Monday, November 21, 2011

Bystander: A Bystander? Or the Bully's Next Target?

Title:  Bystander:  A Bystander?  Or the Bully's Next Target?
Author:  James Preller
Reading level:  Approximately 8th grade
223 pages
Main Character:  Eric Hayes

Summary:  Eric recently moved to Bellport, Long Island.  When Griffin, one of the most popular kids in seventh grade, decides to befriend Eric, Eric is happy.  But slowly Eric realizes that Griffin is not what he first seems to be.  But is Eric really doing anything wrong if he doesn't actively participate in Griffin's bullying, but merely watches without protesting?  Eventually, Eric decides to stand up to Griffin--and Griffin turns on Eric, even using a former victim to lure Eric into a trap.  However, as Eric continues to refuse to follow Griffin's example, Griffin chooses to ignore Eric.  As the story ends, Eric has made the basketball team, and Griffin has a new set of "friends." 

Review:  Griffin is a manipulative bully.  A bad guy who can fool people into thinking he's a good guy.  There are hints to Griffin's stealing things, and a reference to his having smoked, as well.  Griffin lives with just his father, who drinks and is sometimes abusive.  Griffin is not officially punished for his actions, but he loses his friends.  Also, one adult realizes he's not the charming young man he appears to be and that he's taking advantage of her decides to hire Eric rather than Griffin to care for her dog, even though Griffin took care of her previous dog.  There is also a fight, and possibly some language. (It seems like I remember at least an almost bad word, but I can't re-find it.)  So, obviously, there are some objectionable elements.  But, this book about bullying can be valuable in opening discussion.  Is it really possible to be just a bystander?  Or is a person who stands by without helping a victim of bullying condoning the bullying? 
The author also discusses the different types of bullying.  Girls bully differently than boys, and bullying does not have to be physical force.
Unrelated to the main plot line, but something you might want to be aware of:  there are a few references to Eric's father suffering from a mental illness.
3 stars--A good meal.
The book is satisfying. Maybe a couple problems with how things are treated, but overall a good book. Be very cautious with readers who accept everything they see in print. I would try another book by this author.
The biggest reason I dropped this from 4 stars is that I think Griffin's bullying and theft should have been found out by the authorities.  I realize that doesn't always happen, but I think it would have made the book better.

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