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The Punk and the Professor

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Somewhere in a college classroom, the ancient myth of Plato's Allegory of the Cave is being retold and someone is remembering. In the suburban shadows of New York City, Jack Tortis crawls through his adolescent struggles. He's an introvert in search of home, but he's been branded a punk on an island with little opportunity for redemption. Set in the 1980s and '90s with a s Somewhere in a college classroom, the ancient myth of Plato's Allegory of the Cave is being retold and someone is remembering. In the suburban shadows of New York City, Jack Tortis crawls through his adolescent struggles. He's an introvert in search of home, but he's been branded a punk on an island with little opportunity for redemption. Set in the 1980s and '90s with a soundtrack of tunes in the background, Jack and his friends try to find their way through love, hate, dysfunction, and illusion. In a battle for survival, they must overcome the violence, drugs, and apathy that infects their community. As winter approaches, Jack finds himself alone at the crossroads and must choose his fate. This is a coming of age story with perspective framed by an ancient tale of wisdom that reminds us how reality is not always what it seems.


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Somewhere in a college classroom, the ancient myth of Plato's Allegory of the Cave is being retold and someone is remembering. In the suburban shadows of New York City, Jack Tortis crawls through his adolescent struggles. He's an introvert in search of home, but he's been branded a punk on an island with little opportunity for redemption. Set in the 1980s and '90s with a s Somewhere in a college classroom, the ancient myth of Plato's Allegory of the Cave is being retold and someone is remembering. In the suburban shadows of New York City, Jack Tortis crawls through his adolescent struggles. He's an introvert in search of home, but he's been branded a punk on an island with little opportunity for redemption. Set in the 1980s and '90s with a soundtrack of tunes in the background, Jack and his friends try to find their way through love, hate, dysfunction, and illusion. In a battle for survival, they must overcome the violence, drugs, and apathy that infects their community. As winter approaches, Jack finds himself alone at the crossroads and must choose his fate. This is a coming of age story with perspective framed by an ancient tale of wisdom that reminds us how reality is not always what it seems.

52 review for The Punk and the Professor

  1. 5 out of 5

    P. Lundburg

    Punks are People, Too…. The Punk and the Professor is a classic coming-of-age story. Although it may fit a very tight niche, it is anything but typical. It tells the story of Jack Tortis, who like his name implies, meanders his way slowly through life, and toward self-discovery. Along the path he endures a life that is less than ideal, and survives (maybe) a host of teachers who deal with their own frustrations by picking out the “trouble” students and exercise power over them. For much of the bo Punks are People, Too…. The Punk and the Professor is a classic coming-of-age story. Although it may fit a very tight niche, it is anything but typical. It tells the story of Jack Tortis, who like his name implies, meanders his way slowly through life, and toward self-discovery. Along the path he endures a life that is less than ideal, and survives (maybe) a host of teachers who deal with their own frustrations by picking out the “trouble” students and exercise power over them. For much of the book, we follow along Jack’s ups and downs, knowing the entire time he’s headed for an ultimate down. One of the major themes in the book is the pursuit of freedom. This is captured largely through the motif of running: Running represents freedom, and Jack discovers he’s good at running, flirting with membership on the track team. But the metaphoric running is even more poignant: Jack is daily running from home, running from the prison of school, and ultimately running from himself—or rather, running TO try to find himself. In The Punk and the Professor, running represents a way of finding oneself. Along the way, Jack seeks out the wild and crazy, in his girlfriends as well as activities with friends. But the reader knows what he’s really after is that ever-elusive freedom from the life he’s forced to live. It’s a life he doesn’t understand, except to know that it somehow isn’t right and that he needs to keep moving to find what is right. How does a youth do this when there are no role models and no sense of direction? Jack finds himself in constant trouble, with 3-day stints in the suspension room at school. He fights back against teachers who don’t give him a chance, pigeon-holing him as trouble without trying for one moment to understand who he is—or even what he was doing that was so egregious (often nothing, actually). Thank god for a suspension room teacher who enjoys the writing Jack does while in suspension, and that plants a seed for Jack’s salvation. The first line of Chapter 62 captures the movement of the entire story: “I just wanted to be myself.” But how does a kid with no decent role models and no direction find him/herself? Sadly, it’s usually through trial-and-error . . . and more error than anything else. The Punk and the Professor throws a lasso around that concept and builds a story about the youthful pursuit of freedom and self identity, and Billy Lawrence does a fantastic job of crafting a story that carries us through the coming-of-age that most of seem to have survived. A note about the writing and the book itself. Coming-of-age stories often flop because they try to be something like The Catcher and the Rye. It’s a trap many writers fall into. Billy Lawrence tiptoes along the same kind of trouble-turned-out-fine story line without even teetering into J.D. Salinger’s shadow. He deftly carries us through Jack’s youth to the discovery of hope. He does this by framing the story with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which hovers in the backdrop of the story and is brought back at key moments to remind the reader what Jack’s story means. The book is well-written, engaging, and immensely successful in breathing fresh live into a well-established genre. I recommend this book whole-heartedly to anybody who enjoys memoirs (even those this is a novel) and anybody who enjoys stories of self-discovery and/or coming-of-age. A very nicely crafted novel!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Thomas

    “The Punk and the Professor” by Billy Lawrence is a masterful tale, written sophistically and a great coming of age tale. This novel is about Jack, a troubled youth with a not-so-great family and a school who really doesn’t care. The child of teen mom and a nonexistent father, Jack has it hard in life. College is a foreign concept to him. Jack really reminded me of Bender from “The Breakfast Club.” Jack smokes, does drugs, and of course drinks. Lawrence captures Jack’s perspective in this tale o “The Punk and the Professor” by Billy Lawrence is a masterful tale, written sophistically and a great coming of age tale. This novel is about Jack, a troubled youth with a not-so-great family and a school who really doesn’t care. The child of teen mom and a nonexistent father, Jack has it hard in life. College is a foreign concept to him. Jack really reminded me of Bender from “The Breakfast Club.” Jack smokes, does drugs, and of course drinks. Lawrence captures Jack’s perspective in this tale of a trouble coming of age. Each chapter reads kind of like a short story in itself, which at first, took a little time to get used to but as soon as I read a couple of chapters, I got used to Lawrence’s unique storytelling.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Miriam Polli

    The Punk and the Professor (great title I thought) is a straight forward tale of a troubled teenager who lives with his mother, his abusive stepfather and his little brother. Jack hangs with his buddies, doing drugs, and uncertain of who his real friends are—he spends a lot of time avoiding his family life even though the physical abuse of his young brother eats away at him. Jack handles his emotions quietly, learning to live in his own bubble in order to survive. He feels slighted by family mem The Punk and the Professor (great title I thought) is a straight forward tale of a troubled teenager who lives with his mother, his abusive stepfather and his little brother. Jack hangs with his buddies, doing drugs, and uncertain of who his real friends are—he spends a lot of time avoiding his family life even though the physical abuse of his young brother eats away at him. Jack handles his emotions quietly, learning to live in his own bubble in order to survive. He feels slighted by family members, and doesn’t trust most of his friends, and for that matter most of his teachers. This protagonist goes through life feeling like a “punk” but the reader knows he is far from a punk. The level of emotion is heightened when he reaches his own bottom and carves his path. If you want to read a book about the struggles of youth and the twist and turns of growing, this is the one.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mohamed

    “The Punk and the Professor” which is authored by Billy Lawrence is a book that one can find engrossed into. The book is worth reading because the author masters the modern life dilemmas and writes about them. The title of the book itself tells it all and is put in a way that already creates suspense. It touches on the current world issues that are faced by the youths who are going through dysfunctional relationships and families without anyone to look up to. This book has a way to reach into yo “The Punk and the Professor” which is authored by Billy Lawrence is a book that one can find engrossed into. The book is worth reading because the author masters the modern life dilemmas and writes about them. The title of the book itself tells it all and is put in a way that already creates suspense. It touches on the current world issues that are faced by the youths who are going through dysfunctional relationships and families without anyone to look up to. This book has a way to reach into you and teaches important life lessons to survive. The life lessons taught in these book range from finding ways to survive from drug abuse, abusive parents and siblings and surviving through school where teaches do not care about one’s performance. The book gets one on board right from the first page and discloses information stepwise to create a fascinating plot full of suspense. It targets audience that cut across all ages especially starting from teenagers to ages above. This is because the characters involved have a lesson for each age group. This book is especially important for people who feel lost in one way or another. The author is trying to educate and persuade his audience on ways to struggle and find a place in the world which they can call their own. This book is moving to the reader and highly recommended for people who feel that they need to reflect about their position in this life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Carter

    Billy Lawrence’s The Punk and the Professor is a moving book. By this I mean many things, but primarily I mean that it has momentum. From the very beginning you are engaged by the at once earthy and erudite voice of the narrator Jack Tortis, and you move along with him through the bewilderments of a childhood spent in an chaotic family circle, and an adolescence driven by the tension between needing to belong and wanting to rise above the thoughtlessness and banal prejudices of his contemporarie Billy Lawrence’s The Punk and the Professor is a moving book. By this I mean many things, but primarily I mean that it has momentum. From the very beginning you are engaged by the at once earthy and erudite voice of the narrator Jack Tortis, and you move along with him through the bewilderments of a childhood spent in an chaotic family circle, and an adolescence driven by the tension between needing to belong and wanting to rise above the thoughtlessness and banal prejudices of his contemporaries. As Jack grows into self-awareness he comes likewise to an awareness of dynamics that have compromised his community—and, it could be said, the American educational system as a whole-- and threaten his own burgeoning sense of himself as a young man with something to contribute. Heart wrenching but by no means maudlin, Lawrence’s ability to render the ruthless ability of a stagnant environment to crush the dreams of it’s youth is reminiscent of Richard Price’s The Wanderers in it’s depiction of life within the working class ethnic enclaves of suburban New York City. But Jack Tortis’ first person narration is totally original in it’s perspective, his voice is at times lyrical, at times scathing, and at times very, very funny . . . and always believable. Lawrence has achieved here what very few writers attempting to provide ‘a portrait of the artist as a young man’ can manage… he leaves you looking forward to the rest of the story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    The story follows Jack who struggles through his adolescence. He deals with his troubled upbringing and we see him go through the steps of growing up and finding his place in the world. This book illustrates perfectly the effect labelling and emotional oppression can have on your life and the choices you make. Jack's insecurities, experimentation and lack of direction reflect a side to growing up many of us can empathise with. The book has a interesting writing style, making the narrative insigh The story follows Jack who struggles through his adolescence. He deals with his troubled upbringing and we see him go through the steps of growing up and finding his place in the world. This book illustrates perfectly the effect labelling and emotional oppression can have on your life and the choices you make. Jack's insecurities, experimentation and lack of direction reflect a side to growing up many of us can empathise with. The book has a interesting writing style, making the narrative insightful and intuitive.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ben Shaberman

    The Punk and the Professor is a colorful, engaging story about the struggle to emerge from a rough and tumble childhood and adolescence. The author does a nice job putting you down in the dirt with his troubled protagonist. It is gritty Americana written honestly and insightfully.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Easin Arafat

    The book on The Punk and the Professor is really an excellent book by Billy Lawrence. The writer is being awesome with her writing skill throughout the book. She have plot the story of Jack Tortis in her way which is so different and attract the readers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Larry Warren

    Awesome book! Realistic, funny, yet sad, yet inspiring. Someone who works with high school dropouts and tries to get them back in school recommended this book. From what I know theres a lot of real Long Island culture in this novel. Not the typical type of story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Nicolai

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andy

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marina Leone

  13. 5 out of 5

    Will

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nova

  15. 5 out of 5

    Walt

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shawn McDowell

  17. 5 out of 5

    Soren

  18. 4 out of 5

    William Lawrence

  19. 4 out of 5

    Beryl

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mercedes

  21. 5 out of 5

    S.A. Krishnan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Keith

  23. 5 out of 5

    William Lawrence

  24. 4 out of 5

    Clare

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeni

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jenna Mitchell

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kim Dempsey

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jo Chambers

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Cesario

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

  31. 5 out of 5

    Les

  32. 5 out of 5

    Annelies

  33. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  34. 5 out of 5

    Afifa

  35. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Knoke

  36. 5 out of 5

    joyce g

  37. 5 out of 5

    H.L.

  38. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Litz

  39. 5 out of 5

    Khashayar Mohammadi

  40. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  41. 5 out of 5

    Siti Yuma

  42. 5 out of 5

    Lynx

  43. 5 out of 5

    Janie C.

  44. 4 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

  45. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Maddux

  46. 4 out of 5

    Bill Tillman

  47. 5 out of 5

    Amelia Beauclerc

  48. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

  49. 5 out of 5

    Mischenko

  50. 5 out of 5

    Agatha St. Claire

  51. 5 out of 5

    Joey

  52. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

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