“Do people wear masks to cover their true selves? Within Branston High School, often referred to as Brimstone in the novella The Brimstone Journals, students have become victims of profiling and being profiled by one another. Through their explicit yet direct poetry, these students showcase their inner feelings and struggles. For example, Kelli, who is developing a sense of autonomy from her demanding and overpowering boyfriend, Damon, expresses through her writing that she craves her own self-perception to be strengthened. Damon, on the other hand, displays overzealous cockiness and insensitivity. Simultaneously, Lester struggles with his own self-perception and lack of self-confidence, and is constantly bullied by Damon and his fellow “jocks.” Boyd, who befriends Lester, has also been a victim of hallway harassment and has no connection with his alcoholic father, forges a plan to make people at his high school “pay” with the help of Lester and other friends. What will happen? Will Boyd ever learn to cope? Will Lester develop inner strength, and will Kelli let others ever really “see” her true self?
This exciting text, which contains current, real-world issues, touches upon many different topics, such as dating, bullying, rage, substance abuse, and familial complications. Due to its graphic nature, I would most definitely use this text for high school students, or choose appropriate poems to share in a middle school setting. This book would be perfectly paired with Nikki Grimes’s “Bronx Masquerade,” since both texts rely heavily on the theme of removing one’s “mask.”