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