The Brimstone Journals Book Poster Image

The Brimstone Journals

(i)

 

Free verse poems about troubled teens -- and school attack.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Violence

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

Sex

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.

Language

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

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

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?

QUALITY

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Ron Koertge
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:May 2, 2004
Number of pages:113
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17

This review of The Brimstone Journals was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Moving tale of girl whose brother died in school shooting.
  • Intense tale of school bullying, loss, and isolation.
  • Intense school-shooting book will trigger heated discussion.

Top advice and articles

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written byablackford April 9, 2008
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 people think this sorta stuff dusnt happin or dusnt go threw teens minds some of it actualy dus and it makes sence to write a book about it.
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 others that won't get it.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide