Thoughts On: Scrawl by Mark Shulman

Time for another review! Don't worry, I'm not reviewing Nicki Minaj. Expect most of the works discussed here to be Young Adult books.

Recently, I checked out SCRAWL by Mark Shulman, which got nominated for a local award.

Tod Munn is a bully. He scares students out of their lunch money, hangs with his "droogs", and overall builds up a bad reputation. Circumstances are against him, like how his mom seems to not love him, and he hates his step-father. On the other hand, he gets good grades and is quite the speller, but nobody notices it...

After an unexplained incident, Tod's friends are send to yard work? Him? He has to stay in detention every day for a month with Mrs. Woodrow, the guidance counselor. There, he has to "scrawl" his story in a notebook. While at first he is quite reluctant, the notebook provides a way for him to uncover his inner injustices...

What stands out in SCRAWL is its version of a school. It's set in no city in particular, but its certainly an inner-city school. Students have to go through metal detectors and go pass sentries, cater to the blind inclusion program...I don't remember if it's a middle or high school (if the book ever even says it), but it's able to anchor my suspension of disbelief.

Not once there was a moment where I internally said "high school cliche!". At first, I revelled the injustices of the setting (in a "why do they have to be poor" way"), but Tod sketches a setting that isn't mundane, but it isn't unplasible either. It can exist in real life.

Something else that stood out is the "Man vs. Society" conflict throughout the book. Tod assumes a "I can't be changed" mentality as an extension of "you can't get out of the guetto". He's a genius, but the world conspires to make him think he's a loser. His parents don't do much, he hangs with the incompentant crowd, and the school at some points make an example out of him.

This injustice is the biggest. The school doesn't want the bully to rise, because of the effect it would have on others. Near the end, the hypocritcy the school factility dug themselves into is unraveled.

Personally, injustice is one of the strongest emotions books can get out of me. It's that "he doesn't deserve that" thought. "It's not fair". It makes me sympahtize with the receiver of the injustice, and want to stick around to see revenge extracted. One of these days, I'll elaborate on this.

Last of all, I liked how the book played around with the journal format. At one point, Todd ends up writing in two journals, which bends around time a bit. It also provides an amusing In Medias Res.

 SCRAWL is a four and a half out of five. While it's not the best, it's a compelling enough tale to make me want to read it again.