasions. Jamie hears that taking black market Viagra "makes sex way more intense, like you feel like you grow fangs." A man who gives Jamie a ride gets a hotel room and gives him oral sex. Afterward Jamie is "mad disgusted" and wants to smash the man in the head with his radio. He later calls the experience the "d--k-sucking saga." One of the homeless boys charges other boys a quarter to see naked pictures of his mother. Jamie gets stoned and has safe sex with a fellow teenager (described in some detail).


Jamie swears casually and constantly. The language include "s--t," "f--k," "motherf-ker," "piss," "t-tties," and "faggot-ass."  He calls women "skeezers;" his friend calls a junior-high girl named "Easy Elise" a "ho" and "skanky-ass juice box." Jamie says one of the military school cadets is associated with a group that screams, "Out with the n--gers." Jamie calls God a "f--king d--k" for letting his brother get cancer and dismisses a woman as a "f--king skanky bitch."


Jamie steals iPods and abuses Actifed. There are several mentions of name brands, including drugs, alcohol, soda, electronics, shoes, and video games.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Jamie is a drug user. He smokes pot and wonders if that messed up his hormones. He describes the after-effects of using meth. He gets drunk, abuses Actifed, and smokes clove cigarettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this contemporary fiction novel offers an intense, graphic portrayal of a runaway teen who abuses drugs and steals with little remorse. Jamie's first-person voice is honest and raw, with lots of cursing. He engages in many risky behaviors, including hitchhiking. The sex and violence are graphic and disturbing at times.

What's the story?

Jamie, dubbed "Punkzilla" for his love of punk music, is a "pretty" 14-year-old boy who looks 12. A runaway from military school, he hops a bus to see his gay older brother before he dies of cancer. Along the way, he writes letters to his brother about his experiences on the road, and what led him to go AWOL. After he's jumped in a restroom and robbed of all his money, he's forced to rely on a string of odd strangers to help him get to Memphis in time.

Is it any good?


Most teens will be captivated by the book's main character and find much to think about and discuss. In heart-wrenchingly honest, stream-of-consciousness letters, Jamie exposes his tough-but-innocent psyche to his brother, and on one occasion, to his mother (which, sadly, he never mails). Jamie's gritty voice is so authentic, it's easy to see how he manages to charm strangers despite a host of issues, including ADD and drug use. Seen through his eyes, even the most minor (and bizarre) secondary characters populate a fleshed-out world of brief alliances and constant betrayals.

Though the novel ends somewhat hopefully, this doesn't feel like the coming-of-age story that one expects because Jamie never really grows from his experiences.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Jamie's use of letters to tell his story. Would the novel be different if Jamie wrote emails or instant messages instead?

  • How does this old-fashioned means of communication meld with its very contemporary 2008 setting?

Book details

Author:Adam Rapp
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:May 12, 2009
Number of pages:256

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Teen, 14 years old Written bySlutguts April 15, 2011


i haven't read this book yet but just by reading the summery i cant tell it's going to be an amazing book ^.^
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written bykalealynn January 3, 2012

A Truthful Masterpiece

overall, this is a good book. when i first read it, i thought the book had too much wearing, and sex. but after a while, you begin to put yourself if jamies position. this book is really honest. it dosent try to trick you into thinking the character is perfect. it gives an honest truth about jamie, and how his life is. Overall, it was a very good book.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written byellanaRox December 21, 2009

Very Good! You should read it, I freaking swear it IS good!

This was one of the best books I've ever read! The reason I don't think it was inappropriate was because he was confessing to his dying brother in letters the entire book. He knew he was wrong for everything. How is that a bad person? It's also written the way a teen would speak. No commas in the entire book! Jamie points this out to. He also hangs with the wrong crowd to survive not to be 'cool'. A woman he meets pursades him to say breasts instead of t*ts. That's good right? And oh yeah he is also trying to quit his meth habit.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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