Alex Flinn Breaking Point
240 pp. Harper Tempest (an imprint of Harper Collins). 2003 ISBN: 0-06-447371-6 (p’back) $8.99
“How far would you go to fit in?
Paul is new to Gate, a school whose rich students make life miserable for anyone not like them. And Paul is definitely not like them. Then, something incredible happens. Charlie Good, a star student and athlete, invites Paul to join his elite inner circle. All Charlie wants is a few things in return – small things that Paul does willingly. Until one day Charlie wants something big – really big.
Now Paul has to decide how far he′ll go to be one of the gang.
The electrifying follow-up to Alex Flinn′s critically acclaimed debut novel, Breathing Underwater, Breaking Point is a tale of school violence that explores why and how a good kid can go ′bad′.” (From the publisher)
With the incredible popularity in my Y.A. Lit class of Alex Flinn’s other novel, Breathing Underwater, I knew I had to buy and read more of her novels. Breaking Point did not disappoint.
Just like in Breathing Underwater Alex Flinn has developed intense characters struggling with critical issues. Paul doesn’t fit in at Gate and no one lets him forget it. He’s tripped in the halls, his locker is vandalized, and he’s teased relentlessly. To top it off, his parents have divorced and his father acts like he doesn’t exist. He’s stuck living at home with his mom who won’t stop crying or pulling out her hair. So when Charlie starts paying attention to Paul, Paul’s all too eager to befriend him, even when a girl at school warns him against it. Their friendship starts with vandalizing property, and for a short period of time the harrassment at school stops for Paul. Until he does something to upset Charlie. Paul knows he shouldn’t stay friends with a person like this, but his loneliness gets the better of him. This starts a never-ending string of problems for Paul.
I like this novel because we, the readers, know that Charlie is up to no good. But Paul is too desperate for a friend to notice what’s really going on. When bad things happen at school, he’s the last to think that Charlie could be the culprit. At times during the story, I did question the believability of how extremely naive Paul is. Charlie knew personal things about Paul before they even started hanging out; he knew Paul’s mom was pulling out pieces of her hair. Creepy much?
This novel is very similar to Gail Giles’ novel Shattering Glass and Robert Cormier’s novel The Chocolate War, both of which I love. All three novels deal with the severity of bullying and school violence. As the novel progresses it’s obvious that Charlie really has no compassion for anyone and is always two steps ahead of everyone else. Paul is so damaged from family issues and the tortures at school that I was tense the entire time I was reading because I didn’t know when he was going to break. Students need to read this novel because they need to see what can happen if you let others take advantage of you. And more importantly, if you lose sight of you are. Paul needed to stand up for himself and talk to people about how he was feeling, not get sucked in to trouble disguised as a friend.