Slouka, M. (2013). Brewster. NY: W.W. Norton and Company.
Jon is growing up in a small rundown town called Brewster. It’s 1968 and the world he knows is going through many changes. When Jon’s little brother dies, his mom becomes distant and blames Jon. Jon unexpectedly makes friends with Ray, a boy who has his own family problems. Ray’s dad is an abusive alcoholic. To cover up the abuse, Ray starts fights with others. Jon doesn’t really know that Ray’s dad is abusing him, he believes the stories that Ray is boxing at a club for money. When Ray finally tells the truth, Jon tells him he needs to get out. Ray begins making plans to secretly leave with his girlfriend. Ray's dad finds out and uses Ray’s little brother Gene against him to get him to stay. On the day that changed everything, Jon walks in on Ray’s dad beating him so badly that he almost dies. Jon tries to protect Ray and ends up hitting Ray’s dad with a metal club and killing him. The police don’t believe that it was Jon that did it, they think the constant troublemaker, Ray is the one who killed his father. Ray’s punishment is to enter the Army and be sent to the war in Vietnam. Jon later finds out that Ray was killed in action. Jon’s parents adopt Ray’s little brother and raise him as their own. This book was beautifully written and so emotional. The ending was sad, but satisfying. As I was reading, I was thinking of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. The main character, Jon, is in the conventional stage as he tries to do the right thing and tell others that he was the one that killed Ray’s dad. He wants to follow rules and laws and be honest about his involvement.
This book could be used with grades 9-12.
Check out this short book trailer I made for this book!