I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books on 26th December 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
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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!
I think I can count on exactly one hand, minus one or two fingers, how many Middle Grade novels I actually enjoy. Now I have one more to add to that number. I admit to being very skeptical of MG for myself because they just don’t usually work for me. I can appreciate them from a literary standpoint and may even recommend a few titles to younger readers, but do they entertain this picky reader? Nu-uh. But I decided to give it a chance because I liked the premise. Guys, I am shocked because I really loved this book! There is only one other MG novel that had me this excited and that was A Monster Calls for obvious reasons. (I mean, c’mon. That books just freakin’ rips your heart out.) But The Bully Book was hilarious and utterly charming.
The reason why I think I connected so well with this book is because it covers a topic that everyone must have dealt with at some point in their lives as kids. Once upon a time I was bullied in school by a group of girls. I remember thinking it was some type of conspiracy since I had barely said three words to them. I was a pretty laid back kid and didn’t enjoy conflict. Whatever the reason, I guess I was easy pickings for them. And no matter how many times I tried to defend myself and appeal to my teachers, I was the one always in trouble. It was then that I realized one very important fact of life: kids are evil. But then I grew up to be a beautiful runway model, rolling in the green stuff and they did not. Well, not really, but it sounded awesome at age 10.
In a place where hormones are at first bloom, where no one wants to be left out and everyone wants to be accepted, it’s not hard to see the potential for problems. That’s where we find the main character Eric. He essentially discovers that he has been labeled “The Grunt” of his grade and proceeds to become the victim of bullying even by a boy who was once considered his best friend. But what I loved about Eric, besides his witty comments, was his determination to not sit back and accept this role his peers decided for him.
The Bully Book chronicles Eric’s quest to discovery with both journal entires from himself and pages of the actual Bully Book. I really enjoyed this stylistic choice because it added a nice layer of mystery and suspense. Eric is racing to find the original creator of this book that was systematically created to ruin one kid’s entire school life. It was so compelling, I found myself caught up in the allure of discovering the author as well.
By the end, though the book is short, I realized just how many issues it tackled: Mob mentality, peer pressure, emotional distress of a child that is bullied, the conflicted feelings of bystanders unsure of how to help and, ultimately, the ramifications of the damage it does to a person’s self-confidence well past when the bullying ends. These are huge issues and I feel the author did such a great job of presenting them in not only a thought-provoking manner, but in such a way that didn’t bore me to tears.
I was *this close* to not reading it, but I’ve learned something from this experience. Your next favorite read can surprise you and come in the most unlikely of packages. This is a great read for kids that seamlessly entertains and enlightens. One that I’ll be gifting to a certain special kid.
Unsolicited ARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review. Thanks, HarperCollins!