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Scrawl by Mark Shulman - Review by Saul, Teen Blogger

The story of an anti-hero is one of the more difficult things a writer can do. Trying to get the reader to empathize with a character who is evil is the main problem with this type of writing. Scrawl is a book that takes this idea to a familiar setting for many people, specifically a high school. The main protagonist is an unpopular, poor boy named Tod Munn, or Pops as he is known to his friends, and he is a bully, a thief, a fighter, and a constant problem for his school.

We have all seen bullies; many readers may be victims of such people. Yet with just a few chapters Shulman manages to create a character who is clearly more than he seems. It helps that the book is first person, showing the thoughts and feelings of Tod, as well as his reasoning behind all of his actions. This is not to say that he is a good person, he certainly is not, only that despite his wrongness I felt myself rooting for him throughout the whole novel. Praise should certainly go to how real and dynamic this character feels.

Another aspect of Scrawl that is done particularly well is the back and forth arguments between two characters. The book is written in the form of a journal and both characters will write comments after reading each chapter, talking about the various events. They often argue as they have two completely different viewpoints and to me these are some of the best parts of this book.

What seemed to put me off, at least throughout the first part of the book, was how slow it took for the real plot to get started. The real meat of the story does not begin until at least a third into the novel. The pacing jumps quickly from achingly slow to excitingly fast around this point, but a reader may have to endure a little dullness from the start.

Despite how long it took to get started, the character development of our beloved anti-hero is one of the best I have read. What I particularly enjoyed was how it was an actual process; there was no single event that changed his personality, but a slow and steady road through a deep and complex character story. It is very real and tremendously exciting.

Scrawl is a book that gives us a new perspective. It does not support bullying or dismiss all bullies as downright evil; instead Shulman follows a path of realism. Being open-minded and exposing oneself to different ideas is key for proper empathy, and this story helps show that the world is not black and white. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a great character story, or simply wants to see the world in a different way.


Teen Blogger


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