Scrawl takes place in a version of my high school.
The school was/is an inner city school in Rochester, NY.
Students ranged from 7th to 12th grade.
The school had over 3,000 students.
The school had a special teen smoking area.
There were armed police.
The windows could barely open.
The windows were designed this way to help the air conditioning.
There was no air conditioning.
In the warm months, it was hard to stay awake.
The literacy rate hovered at about 50%.
The dropout rate was maybe 25%.
Steel gates divided the halls.
The drinking age was 18.
If you were 18, no one could stop you from going to a bar and drinking at lunch.
Some of the students were 20 or 21.
Some of the students had children.
Our basketball team was exceptionally good.
It wasn’t good the year some of the players robbed the corner deli.
They used the team’s starting pistol.
They covered their faces with stocking masks.
They wore their team jackets.
The jackets were embroidered with the player’s names.
They got caught.
Two of my teachers were violently killed the year I had them.
I walked a mile and a half to school every day. Rochester, NY is officially the snowiest city in the United States.
I was in a lot of fistfights.
The authorities never stopped any of the fistfights I was in.
I never won any of the fistfights.
I never even used my fists, except to cover my face.
The majority of students weren’t likely to go to college.
The school had a shop wing for students to learn a trade.
There was auto repair, heating repair, food prep, and so on.
I took printing.
This was in the dark days, before computers.
I learned the minutia of setting type, composing a page, and running a printing press.
I also got my inky hands on the school newspaper.
I figured out how to write.
And that’s where the real trouble began.
In Scrawl, the so-called hero, Tod, is a new and improved version of the bullies who made my teen years memorable. Tod has already made the bad choices. Now he’s got to make the hard ones.
The story begins with Tod and his gang a heartbeat away from the juvie. Tod’s wise and weary guidance counselor has already separated him from the other boys. They’re picking trash outdoors every afternoon while he’s forced to write freestyle in a detention journal, under his counselor’s eagle eye in a stifling study hall. Of course Tod fights this indignity, until he gets to liking the effect writing is having on his clever, smart and troubled mind. The gang gets resentful. But once Tod begins thinking more clearly, he starts to examine what it really means to be a troublemaker, a wise guy, and a bully.
Scrawl is Tod’s journal, from start to finish. When the book begins, he’s any tough kid in a tough spot. By the time the book ends, he’s made his choices. I think they’ll surprise you. They sure surprised me – I didn’t see the ending coming either.