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Ball Peen Hammer

Ball Peen Hammer Cover

Ball Peen Hammer

By Adam Rapp; George O'Connor (Illustrator)

First Second, Paperback, 9781596433007, 144pp.

Publication Date: September 29, 2009


The world is dying.  After most of the city succumbed to the plague, Welton's staying inside -- permanently.  But hiding in his claustrophobic basement room -- the only place he knows is safe -- exacts a gruesome price, and he becomes part of a collective that's killing children.  Infected with the plague himself, with no way to find the woman he loves, Welton takes refuge in apathy -- until someone knocks on his door.   Ball Peen Hammer gives us a window into life in a half-deserted apartment building in a time of raw love, sacrifice, fear, and death. 

About the Author
Adam Rapp is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker. He has written several young adult novels, including "Punkzilla," "The Buffalo Tree," and "33 Snowfish," and the adult novel, "The Year of Endless Sorrows." His plays include "Nocturne," the Pulitzer Prize finalist "Red Light Winter," and The "Metal Children." In 2005 he directed his first film, Winter Passing, starring Ed Harris, Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell. George O'Connor is an author, illustrator and cartoonist. His graphic novel work includes "Journey Into Mohawk Country," in which he illustrated the journal of the seventeenth-century Dutch trader Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert, and his Olympians series, which retells the classic Greek myths in comics form. He has also published several children's picture books, including the "New York Times" best-selling "Kapow," "Sally and the Some-Thing," and "Uncle Bigfoot." He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Praise For Ball Peen Hammer

"Not for gentle readers, Rapp’s fatalistic urban future is never scarier than when its child and adult players’ motivations and emotions are the most realistic." -- Booklist "Eerie . . . Rapp reflects on the ways we cling to art and passion in the face of destruction and the horror we feel as those things slip away." -- Publisher's Weekly Full Review From Booklist Playwright Rapp writes movies and gritty YA novels (e.g., Little Chicago, 1998), too, and his first graphic novel attests his flair for dramatic staging and well-developed characters and plotting. Set in a hovel in which a young man dying of an AIDS-like infection lives, loving his guitar and hating his “job” of disposing of the bodies of murdered children. He doesn’t realize that the love of his life, a beautiful actress, has taken sanctuary in another part of the building. Moral turpitude in these characters’ world has been stood virtually on end, and the story probes such issues as what ingrained in us makes us human, lovable, frightening, and evil. Eminently suited to Rapp’s grim and demanding vision, O’Connor’s full-color art meshes with the spare text and conveys portions of the tale all by itself; it embraces just the right cartooniness to keep the flow of grim events emotionally bearable. Not for gentle readers, Rapp’s fatalistic urban future is never scarier than when its child and adult players’ motivations and emotions are the most realistic. —Francisca Goldsmith 

Review in 8/10 Publishers Weekly

In an eerie postapocalyptic urban world, humanity is turning on itself. This graphic novel revolves around a trio who were likely downtown hipsters before the crisis began. Welton, a musician, and Aaron, an author, still have the energy to discuss the purpose of art, but find themselves committing unpardonable acts to save themselves. Exley, an actress, unexpectedly ends up caring for Horlick, a young boy who is teetering between playing childish pranks and becoming a menacing criminal like his older brother. All three adults reminisce about previous loves, and one tries to seek out a passionate one-night stand from the past. Rapp, best known as a novelist and playwright, reflects on the ways we cling to art and passion in the face of destruction and the horror we feel as those things slip away.

Review in 11/09 SLJ

Gr 10 Up–Rapp and O’Connor tell the story of four people trying to survive in a society suffering from environmental, biological, and political disease. Aaron, an idealistic novelist trying to capture in words the reason for his society’s collapse, holes up in a basement with Welton, who is slowly dying of a strange plague. Meanwhile Exley, a young woman who once had a brief encounter with Welton, befriends a boy named Horlick. All four characters are ensnared by the government to work in a gruesome program involving the eponymous hammer, while Exley and Welton desperately search for one another, never realizing that they are on different floors of the same building. The authors have clearly come to the graphic form with an understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. Rather than trying to tell a novel’s worth of story with excess narration and dialogue, they allow large passages to unfold entirely in images. The unresolved ending is Rapp’s hallmark, and this book reads as a statement about the uncertain future, allowing the novel to hit home with the taut force of a good short story.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA