Friday, December 7, 2012
ARC Review: The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale
Title: The Bully Book
Author: Eric Kahn Gale
Genre: MG Contemporary
Publisher: Harper Collins Books for Children
Pub Date: December 26, 2012
My Copy: Advanced Reader Copy that the publisher sent me for review
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.
Anyone who’s ever been bullied can really identify with Eric Haskins. I found that this book really hit close to home for me. As a victim of bullying when I was younger, I empathized with Eric’s pain and the humilation that he goes through.
Bullying is a real thing and we often forget how hard it can be on the victim of the bullying. They feel like they have no hope or no where to turn. Yet the way this story is told is a really different feel for me. It’s told in a journal form, which makes it a much more personal experience.
Eric’s road is not an easy one at all. He doesn’t understand there are reasons and some of them are really not reasons, but more of a power trip. The Grunt is the one who suffers through being isolated, being bullied and targeted for no reason. Eric tries to make sense of things and realizes as he goes on a journey that things are not what they seem.
What he finds is that this conspiracy or Bully Book gets passed down throughout the grades or years. It’s a bit sick and twisted. Yet he finds that things get harder for him not easier as he finds the answers are not always the ones he wants.
I also felt that Eric’s pain and frustration at being beaten up and being isolated. Also framed to make it look like he’s lying, these are things that happen to a lot of victims of bullying that he feels that he can’t go to anyone or that the adults will not believe him. Isolation is a powerful tool that bullies use and it’s a very effective one. Life is hard for him after this. His journals are so well written and they hit you hard of what he feels. He can’t talk to anyone, because Eric thinks that no one will understand.
The mystery part of this book really was well done. I love how Eric finds other grunts and other young people who have gone through the exact same thing that he has. He wants to understand why he was picked as the grunt and why this has been done to people. Through some very good detective work and a little bit of dedication he does decipher the clues and finds that this problem goes back further than he could have ever dreamed possible.
His discovery leads him to the realization that he played into the bully’s hands and wishes that he had done things differently. What I found really good about this book is that it reminded me of a time in my life which was really hard for me. I felt a lot like the narrator of this book. Kids can be cruel and sometimes Bullies don’t realize the damage they do other kids self-esteem.
This was a very good middle grade book.