Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

The #SVYALit Hangout on Hazing – and a hazing book giveaway!

Yesterday we had a great discussion with authors Eric Devine (Press Play), Anthony Breznican (Brutal Youth) and Joshua Cohen (Leverage) about their books and the topic of hazing/bullying. If you missed that conversation, you can watch below, or for you podcast fans you can “press play” and listen to it as a podcast. Great news! Author Anthony Breznican is donating a copy of all 3 awesome book titles for a giveaway so do the Rafflecopter thing after the video to enter and win! For all the previous hangouts, discussions, book reviews and more be sure to visit the #SVYALit Project Index.

Don’t just listen to us talk about how awesome Press Play, Brutal Youth and Leverage are, read them for yourself! Or put them in your library for teens to read! We’re giving away a #SVYALit Hazing bookpack with 1 copy of all 3 titles to one lucky winner in the U.S. Enter between now and February 7 at Midnight with the Rafflecopter below.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

More on Hazing at TLT:

Take 5: Hazing

Breaking Tradition: Brutal Youth author Anthony Breznican on the fight against hazing

 Initiation Secrets: Press Play and a look at hazing rituals by Eric Devine

Bearing Witness to Violence, a guest post by Eric Devine

Take 5: Five thoughts I had while reading Brutal Youth

 

Bearing Witness to Violence, a guest post by author Eric Devine

Recently I was at a school in Harlem, giving my standard presentation of how I became an author and what my work is about, and I found myself at the section on Press Play, which many of the kids had read, and I was nervous to speak about the story’s roots. There, before me, sat multiple athletes and the athletic director, and I looked at them and said, “I hate jock culture. That doesn’t mean I hate athletes or sport, but I do detest the privilege athletes are given merely because they are strong, or can run fast, or throw a ball well. Those same privileges, by and large, are not afforded to students of similar academic prowess, and that is a problem.”

Boy do I know how to work a crowd :)

Yet, in spite of the bristling athletes and the way the director looked at me, they began to nod as I talked about how I looked at this concept in my work.

Press Play is about Greg Dunsmore, who is his own worst enemy. Bullied for being overweight, he has turned to his phone and the movies he makes with it for solace. He lies with his film and has a reputation because of it. He is a pariah, especially in a school dominated by its devotion for the boys’ lacrosse team. So in his senior year, for his film class documentary, as a way of demonstrating he is more than the lies and the taunts, Greg decides to film his weight loss. He wants this for himself, not for them, or possibly as a way to make one honest film. Therefore, he sets out with his “friend” Quinn to train. While doing so, the boys hear something going on during the lacrosse team’s indoor practice in a nearby gym. Greg grabs his phone and they investigate. This sets in motion the dilemma of the novel, because Greg finds the team brutally hazing the underclassmen and gets it on film.

What does one do with such evidence? Go to the principal or the authorities. But how does one do that when the principal is the coach and seemingly everyone in the town has either played the sport or is financially connected to the team?

And so the story takes on these two dimensions: the will-he-won’t-he-Hamlet-like waffling of Greg, alongside the increasingly horrific abuse. This scenario is an unfortunately common parallel to so many who find themselves in sexually violent scenarios. Who can you trust when your trust has been taken? How can you move on when you have experienced what you have, and yet in your gut know others may be victims?

Because it’s all about power, and so often victims have only their voice matched against entities infinitely more powerful than themselves. And so they stay quiet, and who can blame them?

Yet, here we have Greg, witness to the acts, with evidence, and in the age of all things internet, the possibility of a voice powerful enough. But he’s a liar. Has proven that time and again. What can he do, after years of being abused and subsequently and callusing himself with lies, to now help these victims?

I’ll let you read the story to find that out.

But I can tell you that after I detailed this scenario to the athletes and the school’s athletic director, it opened up a conversation in which the director asked about hazing in their school’s program.

Now, on the spot like that, I’m not one bit surprised that the kids said nothing occurred. So of course I asked, “Does it not occur, or do you not recognize it for what it is?”

That caught them off-guard.

And I think that this question is the key to the #SVYALit program. Replace “hazing” with “rape” and then ask the same question above to a teenager who isn’t comfortable talking about sex, much less a violent encounter with sexual elements. I think the response is universal, and is the one I received from the boys: shrugged shoulders, and a “maybe.”

This is why I am proud to be a part of the conversation. Because teens do commit violent acts against one another, and many have sexual aspects that make them rape. And yet teens are not fully aware of this, nor how to talk about it. Therefore, the chat Anthony Breznican, Joshua Cohen, and I will have on 1/28 is important. Hazing abounds in high school, in small incidents and in massive, conformist ways. And often it teeters on, and then falls into, sexual assault, and may be the one area in this spectrum of violence where boys are more represented than girls. That worries me. That predilection, or at least that shoulder-shrugging acceptance of violence, sexual or not, paired with the privilege of athletics, is a noxious creation.

Please, tune in, or catch our conversation after the fact. The angles of this issue are vast and knotty, and only through relentless exploration and discussion will we ever make headway. Because a shrug in the face of the aftermath of such violence is not only unacceptable, it is reprehensible.

 

Join us on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 12 Noon Eastern for a Google Hangout led by Press Play author Eric Devine and featuring Brutal Youth author Anthony Breznican and Leverage author Joshua C. Cohen. The topic will be hazing. Learn more about the #SVYALit Project.

More on Hazing at TLT:

Take 5: Hazing

Initiation Secrets: Press Play and a look at hazing with author Eric Devine

Breaking Tradition: BRUTAL YOUTH author Anthony Breznican on the fight against hazing

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Eric Devine is the author of fearless fiction: Press Play, Tap Out, Dare Me, and This Side of Normal. He is also a high school English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Eric is represented by Kate McKean of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

About Press Play:

Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.
Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.
Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities. – October 2014 from Running Press Kids

Breaking Tradition: BRUTAL YOUTH author Anthony Breznican on the fight against hazing

“Don’t get your ass kicked … Don’t get your ass kicked … Don’t get your ass kicked…”

Walking into my first day of high school, that was the one thought playing over and over again through my head, like a skipping record. I was 13 years old, about to turn 14 in a few weeks, and my best friend, Chad, whom I’d known since First Grade, was by my side. I’m pretty sure he was thinking the same thing.

As we go through life into adulthood, maybe we never stop thinking that.

“The things we surrender to when we’re young, we keep surrendering to the rest of our lives.”
Anthony Breznican, Brutal Youth

For sure, everyone enters high school full of fret and worry, along the hope and promise that things might get better, that a new start is possible.  In my case we’d been warned repeatedly about our little Roman Catholic school in Western Pennsylvania. It came in the form of one word: “Initiation.”

Chad’s older brother had graduated from there the year before, so we heard lots of stories about ritual humiliation inflicted upon the newbies by the upperclassmen. He made it sound pretty dire, not to mention inescapable. Every other scrap of intel we heard about the place from other students confirmed the same.

We were prepared to hurt. There didn’t seem to be any other choice.

For a lot of kids out there today, there still isn’t.

*****

All those old experiences came back to me years later when I sat down to write a novel about growing up. I named the book Brutal Youth after a line from an Elvis Costello song called Favourite Hour: “Now there’s a tragic waste of brutal youth / strip and polish this unvarnished truth.” That song came out the year I graduated high school, and it seemed to sum up all my heartbreak and struggle and anger from that age. I feel like it should have amounted to more.

But really, it did. It shaped who I became, what I cared about, how I treated other people. I tried to put all those memories into my book – things that happened to me, things that happened to others I knew – to say something about the origins of cruelty and how it perpetuates itself.

When Karen Jensen of Teen Librarian Toolbox got in touch to say she wanted to include Brutal Youth as part of a group read about hazing, along with Eric Devine’s Press Play and Joshua C. Cohen’s Leverage, I was thrilled because it’s a topic that means a lot to me. This isn’t just a high school issue, although that’s a great setting for these kinds of stories because hazing is right at the forefront of that experience. But all through life, there are people further up the ladder who will go out of their way to make your climb a lot harder.

The thing each of these books has in common is a question: What do you do with power once you get it? Do you step on someone else’s hand … or do you reach yours down to help pull them up?

It’s hard to believe in the science-fiction-sounding year of 2015 that there was ever a time when a high school’s administration actually sanctioned hazing, but … well, we had a hard time believing it back in 1990, too. It still happens today in many places – high schools, football teams, fraternities are the usual suspects. And always the hazing is reinforced by authority figures who look the other way, even if they think they aren’t.

*****

We heard all the old arguments at my school …

The administrators claimed Initiation would bond the freshmen in some kind of shared struggle. They also claimed that it would unite the upperclassmen and allow them to “let off steam” as they faced the pressures of college or work. It was also “Tradition.” If generations of students had gone through the same trials, why should it stop for us?

“It’s not enough to step in front of people’s bullets; you have to be bulletproof too. You have to be harder than anything anyone else can throw at you, and sometimes you risk losing yourself just trying to save yourself.”
Anthony Breznican, Brutal Youth

Another thing the grown-ups in our lives told us was: “Just go along with it.” If we resisted, if we fought back, or refused to participate, we would very likely get it worse. I guess this was my problem. I wasn’t brave or very strong, but I was a smartass. I was a nice, annoying target for anyone looking to vent some rage.

And I already had a deep dislike and mistrust for authority. Even at that young age, I’d seen far too many adults misuse their power, or shrug off and dismiss whatever pain kids might be going through. As a grown-up, overloaded with bills and responsibility, it’s easy to believe kids don’t have real problems.

That’s another time-honored “tradition” for you: Forgetting what it was like.

Whether it’s a distance of decades as a parent or teacher, or the mere difference of three years between a freshman and a senior, it’s easy to forget what it felt like being a pip-squeak walking into a new school, being told you are going to be tormented for no good reason except that frustrated older kids find torturing you to be relaxing. When people need to get off on that kind of power trip, there’s something wrong with the system that created them.

So when we weren’t singing songs or serving lunch, we were getting pulverized in the hall, tripped, pushed, punched, called names (mine was “Brezni-shit,” real clever) and humiliated and ostracized in myriad ways we try not to remember and hope no one else does, either.

*****

We value things more when we suffer for them. That’s undeniable.

The more grueling the class, the more satisfying we find that good grade on a test. The harder we work, the less we throw our money away on frivolous things. And the more we accomplish, the greater that feeling of pride when others recognize our talent or expertise.

Every single person who becomes really good at something pays a price for it. It’s natural to feel the same respect shouldn’t come easily to those who haven’t earned it yet.

So, I believe in paying dues. But I don’t believe in hazing.

Hazing uses the same argument to justify cruel and sadistic behavior, but it’s a lie the perpetrators tell themselves to rationalize letting their angry, ugly sides run amok on others who have done nothing to deserve it.

The idea behind hazing is: “If you can survive this, then you’ve earned your place.” But really, all it proves is that the people doing the hazing never deserved their status in the first place. And they expend all that energy not trying to make the world around them better, but trying to make things miserable for the people following them.

Now there’s a tragic waste …

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Anthony Breznican was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. He’s a senior writer with Entertainment Weekly, and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two kids, and three cats. Brutal Youth is his first novel.

About Brutal Youth:

Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that’s even worse in Anthony Breznican’s Brutal Youth

With a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.

To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive. (Publisher’s Description)

You can buy Brutal Youth at Amazon.com

Join us on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 12 Noon Eastern for a Google Hangout led by Press Play author Eric Devine and featuring Brutal Youth author Anthony Breznican and Leverage author Joshua C. Cohen. The topic will be hazing. Learn more about the #SVYALit Project.

More on Hazing at TLT:

Take 5: Hazing

Initiation Secrets: Press Play and a look at hazing with author Eric Devine

Take 5: Hazing

Earlier this month it was revealed that the football program at Sayreville in New Jersey was suspended due to allegations that the team was engaging in horrific acts of hazing that included sexually abusing their team mates. Hazing asks – forces, requires – people to do embarrassing or dangerous acts in order for them to be accepted into a group. It says you can be one of us if you are willing to do this thing, and that thing often ranges from embarrassing to illegal, violent and sometimes deadly. To date, 7 teens have been charged for their participation in the Sayreville hazing acts, with more possible charges to come. It is a stark reminder that hazing is a real and current issue, not just in our colleges but in our middle and high schools as well.

Here today are five YA lit titles that deal with hazing.

Press Play by Eric Devine

Coming out later this month, Eric has already told us a little bit about Press Play. You can read that here and check out his Initiation Secrets Tumblr in support of the book and in an effort to raise awareness of hazing.

“Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.

Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.


Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities.” (Publisher’s Description)


Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican


Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that’s even worse in Anthony Breznican’s Brutal YouthWith a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.

To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive. (Publisher’s Description)

Library Journal gave Brutal Youth a starred review in June of 2014 stating, “Breznican captures a perfect balance of horror, heartbreak, and resilience and takes the high school novel into deeper places.” And you can read his interview with School Library Journal here.

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

“The football field is a battlefield

There’s an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on – and off – the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy – including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school’s salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.” (Publisher’s Description)

In December 2010, Booklist gave Leverage a starred review.

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon M. Draper

“WARRIORS ROCK!
 
Sixteen-year-old Jericho is psyched when he and his cousin and best friend, Josh, are invited to pledge for the Warriors of Distinction, the oldest and most exclusive club in school. Just being a pledge wins him the attention of Arielle, one of the hottest girls in his class, whom he’s been too shy even to talk to before now. 


But as the secret initiation rites grow increasingly humiliating and force Jericho to make painful choices, he starts to question whether membership in the Warriors of Distinction is worth it. How far will he have to go to wear the cool black silk Warriors jacket? How high a price will he have to pay to belong? The answers are devastating beyond Jericho’s imagination.” (Publisher’s Description)

In 2003, VOYA gave The Battle of Jericho a 4Q, 4P rating stating that it is a reminder to adults that if youth are asked to choose between fitting in and putting themselves in danger, they will in fact choose the danger. The truth is, everyone is just looking for a place to belong and we will sometimes go through incredible trials to be accepted.
 
Divergent by Veronica Roth

It was interesting when doing research on Hazing (for an upcoming #SVYALit Project discussion, more on that in a minute) that many people discussed Divergent as a title that belonged on this list. I hadn’t really thought of it in that way, but of course there are many trials or tests that Tris must go through even to get inside the Dauntless faction dorms that could be considered a type of hazing, from jumping off the moving train to jumping off the building. I’m putting it on this list because I think it makes for some interesting discussion about what hazing is and how normalized it may appear.

More:
Books Tagged “Hazing” in Library Thing
Daniel Kraus list of Hazing titles in Booklist

Additional Resources:
NPR: History of Hazing
Pinterest board: Hazing Prevention Week 
Hazing Prevention.Org 
For more on hazing visit StopHazing.Org.

In January, as part of the #SVYALit Project, we will be talking more about the topic of hazing. Not all hazing involves sexual violence, but hazing CAN involve sexual violence and we’re going to talk about that. Authors Eric Devine, Anthony Breznican and Joshua C. Cohen will be joining us and we’ll be reading PRESS PLAY, BRUTAL YOUTH and LEVERAGE. Look for more information in December when the 2015 #SVYALit Project schedule is announced. And please be sure to read the books and join us for this important and sadly timely discussion.

Initiation Secrets: Press Play and a look at hazing rituals, a guest post by author Eric Devine

What are you willing to do to belong to a group? That’s what hazing is, being asked to do certain things in order to be admitted into a special group of people like a team, a club, or a sorority or fraternity. Often the things people are asked to do to prove they are worthy can involve humiliating themselves, sometimes it involves hurting others. And sometimes, people die. Author Eric Devine has written a new novel, Press Play, that explores the way a school’s lacrosse team initiates its new members. As part of the promotion for the book Running Press Kids and Eric Devine are collecting initiation stories on Tumblr to raise awareness about the practice of hazing. Here’s Eric talking about it all in his own words. For more on hazing visit StopHazing.Org.

“If there’s anything I’m sure of, it’s that weight is hard to lose, and kids are ruthless.”
                                                           
                                                                                    ––Greg from Press Play

Greg’s assessment of life comes early in a story where both his weight and the brutal nature of teen culture are center stage. And Press Play does not hold back on the difficulties the overweight protagonist faces. But the brutality is not only directed at Greg. It comes from all angles, particularly, from the beloved lacrosse team and their hazing rituals.

I have been around high school athletics for over twenty years, as an athlete, coach, and teacher. Many aspects of sport have changed, but the bedrock that has remained is the necessity of players to assimilate the culture of the team, either willingly, or through demonstrations of such loyalty.

created this Infographic about High School Hazing which you can see full size here

And yet, this need for sacrifice or to demonstrate one’s conformity, is not unique to sport. Hazing, or initiation rituals, occur within the drama clubs, marching bands, and religious youth groups. Therefore, the question becomes: how prevalent are acts of initiation within the high school culture?


I’m assuming pretty high. I believe that if students were polled about the various ways in which the have had to submit to the pressures of the group, we would be astounded with the results. I believe young adults emulate their predecessors, and to a degree, desire to exert their power and dominance as they see it done by adults. This coercion, or outright abuse of power, is the angle for my Tumblr, Initiation Secrets.

Together, my publisher (Running Press) and I have created a site for teens and adults to share anonymous stories about their initiations. The idea is to demonstrate how prevalent such acts are and to showcase the variety of areas from which they emerge.

Additionally, there are resources for teens, parents, teachers, and administrators, who recognize the “fun and games” or “traditions” are more than that, and are in fact damaging practices that have profound and long-term impacts on those who participate in them.

Please, take the time and check out the site. Share it with educators and coaches and students who you know. Share it with adults you know, who still carry the weight of what happened “back then.” This is not an echo chamber of horror stories, but rather a way to have a voice, now, when none was available previously.

About Press Play:

Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.

Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him

.
Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities. (October 28 from Running Press Kids)

About Eric Devine:

Eric Devine is a high school teacher and the author of Tap Out, Dare Me and the upcoming Press Play, all from Running Press Kids. He blogs here at Teen Librarian Occasionally and wrote a chapter in The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services, edited by myself and Heather Booth and published in July 2014 from ALA Editions.