Author: Eric Kahn Gale
Genre: YA contemporary, MG, Tough Stuff
Publication Date: December 26, 2012 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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.
☆: 4/5 stars – an absolutely GREAT look at bullying, and how it works. Definitely a must-read for anyone in school!
Review: This is definitely one of those books that all kids up until college should read – much like I feel like the film “Bully” should be mandatory watching for the same age groups. “The Bully Book” finely and intellectually breaks down the sociodynamics of how bullying works in the clever way of making it a guidebook/how-to, as well as makes some tongue-in-cheek social commentary of how all of that bullying can stay with you, regardless of what side you’re on (as the bully, the victim, or the bystander), far beyond one’s grade school years. Definitely one of my favorites of 2013 in the contemporary YA/older MG category, “The Bully Book” is a must-read for all ages.
Aside from the frightening cleverness of the fictional author of “THE BOOK”, my favorite part about this book is that Gale of using an interesting alternation of 1st/2nd POVs, and has absolutely no compunction about breaking down that fourth wall (which often comes with using 2nd POV, I’ve found) in relation to the reader. I feel like I really made a connection with both the MC and the author and the fictional author of “THE BOOK” all at the same time, and it really kind of bonds you because you find yourself remembering those scenarios described in “THE BOOK” – regardless of what side of things you were. And to hear them described so calmly, it honestly gave me the chills.
I did find myself relating quite a bit to Eric in this one – I was bullied as a kid, though it wasn’t something that I always understood that was happening due to the autism and missing social cues and stuff. Sometimes it was blatantly obvious, but not always so. Gale outlines how to NOT be blatantly obvious in your bullying of “the grunt” (the target/victim) so that you don’t get caught. Reading that now made me remember my own experiences where it didn’t seem like bullying to me at the time, or it was walking the line of bullying but I couldn’t have been sure at that point in time. And I think in a way, through writing this diabolical guidebook and reading it as the audience, I found a little bit of healing even though I’ve been out of grade school for ten years (including high school here, too).
And I also have to give it to Gale for tackling SO many different “tough stuff” issues with the plot device of “THE BOOK” – peer pressure, bullying, mob mentality, how to build a dictatorship (on a much smaller scale), and more. This book is extremely ambitious, and it pretty much sets out everything it tries to conquer, which, for me, is pretty impressive.
Finally, what I also loved – the spectre of bullying that literally follows the various “grunts” in each grade – even to the point where it follows two of these characters into adulthood. I won’t do any more spoiling on that point, but the ending is kind of mindblowing, and it’ll definitely make you think, especially if you’re an older reader. Bullying doesn’t stop at the end of high school and I’m so glad that Gale made this a very obvious point to cover in the book. All the more the reason why as a society we need to be more mindful of it, do something about it.
Final verdict? Definitely needs to be mandatory reading in grade school in my opinion, “The Bully Book” is ambitious and just a taste controversial in how it handles bullying as an issue. Nonetheless, it’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read on it. “The Bully Book” is out now from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!