Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

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

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.

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.

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