Select one of the keywords
Kung Fu High School    by Ryan Gattis order for
Kung Fu High School
by Ryan Gattis
Order:  USA  Can
Harvest, 2005 (2005)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Kung Fu High School is a gritty and raw account of a world in which violence is power, drugs are king, and people don't count. If you are not trained in martial arts, you will not survive at Martin Luther King High School ... literally.

MLK, or 'Kung Fu High School' as it is known by its students, is a war zone sanctioned by the administration. The principal is in cahoots with the twenty-three year old drug lord who makes all the rules, and the police look the other way. Life at school is like a dangerous chess game in which a wrong move can mean the difference between survival and death. No student is immune ... everyone must be indoctrinated into the game and there are no winners.

The novel is narrated by Jen, whose brother Cue is a leader of one of the school's gangs, and whose cousin Jimmy is world famous in martial arts. Initially I did not realize that the protagonist was female, perhaps because of the subject matter, or because the writer is male. There is nothing to really distinguish her voice as that of a young woman, but maybe that's the point - the system at Kung Fu High School does not exempt anyone from violence, girl or boy.

The adults, including teachers and parents, are either apathetic or fearful, and I wondered about their lack of outrage. When Jen's family experiences a tragedy, I was troubled by adults' seemingly subdued reaction to it. However, they are from a world in which the bleak present foretells an even bleaker future.

This book is unsettling and extraordinarily graphic. There are demonstrative illustrations provided throughout, that are unusual for a book of this nature, though they are interesting. The cataclysmic conclusion is reminiscent of Columbine, though on a much larger scale. The subject matter is handled deftly by Gattis. It takes skill to write eloquently about such a disturbing topic.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews