The Punk Ethic

The Punk Ethic

Timothy Decker

Back to music, what are songs anyway? They’re crappy little stories. And there are two kinds: the whiny confession. Which suck. And the fictional story. Which suck. All this strumming and singing is a waste. I’m tired of wasting time. I don’t want to tell anybody anything about me. That’s stupid. I don’t want to invent some story. I don’t want to be entertaining. That’s stupid.

I have to do something. Wake up, Martin. Go start something. Go!
If you want to rock, you come out swinging. Well, Martin Henry just made a fist.
Challenged by a teacher to actually “do” something, Martin walks a minefield of idiot friends, an unfathomable Dream Girl, high school, and relative pennilessness to prove that he can change the world.

The funny thing about change, it screws up everything.


  • Ages: 12 and up
  • Grades: 7–12
  • Pages: 186

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Recent Reviews

Teenager Martin Henry has two things going for him: his snarky sense of humor and his guitar skills.... Decker ... nails Martin’s conflicted, passionate, frustrated voice through dialogue and interior monologues. As Martin navigates his desire to be mindful in an often confusing and apathetic world, readers can almost hear the music. Quirky illustrations bring a gritty graphic element to this realistic coming-of-age story about learning who you are by doing what you love.

—Publishers Weekly

A month in the life of a blunt, cynical punk-rock guitarist. Readers meet Martin through a combination of contemplative black-and-white illustrations, episodic first-person narration, italicized internal monologues and excerpted school papers.... Funny and unusually freeform, but then, maybe rigid narrative structure is for losers.

—Kirkus Reviews

Decker deliberately does not fall into the trap of making this an inspiring, feel-good story about a ragtag bunch of misfits who put on a show for the greater good. If anything, he takes steps to avoid such a setup (Martin rages against songs that are stories, even composing an essay about preferring to read dictionaries over fiction). There are still some of the common YA tropes, but Decker eschews cutesy and gritty for something subdued and more realistic. The result is a mixed bag—the landmine issue fails to really register—but it comes together for an ending that is most notable for its quiet grace.

—Voice of Youth Advocates