Lately, I have been in the mood for nothing but reading. Last week I signed up for NetGalley, a site that gives reviewers free e-books for review purposes. I stumbled across a book called Mean Little People from writer Paige Dearth, which I saw talked about awhile back on Goodreads. I decided to give it a shot. Here our my thoughts on Mean Little People.
Seven-year-old Tony Bruno just wants to fit in, but the bullies at his school are cruel and relentless. At home, he leans on his mother Teresa for strength and comfort, but she’s no match for his father, Carmen. His father, a fighter and bully himself, hates Tony. He is embarrassed by the child for not fighting back and wishes that Tony was never born.
Then as a teen, in one act of blind courage, Tony fights back shifting the balance of power with his peers. Even after Tony sets things straight with the neighborhood boys, his father continues to terrorize him. At school, Tony is now respected by his classmates. One day he stands up for a bullied kid named, Salvatore, and the boys become friends. One night, Salvatore commits a horrific crime and Tony suffers the consequences of his friends’ actions. Tony’s punishment changes the course of his life.
All alone and nowhere to call home, Tony sets out to find the life he longs for, one filled with love and acceptance. But nothing comes easily for him, and he is forced to draw upon strength from deep within to survive.
From the dark world he lives in, Tony does unimaginable things to leave his unwanted life behind.
Mean Little People is a haunting story of one bullied child deprived of love and taunted by corrupt individuals along his journey. Tony’s story will make you question the balance between good and evil.
Mean Little People is a pretty fucking rough read, and I don’t mean that the writing is bad or anything, but the abuse (as it should be) is hard to stomach. Tony is a good kid and doesn’t deserve any of the abuse he is subjected to. His young life is a living hell with no escape in sight. Every time his life starts to get a little bit better, things take a turn for the worst and things come crashing down around him. The good things in his life sometime even have a sinister lining, such as when Tony goes to Juvie for a crime he doesn’t commit and here he experiences the worst abuse of his life, leaving him mentally scarred and forever changed.
Let me just be frank, the instants of abuse and violence in Mean Little People are stomach churning and highly disturbing, even more so since most of it is directed at young children. We bear witness to beatings, near hangings, stabbings, guttings, shootings, tongues being cut out, multiple gang rapes, forced oral sex, anal rape and the prolonged torture and murder of a pregnant woman. This isn’t for the weak stomached and even the strong-willed might struggle with it.
Now that I have got that out of the way, I want to discuss the characters and the story. I spent the majority of the book feeling for Tony but also respected him. Tony is a fighter and survivor. No matter how bad things get, he never quits. Thankfully, Tony has a handful of people he cant count on including his friend Vincent (his former bully, who he bonds with over their abusive home lives), his friend Salvatore (a mobsters son who Tony goes to jail for), a kind baker and her granddaughter (who provide him with a job and food), and Kate, his first love.
I liked the way the story progressed, with a visible change in Tony the more trauma he experiences. He becomes a man who sees violence as power, a way to take charge. Through circumstances out of his control, he’s thrust into a world of gang violence and crime, becoming a perpetrator of horrific violence himself. However, seeing a clear divide between the abuse he has dealt with his whole life, and what he has to do now to survive. I loved Tony’s relationship with Kate. They were adorable together and I really loved seeing how Kate brought out the best in Tony and help him start to heal. The final act veers into extreme horror and revenge territory, with innocence being destroyed once again by a monster, which in turn creates another one.
Mean Little People is a physically and emotionally brutal novel that details the very real horrors of abuse that far too many have had to deal with. While not an easy read, I could barely put it down and I powered through it in a couple days. If you think you can stomach it, I highly recommend you check out Mean Little People.