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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bystander by James Preller

Summary: Bystander by James Preller is a Sunshine State Book for grades 6-8 this year. I understand why it was chosen for the list – bullying is a hot topic and this book looks at it in a gritty and realistic way. This is a book that would be great for book club discussions about bullying or for bibliotherapy.

Eric is the new kid in town, just starting seventh grade. His first friend in his new town, Griffin, is the popular guy who seems to get away with everything. Everyone wants to be Griffin’s friend, and many will do whatever it takes to reach that goal. But Eric quickly sees Griffin for what he is – a bully and a trouble-maker. Can Eric stand against Griffin without becoming his next target? Or will he just be another bystander, watching Griffin’s cruelty?

Bystander would be a great book to tie in with a unit on the Holocaust and the many people who looked the other way during the atrocities committed, as well as a great book for spurring a discussion about bullying and taking a stand against it. There is some language in the novel, but nothing extreme. The ending was, to me, anticlimactic but plausible. I understand why Preller ended the book as he did, but it still felt a little unfinished to me.

There really are no truly good guys or bad guys in this book – just good and bad decisions made by average people. Eric could be anyone, facing down one of a thousand Griffins by another name. Both boys have problems that spur their choices, and are great character studies in the different ways that people deal with the stresses of an unstable life.

Standing up for what is right

Age Appropriateness:
12 and up

Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: moderate (less than five instances)
Nudity/Adult Content: none
Violence: moderate

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I just saw this -- thanks for your review, Mrs. P.

    Ah, the ending. No, it's not a dramatic ending, there's no real closure (a concept that I think is mostly myth, btw), and things don't even out at the end. The bad guy doesn't get his just desserts.

    To me, these experiences are things you survive, difficult passages in life that you get through . . . and move beyond. Very rarely is life ever wrapped in a neat bow with tidy endings. At least, that's where I was coming from and why I ended the book the way I did. And, yes, I KNEW that it might not offer the resolution that some readers crave.

    In a Disney movie, the kid who can't hit a lick hits a HR in the big game and is carried off the field at the end; in my world, maybe that kid works out a walk or, more likely, strikes out again. The homer-type ending is a neater conclusion, more satisfying to most viewers, but it always offends my sense of reality.

    Thanks for reading my book!



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