cover image Scrawl


Mark Shulman, Roaring Brook/Porter, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-59643-417-2

Shulman (Mom and Dad Are Palindromes) makes his YA debut with the story of Tod, a school bully forced to spend detention writing in a journal. Tod's latest crime was breaking into school with his buddies to steal a video camera, but he has a long history of beating up kids for their lunch money and destroying property. He's also a superb student, hiding his good grades behind his rough demeanor. As he writes, details of his home life emerge. Tod's house is barely habitable, and he is forced to help his mother in her job as a seamstress to make ends meet. His bullying is often less about wanting to hurt other kids than genuinely needing money, although he doesn't show much remorse. There's little that hasn't been done before—the overly smart bully with a troubled home life is a standard trope—but Shulman throws in some nice twists and gives Tod a strong, solid voice. Even the inevitable ray of hope doesn't fully distract from the bleakness of Tod's life. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)