Matthew wasn’t always a problem child, but now he’s screwing up—big time!
Growing up can be magical, but it can also break you in half if you’re not careful. That’s what Peter Wood’s engaging coming-of-age adventure novel The Boy Who Hit Back is all about.
A Heartfelt and Hilarious Young Adult Coming-of-Age Novel
After his parents split up and both his father and brother mysteriously vanish, high schooler Matthew transforms from Mr. Popularity into the archetypal Angry Young Man. When he runs away from home in a final act of riotous rebellion, he meets another of society’s castaways on the seductive streets of Greenwich Village: the panhandler Sailor Barlow, who offers Matthew a life of unparalleled freedom. But when Matthew learns a dark secret about Barlow, he’s certain he’s the only person alive who can save his new friend … even if he has to tear the whole world to pieces to do it.
With a heaping helping of heart, wit, and gut-churning honesty, The Boy Who Hit Back tackles the psyche of America’s troubled youth in terrifically entertaining fashion, making this novel a must-read for the young and young-at-heart alike.
Fans of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen are sure to love this inspiring young adult novel.
Read on for an exclusive preview of The Boy Who Hit Back. We hope you enjoy it.
An Exclusive Book Preview
Please enjoy this excerpt from Peter Wood’s The Boy Who Hit Back:
I may look like a normal kid, but on the inside I’m busted glass. I fake it good. I used to think I was okay, but since high school started, I began hating myself.
But ask me if I give a rat’s ass.
Three years ago, in eighth grade, I was voted “Most Popular,” and the kids elected me class president by a landslide. Girls loved me, I got good grades, and I’m an excellent athlete. So what’s the damn problem?
High school is the damn problem.
I didn’t decide to lose my popularity; it just flew away. Maybe it was all a huge mistake, me being popular in the first place. Reality kicked in, and everything began to slip away. The world doesn’t revolve around me anymore.
But who gives a crap? Not me.
So it’s eight o’clock in the morning and I’m cutting school again. I’m sitting alone on the A train heading into downtown Manhattan. I’m so sick of school. School sucks. My family sucks too. But the root problem is me. I’m my problem. I know that.
Just give me a little time—I’ll figure myself out. I’m a smart guy.
High school isn’t hard. So why am I escaping it? Why am I sitting in this dirty subway car next to complete strangers instead of sitting in class with my classmates solving a stupid math problem?
Because I am my problem. That’s why.
But, like I said, I could give a shit. I’ll untangle myself one of these days, just you wait and see.
This crowded subway car is rocking back and forth, the lights are blinking on and off, the air is foul, and the brakes screech. I’m looking at all these sad old people going to work. But, really, I’m looking at myself looking at them. Yesterday, while reading Hamlet out loud in English class, I pretended I was Mimi Breedlove and watched myself through her eyes. Of course, I started stuttering.
Yeah, even in this subway car I’m looking at myself. It’s a weird habit I have. I’m sitting quietly in the corner and I look like a healthy middle-class schoolboy from Closter, New Jersey—which, of course, I am, except for the healthy part.
Mimi, by the way, is the cute girl in the second row of my English class in Northern Valley Regional High School. I’m kind of in love with her. I’m a sucker for a pretty face.
“Excuse me,” says an old woman standing in front of me, gripping two shopping bags. “May I take your seat?”
“Of course,” I say, jumping up. “I’m sorry.”
“Thank you, young man.” She sits. “That’s very kind of you.”
She has a pretty face, but her paper-thin skin and stringy anorexic hair saddens me.
“Small acts of kindness,” she says, nodding, “are always rewarded.”
“I’m good at small acts of kindness.” I smile. “Small acts of intelligence and courage—I’m good at those too. It’s the big acts I have trouble with.” Of course I don’t say any of that. I just avoid her sweet motherly gaze and stare at the blackness of the subway tunnel.
All the way down to 125th Street she keeps smiling at me, thinking I am a warm, loving person. But honestly, I’m not a warm, loving person. I’m just good at pretending to be a warm, loving person.
My adventure into Manhattan on the A Train is always exciting. Even gray-haired old ladies, stale dead air, and disgusting subway rats are better than Mr. Buffington’s geometry class. Most people think the subway is dreary and boring. But it’s great theater. Last week I saw a man playing “Born Free” on the harmonica with his nose—only, he had no nose, just two nostril holes. Everyone felt sorry for him, including myself, and we dropped coins in his Army duffle bag. Two weeks ago, I saw two women clawing at each other for a cinnamon bun that finally dropped onto the dirty platform. In February, I saw a filthy drunk fall onto the tracks. All that stuff is pretty sad, if you think about it. I remember a rabbi once telling me, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
But today is the best—or worst.
When the subway door opens at 86th Street, a man and a woman, probably in their early thirties, enter. They’re very businessy-looking, but the woman is walking the man on a leather leash. A dog leash. The leash is attached to a chain choke collar wrapped around the guy’s neck. Both are holding briefcases, hers tan, his black.
She slowly trots him down the aisle, not smiling or anything. But they must be enjoying their weird show, even though everyone else ignores them and keeps reading their newspapers or sleeps.
They find two seats directly in front of me and sit down. She twists the excess leash around her fist and, as he attempts to sit beside her, she yanks it. “No!” she scolds.
He looks at her pleadingly.
“What did I tell you, Thomas?” she murmurs.
His wide eyes are like a naughty puppy dog’s.
“Don’t look at me like that!” she says.
“Please,” he whispers.
“Heel!” She yanks.
“Oh, c’mon,” he whispers, thick with humiliation. I mean, a dog leash was wrapped around the guy’s neck!
“I said heel!” she hisses.
He slumps down, squats on the floor, and rests his back against her leg.
She pets his curly brown hair and whispers, “Good dog.”
I try not to stare. But it’s hard. When a guy is sitting on the dirty floor of a subway car, wearing a dog collar wrapped around his scrawny neck, it’s hard not to stare.
He doesn’t bark, and she doesn’t feed him a bone, but I have to peek at them every now and then. It’s hard to find any real emotion on the man’s face—or hers. It just isn’t there. Every time the dog-guy catches me staring at him, I quickly look away. Our non-relationship exists only through our eyes. This whole thing is creepy.
“Are you looking at me?” he says softly.
I pretend not to hear.
“I said, are you looking at me?”
The woman pulls the leash. “Thomas! Behave!” She turns to me and says, “I’m sorry, he shouldn’t do that.” Then she yanks the leash again. “Right, Thomas? Right?”
He nods obediently. “Yes, Master.”
He keeps staring at me. It isn’t like he’s going to bite me, but I feel pretty uncomfortable. I notice a slight curl to his thin lips.
As the door opens at 14th Street, she unravels the leash, yanks him up, and they head for the exit. Before they leave, he turns, grins, and says, “At least I’m connected to something.”
His head yanks sideways and he is gone. But his left hand drops something that flutters to the floor. It’s a business card. I pick it up and read:
The Paradise Club
132 6th Avenue
What’s up with that?
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