September 14, 2012

Title: Tap Out

Author: Eric Devine

Published: September 11, 2012

Publisher: Running Press Book Publishers

Pages: 320

Seventeen-year-old Tony Antioch lives in Pleasant Meadows, a trailer park where questions aren’t asked since everyone already knows the answers from their own experience. He dreams of rescuing his mother from her constant stream of abusive boyfriends but in reality can barely duck the punches that are aimed at himself.

When Tony is coerced into joining his friend Rob’s Mixed Martial Arts class, he is surprised to find that he has a talent that he actually wants to develop. But with a meth-dealing biker gang that is hungry for recruits and a vicious cycle of poverty and violence that precedes him, Tony is going to need a lot more than blood and guts to find a way out.

Gritty, powerful, and unapologetic, Tap Out explores what it takes to stay true to oneself and the consequences of the choices made along the way in order to do so.

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  • Christina was conflicted about her feelings on this book, but ultimately places it on her bottom shelf.

**Note** An uncorrected eGalley of this title was provided by the publishers via Net Galley. However, that did not influence this review in any way.

There could be a few SPOILER-ISH THINGS! below depending on how carried away I get with this review. You have been warned.

The Lowdown: Told in the point of view of seventeen-year-old Tony Antioch, Tap Out is the disturbingly graphic tale of a young man’s struggle in life when the hand he’s been dealt is nothing short of a miserable existence. As a resident of Pleasant Meadows, his classmates always look down on him- no matter how “fresh” he keeps his appearance- and his band of trailer-park misfits as the lowest of low– white trailer trash. That’s the least of his worries, though. For as long as Tony can remember, his mom’s either been abusing alcohol or drugs or both and always been on the receiving end of punches from some low-life degenerate a**hole that she lets occupy her house and her bed. To block out the smacks and cries, Tony huddles beneath his pillows and covers in his room, dreaming of the day that he’ll be able to rescue her instead of cowering in fear, especially because the boyfriends always turn on him at some point, too.

However, a few adults- his principle, in particular- see Tony’s potential and through a series of events, Tony ends up at a gym taking a Mixed Martial Arts class with his best friend, Rob, and things finally appear to be looking up for him. But just like in real life, and even more so for those with less fortunate upbringings, there is always that negative entity that lurks in the shadows, ready to pounce at the opportune moment and drive you in the wrong direction. That negative force in this book is a drug-slinging bike gang that sets up camp in the same park as Tony. When he finds himself in between a rock and a hard place, circumstances force Tony to do things he’d never imagined (and always swore he would never) he’d have to do.

My Opinion: Why for the life of me I ever believed I could read this is beyond me. I don’t know… I guess I thought I’d read this story about a boy who had all the odds stacked against him, and somehow, he’d be able to break away from the mold and succeed in life, especially when he had people ready to back him and offer him several opportunities not only to make it out of the trailer park, but to actually make it in life. So for me, it was hard to watch Tony pass up all these chances and just accept that he had a certain crappy plot in life and that things couldn’t and wouldn’t change no matter how hard he fought against them. But how can someone know that if they never even tried?

I really wanted to root for Tony and his friends. Despite putting down the book at several turns and insisting that I was done, couldn’t read another page, I continued to pick it back up and hoped that his sheer will to survive, his fighter spirit to protect himself and his mom, would kick his behind into overdrive and he’d commit to bettering himself. I gritted my teeth through one sickening fight to the next, blinked through tears as Tony entered the same whorehouse that caused his good friend irreparable damage all for the sake of $500, and punched pillows after Tony made one stupid, ridiculous mistake after another and all for what? Nothing. In the end, I don’t feel like Tony was ever able to redeem himself. In fact, a few of his actions made me question whether or not he didn’t deserved to be put in prison or end up tied to the biker gang that he feared so much.

My Verdict: I was appalled when I saw that the targeted age for this book was 14-17 year olds. The crude language and frequency in which profanity (and even the derogative term used for African Americans) appears in this book had me aghast, and I swear probably more than any person ever should. Aside from the foulness of the prose, the overall graphic nature of the content left me stunned time and time again. I’m not stupid by any means and my childhood wasn’t rainbows and kittens (far from it if I’m being completely honest), so I know this type of world exists and that there are kids that face these hard truths every single day. It’s horrible, but it does happen. However, it is my opinion that kids at the targeted age shouldn’t be introduced to a world where a boy ends up choke-holding his own mother after watching countless men beat her near to death before or read about a man needing to beat a woman up to get his rocks off at a whorehouse or to see a father sell his daughter’s body to his supplier just for kicks. If this book draws any type of attention after publication, you can almost bet it’s making it on the banned book list.

♥ A very special thanks to Running Press Book Publishers and Net Galley for allowing me to preview this title. It went on sale Tuesday, September 11th.

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