Ron Koertge's teen novel is the story of fifteen students from the class of 2001 at Branston High School who tell a fascinating story through their poems, written so they appear to be journal entries.
Each student writes five poems, and they're interspersed throughout the book. The Jock, the Girlfriend, the Class Slut, the Angry Black Student, the Boy who is Bullied. Each student represents a stereotype, but in just five short poems they overcome that stereotype to become people. In the school that the students refer to as Brimstone, a reference to the end of the world, some of the students are angry enough at their lives and their classmates to think of violence.
As the students tell their stories, each one has a small piece of the puzzle that comes together. The expected violence does not come as a surprise. The students who speak up just might surprise readers.
In a small book of just 113 pages, Koertge has given voice to the anger and frustration pent up in so many young people. It's a effective way of creating a story and a message, so effective that it has won numerous awards. Koertge's students speak out in loud voices that demand to be heard.
The Brimstone Journals by Ron Koertge. Candlewick Press, ©2001, ISBN 0-7636-1742-3 (paperback), 113p.