Title: The Hurt Patrol
Author: Mary McKinley
Publication: March 31st 2015 by Kensington Books
Source: Publisher via Netgalley (thank you Kensington Books and Netgalley!)
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Bullying, LGBTQIA, Young Adult
Give me your nerds, your freaks, your huddled outcasts yearning to breathe free. Stick them in Boy Scout uniforms and you’ll have the Hurt Patrol—a sorry bunch of teen rejects who will never make Eagle.
Welcome to the club
Beau has been scouting since first grade. Not because he loves it, but because his dad does. It’s the only thing they’ve ever bonded over, what with Beau’s dad being into sports, beer, and brawling. So when they move to yet another Midwest town, Beau expects the usual Boy Scout experience, filled with horribleness and insults. Instead he finds something else entirely. Kicked out of every other patrol, their little band of brothers is equal parts nuts and awesome. For the first time, people are watching Beau’s back instead of throwing things at it. Nice. Novel. And also necessary, when you’re dealing with parents splitting up, crushes, first love, and coming out.
The first—and only—rule of Hurt Patrol: We are never going to win—but if you’re outcast elsewhere, you’ll do just fine here.
I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.
Once in a while, we stumble upon books that affect us so deeply we feel forever changed after closing the last pages. Then there are those that we abhor so much it’s not funny. But every so often we come across ones that we feel indifferent to. Stories we don’t have strong opinions for, for better or worse. The Hurt Patrol is such one cookie.
“I knew I was weird, but I just thought it was because I was smarter.”
One thing I like about this novel is how it depicts bullying as something that is not cool and that you can actually take actions to alleviate, if not wholly prevent, the blows. Sadly, however, that’s it. I had hopes for this book. The synopsis got me—the underdog trope—but I didn’t feel any connection with the characters. And that may have something to do with the length of the book, because it’s quite a short read, which didn’t leave much room for characterization. I mean, I know I’m supposed to sympathize with them. But it didn’t really come. Beau with his deprecating father and terrible coming-out episode. I wanted to be touched by his story, but all the time there’s an air of detachment I cannot quite shake off. Even the family story arc. I love family drama as much as the next person, but here the parents are one-dimensional, especially Beau’s father. The narrator, Rusty, is humdrum. And up until the end, Rusty’s motives for running away weren’t explained. (But maybe it’s because Beau’s story was the point; I don’t know.)
“Since we are both so hated on, it was like expresslane friendship. Buddies by default.”
There are neat lines every now and then, which is helpful. But it bums me out when I feel apathetic about a book and that’s the case with The Hurt Patrol, so much so that when a scoutmaster was talking deep talks, it fell flat. I appreciate what the author’s getting at, I really do, but I wasn’t invested in the characters enough to be fully hit by the emotional impact.
“I get such a deep feeling in my heart, of sadness. . . . That feeling that you’d do anything—no matter how painful, just to be accepted and thus more comfortable in your own mind.”
I’m antsy writing negative reviews (this counts as negative, right? Right), as I would rather prefer sharing things that I love. But here it is. The Hurt Patrol is a straightforward story that has cardboard characters. As with all my other reviews, this is highly subjective. You might enjoy stuff I do not and vice versa.
Mary McKinley is a TV writer/performer whose work has been featured most recently on the new Seattle-based sketch comedy project, The 206, and on Biz Kid$, an Emmy-winning young adult show on PBS. For the last thirteen years, she has written stand-up and sketch comedy with her partner, John Keister, as well as several TV pilots. A nearly lifelong Seattle resident, Mary graduated with a BFA from Seattle University.