Thursday, May 3, 2018

Blog Tour: Tradition - Brendan Kiely

Tradition
Brendan Kiely
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?
REVIEW

Although I did not attend an elite boarding school, I found some of the "traditions" in this book hit home. I went to a very small high school in a very small town, where one of the senior privileges was access to a triangle of grass, wedged between the glass hallways of the building extension and the original school structure. This area was called the "senior lounge". The seniors would sit out there, relax, and as the girls walked by, the boys would hold up pieces of paper, rating each girl who passed. This "tradition" was demeaning to the women walking the glass hallway, but was never challenged.
I was incensed. Filled with rage, yes, but the word "incensed" has a deeper meaning. It was first used to describe fire-breathing animals on medieval coats of arms -- and that's exactly how I felt right then, like I wanted to breathe fire and burn their aggressive laughter right up in smoke. 
It's been a really long time since I thought about the senior lounge, and how it made me feel, but reading Tradition made me wish I had a Bax and a Jules back then, to challenge this activity, which was demoralizing and the norm in my school culture.

From Wikipedia:
Toxic masculinity is defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the "alpha male") and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.
Kiely deftly tackles toxic masculinity, sexual violence, and class issues. He does so in a way, that made me really pay attention. At no point did I feel as though I was being lectured or spoken at. Rather, Kiely let's these ideas merge with the story in an organic way, which kept me interested and listening.
He stole something else. Something deeper -- like the voice inside my head, the thought before my word, the rest before my heart. He took it, and everywhere I went, I walked as a person with something missing. I want it back. 
One of the things I really liked, was the way the story was told. Kiely employed the dual point of view structure, and it was perfect, because it allowed the reader to learn about Fullbrook from someone on the inside and from someone on the outside.
it was more how everyone acted. Like cruelty was currency, and the meaner you were, the richer you were. 
Jules was a Fullbrook legacy student. Her mother counted herself among the first females to attend the institution, but Jules was counting down until she could escape this school and its culture that disguised bad behavior as tradition. Once part of the "in-crowd", she was now viewed less favorably as a troublemaking feminist, and seemed alone in her battled.
I once heard another girl put it like this: This is a boys' school and they accept girls here too.
Bax was the outsider. He was awarded a hockey scholarship, and was automatically accepted as part of the "boys' club". However, there were circumstances, which brought Bax to Fullbrook. He had been part of a rather horrific accident, and he sort of lost it all back in Ohio. Because of what happened, he sought to become a better person. He reflected often on advice his ex-girlfriend gave him, and especially embraced the art of listening.
No woman had walked on the moon. And when she did, because surely that would happen one day -- wouldn't it? -- there would be all the jokes, because that was also inevitable. For every achievement there was always the joke intended to take it away.  
It was heartbreaking watching Jules fade before my eyes. I had so much rage for what happened to her, but was glad that she had Javier, Bax, and Aileen as her allies in this fight.
I guess I hadn't said anything when I'd seen others be that way to her. Collateral damage is real. What about collateral accountability? I hadn't thought about that. 
Bax was actually the standout for me in this book. His journey was one I was happy to be a part of. He actively had to wage a war with ideas that were so ingrained in him, but he did it, because he knew those ideas were wrong. It's a difficult line he had to walk, because he needed that scholarship. He saw Fullbrook as his last chance at a future, and therefore, Bax struggles throughout the story with challenging the school norms.  There were quite a few times I wanted to cheer for Bax, because I was proud of him, when he had to make those difficult decisions.
At a place like Fullbrook, a man could do whatever he wanted to me, to anyone, and get away with it.  
Overall: A thoughtful and honest look at what happens when we challenge "traditions", which I think will serve as an excellent conversation starter.

* ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

Learn more about Tradition from Brendan Kiely:


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brendan Kiely is The New York Times bestselling author of All American Boys (with Jason Reynolds), The Last True Love Story, and The Gospel of Winter. His work has been published in ten languages, received a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, the Walter Dean Myers Award, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award, and was selected as one of the American Library Association’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. Originally from the Boston area, he now lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.





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Have you ever questioned any of your school "traditions"?
Let us know in the comments!

28 comments:

  1. I guess I was one of the few who didn’t really do the “traditions” while in school. Jules sounds like my kinda girl and I could see myself rooting for her all the way. Wonderful review!!!

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    1. Jules was awesome, and her resilience was quite admirable.

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  2. I just started noticing this a couple of days ago, and haven't been sure what to make of it. But, your review showed me how off base I was about my (weak) assumptions. These are tough topics, I'm impressed with how the author pulled this together.

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    1. I am actually really blown away by him. I read a bunch of interviews, and he just knows how to present things to make you open to receiving the ideas and considering them, and he has a lot of things to say.

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  3. Wow, this sounds like a pretty powerful read. And pretty rage-inducing, too, at the thought that so much of this behavior is tolerated. Jules sounds pretty amazing. It's so hard to stand firm in the face of so much opposition - especially at that age.

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    1. It makes you take a harder look at things, and Kiely made me do it in a good way.

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  4. This sounds like a thought provoking read. Suprising to hear about the senior green at your school. I wonder if the kids still do that. Great review!

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    1. I am curious about the senior lounge too.

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  5. I really like the setting on this book; it seems like a really dark look at high school, but unfortunately, a lot of it is probably pretty accurate.

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    1. It's confronting those things that are ugly in a really honest way, but it doesn't get too dark.

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  6. This sounds like a really well done, powerful novel. I'm so glad to see male authors (in particular) tackling these issues because it's an important topic and it can't just be women screaming into the void, you know? Thanks for sharing.

    -lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Call me a cynic, but I think having a male author write this book is something that will make more people listen.

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  7. What a horrible tradition. I’m glad this book challenged traditions. Sounds like a good one.

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    1. I really enjoyed it and thought Kiely did a great job covering the emotional I'm pop act

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  8. What an insightful review, Sam. Thanks for sharing your personal story about a negative tradition. I am glad this book is out there to start conversations and hopefully show people that these types of behaviors are wrong.

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    1. This is definitely a conversation starter, and part of it is the way Kiely approaches it. I never felt like he was talking at me, nor did I feel he was heavy handed. It was just honest, and the voices came across as very authentic.

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  9. I didn't pay attention to traditions in school, but this sounds like an interesting read :)

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    1. A lot of these ideas can cross into what goes on outside of school, because it also focuses on being a feminist and a feminist ally.

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  10. The schools I've gone to never had any traditions. It seems like this book dealt with them very well and got involved in dismantling them. Great review!

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    1. Making people aware is the first step, and although this takes place in a school, these behaviors exist outside of schools.

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  11. This sounds like quite a powerful read. I think it is definitely one that will be an important tool for many for the sounds of it.

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    1. This book left an impression on me, and definitely had me thinking about a lot of things.

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  12. Hmmm this sounds incredible Sam! I wouldn't normally want to read about toxic masculinity TBH but this sounds like it was handled quite well... it reminds me of mental health (which actually is a fav of mine!) And I love that its a male author! How rare is that?! Great review!!

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    1. It addressed the issues in a way that made me want to listen.

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  13. I probably wouldn't have really considered this book before reading your review. There are so many toxic traditions and it sounds like this book handled things very well.

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    1. Kiely really did a fantastic job, and I love that he was inspired by schools who failed to protect their students.

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  14. Awesome review!! I added this to my TBR. It sounds really good!!

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    1. I hope you get to read it and like it as much as I did

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