Punching Bag (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

In his follow up to Free Lunch, Rex Ogle sparingly and clearly details his high school years facing both poverty and domestic abuse. He candidly and heartbreakingly describes his relationship with his mother, when he frequently serves as the responsible party. Through his memories, we learn more about the family's history and begin to understand the root of his stepfather's drinking and anger. We can tell that Rex is walking beside us as we get glimpses of love and of hope. And at the end, we know Rex survived and has thrived. It's an extraordinary memoir that's a hard but vitally important read.

— Cathy


The companion to Rex Ogle’s award-winning Free Lunch is a searing account of adolescence in a household torn by domestic violence.

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.

About the Author

Rex Ogle was born and raised mostly in Texas. He received the 2020 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award for his memoir Free Lunch. A former children’s book editor in New York City, Rex and his partner now enjoy much nicer weather in Los Angeles.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324016236
ISBN-10: 132401623X
Publisher: Norton Young Readers
Publication Date: October 5th, 2021
Pages: 224
Language: English