Punching Bag by Rex Ogle: Book Review

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Punching Bag by Rex Ogle Book Cover
Title: Punching Bag
Content Warning: Domestic Abuse

Synopsis from GoodReads:

Punching Bag is the compelling true story of a high school career defined by poverty and punctuated by outbreaks of domestic abuse. Rex Ogle, who brilliantly mapped his experience of hunger in Free Lunch, here describes his struggle to survive; reflects on his complex, often paradoxical relationship with his passionate, fierce mother; and charts the trajectory of his stepdad’s anger. Hovering over Rex’s story is the talismanic presence of his unborn baby sister.

Through it all, Rex threads moments of grace and humor that act as beacons of light in the darkness. Compulsively readable, beautifully crafted, and authentically told, Punching Bag is a remarkable memoir about one teenager’s cycle of violence, blame, and attempts to forgive his parents—and himself.

My Review:

Rex Ogle’s mother and stepfather physically and emotionally abused him when he was a child. In his second memoir, Punching Bag, he describes unimaginable incidents that are a terrible reality for far too many children. An alcoholic stepfather who continues the cycle of abuse that he experienced as a child himself. An unstable mother who is both victim and abuser. A younger brother who must be protected at all costs. A younger sister, Marisa, whom his mother lost in a late-term miscarriage after a particularly brutal beating. 

Yet Ogle’s message is ultimately one of hope. Thoughts of Marisa, who never got a chance at life, guide him through his most difficult days. As he writes in his author’s note, “I lived this, I survived. You survived your past too, or you wouldn’t be here reading this. We are both alive. We may have a few more scars than we’d like—inside or out—but we made it through. No matter how dark the past, or even the present, the sun will always come up tomorrow. There is hope.” He accordingly refers readers to appropriate resources and hotlines at the end of the book. Teens in similar situations are sure to relate to Ogle’s life story—and find reasons to carry on.

Recommended by:

Cybila Awards High School Nonfiction Round 1 Panelist

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1 Comment

  1. I’ve read Ogle’s Free Lunch and thought it was excellent. This one sounds like a tough read, but also a good one.

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