When the freshman year starts, one would think these two would be considered heroes but that's not what happens. For some reason, several of the teachers take against the two and they are singled out for ridicule in classes. Peter just wants to go unnoticed as that's his plan in life until he can get old enough to get out of his household and escape the town. Noah, who has a scarred face from an earlier trauma, is combative and his first instinct when bullied is to fight back. Both of them have a crush on the beautiful Lorelei, who was ignored and harassed at her last school and is hoping for a new start.
St. Michael's is on the verge of being closed due to a crumbling infrastructure and financial issues. The staff and faculty seem to have given up and turn a blind eye to the rampant bullying that goes on. Seniors take delight in having their year to do whatever strikes their fancy to freshmen. It is an institutionalized ritual that gets more brutal every year. When the annual picnic comes around with its showcase of ritualized abuse that is the freshman talent show, everything is in place for a tragedy. Can anyone turn things around?
Anthony Breznican has written a novel that will stir echoes in many readers whose education was marred by the casual cruelty of other students and by bullying that can turn violent and tragic in a moment. The atmosphere at St. Michael's has been exaggerated and the constant idea that there is nothing the faculty, staff and parents can do about the bullying doesn't ring true but otherwise he has captured the intensity of feeling and the strong friendships that this age often encounters. Peter and Noah are sympathetic characters and the book ends in a satisfying manner. This book is recommended for readers of young adult fiction.