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Review – Kung Fu High School, Gattis

February 23, 2011

Fans of Battle Royale (Koushun Takami) and Severance Package (Duane Swierczynski) should definitely add this their reading pile. It is fast paced and keeps you on the edge of your seat. It doesn’t hurt that it is chock full of kid-like drawings showing you how to reinforce your daily clothing with plastic, giving you more protection from knives with out setting off school metal detectors.

This book may not be suitable for some readers. do not assume Pokemon or other cutesy text due to the name. this is a bloody violent unrelenting novel.

A quick summary-

Everyone knows some form of martial arts at Martin Luther King High School. This is where the locals get the nick name Kung Fu High. Defensive, offensive, a mishmash of street styles, suicide would be thinking you didn’t need to know anything in order to make it through a day. It is more like a “out-patient” prison psych-ward than a school. Avoiding a fight just means that the fight will come find you, and that you will be unprepared when it arrives. It is better if you go searching for the fight yourself, at least then you have a chance at catching it off guard.

Jen and her older brother Cue are both students at Kung Fu High. Their cousin is coming to stay with them after some concerns at home. Jimmy is a prize winning martial artist, who had promised his mother that he would no longer fight, after hospitalizing four men in self defense. Unfortunately for Jimmy, the people at Kung Fu High expect that he will be kicked in, and Jimmy being the champion he is, is a big target for a lot of fools to come after.

The thing about Kung Fu High is that you need to establish your boundaries very quickly. Your first day on campus, you need to find the biggest, baddest mofo on the quad and pick a fight, then you get “kicked in”, losing that fight. Getting your ass handed to you means that no one needs to take you down a peg as the new person, one needs to prove anything by hunting you down. It also shows that you cant just be pushed around, you are not afraid of taking a beating for the hell of it. Avoiding being kicked in means that it will be 10 times worse. a first day kick in could simply be a broken nose, avoidance could put you in the hospital.

Jimmy fails to establish this boundary.

Kung Fu High is a cesspool, unofficially run by drug lords and roving gangs. Cash goes to the city to keep the area less than nice, to keep the lights on, and to ensure that the cops only show up as figureheads when appearances are required.

Concerned parents can opt to take a child out of the school district and place them in private school, but what’s the point? Unless they move, they will still have to traverse the local streets and deal with the public school kids. Would you rather have a child that permanently eats through a straw, or one that might be able to avoid that fate with a little bit of extra-curricular face bashing? Better to let them slug it out in fear than guarantee they are screwed up for life.

This is one of the bloodiest books I have ever consumed. The descriptions of broken bones, contusions, bruises and trauma was enough to make me queasy at points. The school described here is one that I can imagine out of a post apocalyptic future, but t is intended to exist in the story line with in the next ten years.

There is no subtext here, so don’t look for it. Everything is black and white, the theme is spelled out for you using the teeth of your enemies.

As an aside, did you ever notice that subtext is an anagram for buttsex?
Read into that all you want to!

erisian [FNORDinc.com]

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