The Brimstone Journals

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Brimstone Journals Book Poster Image
Free verse poems about troubled teens -- and school attack.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Short installments could make this a good choice for reluctant readers. Some parents and teachers may want to use this book to talk about empathy, bullying, and school violence.

Positive Messages

There is an important message about the pain many high school kids feel as they struggle with unique problems in the often intolerant halls of high school.

Positive Role Models & Representations

These kids have problems -- for example, a white supremacist is planning a violent attack on his school -- but reading about the struggles of other kids can teach teens to empathize with those who are different from them.


Lots of weapons, a planned but thwarted school assault. Some beatings referred to but not described.


References to condoms and "doing it." Two teens have sex, not graphic; another worries that she might be a lesbian, and yet another has sex with a number of married older men, not described.


An array of four-letter words, and racial and sexual epithets.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to doobies, joints, "blazing up," and underage drinking. A father gives his son beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book examines the harsh world of high school in an easy-to-read format that works well to lead reluctant readers into passionate discussion. The narrators chronicle events leading up to a planned school attack. There's lots of sensitive material here, but reading about the struggles of other kids can teach teens to empathize with those who are different from themselves.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byablackford April 9, 2008
Adult Written bystp136 April 9, 2008

Anyone been thru high school will understand this.

There will be a character you will associate yourself with if not actually relate too. Very moving and sad to know that even if we try to help there will be oth... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byChicklett April 9, 2008

Kept me reading

i loved this bok ive read all other books of his b4 like the stoner and spaz and absolutly loved the book and i found this book to be very..realistic even if pe... Continue reading

What's the story?

Fifteen high-school students tell their stories in a series of free-verse poems. They chronicle the events, large and small, leading up to an attack on the school planned by one of them. They are bully and victim, white supremacist and African-American, anorexic, anarchist, jock, and more. They rebel and conform, rant and plead, preen and worry. But only one will do anything about the attack that all can see coming.

Is it any good?

The characters may not be developed, but their voices and concerns are often real, and raw, and there's a lot of meaning packed into a few words. Though all the different voices can get a bit confusing, the types a bit clichéd, and the ending a bit too easy, the author shows how the mundane, everyday concerns of teens can be more important to them than the disaster looming before their eyes.

Almost any of these short, simple poems, chosen at random, could be a discussion starter between parent and teen, or teacher and class. Cumulatively they give teens much to think and talk about.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the free verse format. How would the story be different if it had been told in narrative? Or from one character's perspective?

  • Do the characters seem stereotypical, or do you recognize any of these voices from your school? Do you identify with any of them?

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