Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale


4 Stars: A Great Read
Hardcover: 240 Pages
Publication: December 26, 2012 by Harper Collins

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The rules governing middle school are often a mystery, but for Eric Haskins, they’re a mystery he needs to solve, and fast. He’s a normal, average kid, until sixth grade starts. For some inexplicable reason, the class bully and his pack make Eric the Grunt. Even his best friend since first grade turns on him. Eric can’t figure out why he’s the Grunt until he hears about the Bully Book, a cryptic guide that teaches you how to “make trouble without getting in trouble, rule the school and be the man” and how to select the Grunt-the kid who will become the lowest of the low.

Eric Haskins may be this year’s Grunt for now, but he’s determined not to stay at the bottom of the social ladder forever. Hilarious and compelling, The Bully Book is a must-read for every tween, tween parent, librarian and educator!

Eric Haskins always prided himself on being normal, but it begins to haunt him when kids in his class begin tormenting him, isolating him from his would-be friends and allies. And so begins his search for clues to The Book's creation and, most importantly, why he of all people was chosen to be the Grunt. Eric is a nice guy, funny and charming when he tries. Nobody would peg him as the kind of kid who'd get picked on, which is one of the big mysteries of the book. The other mystery is who wrote the book and for what reasons?

There were things in this book that shocked me. One was how cruel Jason and his gang were to Eric and how quickly the other kids joined in. You'd think they remember Eric from past grades and how he didn't do anything to deserve being bullied, but no. As soon as Jason & co. begin picking on Eric, the other kids join in with taunts and jabs of their own. Then I remembered third grade and when the other kids began making fun of this girl in my class for no apparent reason. Of course, sixth grade is a world away from the third grade. It's the transitioning point between grade school and middle school. It's the time when kids start worrying about appearances, when the idea of dating becomes more of a reality. When bullying becomes more serious. I was also surprised and intrigued to look into the lives of older Grunts and how being socially ostrichized affected them. It serves to bring home just how much our social relationships affect us and what bullying does to people. It gives more credibility to Eric's fears and the desperation with which he searches for The Book--THE BOOK that changed (ruined) his life.

What makes this story unique is how it alternates between pages from the bully book and pages from Eric's journal. It's mind-blowing to jump from the sensible way The Book talks about how to rule one's grade to the fears, despair, and rage of Eric's journals. The Book gives order to the mess that Eric's life has become and predicts what will happen to him next. Without Eric's journals, the callousness of The Book wouldn't have been so stark on paper, and without The Book it would be difficult to make sense of the weight of Eric's fears.

The language is simple and straight-forward, but the grace with which it is written and the way its message comes through the pages is phenomenal. There may be no real book out there, but every book has an author and bullying is a reality. The Bully Book paints a realistic and eye-opening portrait of bullying at the middle-grade level and how it impacts the victims. I recommend this book to readers of all ages.

An ARC was provided by Harper Collins for review.

2 comments:

  1. This sounds like every young adult should at least read it. The more people recognize bullying the better it will be in the long run. Stamp it out.

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    Replies
    1. It *is* a book that I'd like every young adult and middle-grade reader to read. Bullying is something that we should all be aware of.

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