Bystander
by Preller, James






After arriving at his new school and developing a fast friendship with a boy named Griffin, seventh-grader Eric adjusts to his surroundings with ease; but when he decides to pull back after noticing Griffin's darker side as a vicious bully, things take a turn for the worse when Eric becomes Griffin's next victim.





James Preller is the author of the popular Jigsaw Jones mystery books, which have sold more than 10 million copies since 1998. He is also the author ofSix Innings, an ALA Notable Book, and Mighty Casey, his own twist on the classic poem, "Casey at the Bat." In addition to writing full-time, Preller plays in a men's hardball league and coaches Little League. He compares coaching kids to "trying to hold the attention of a herd of earthworms." He lives in Delmar, New York, with his wife, three children, cats and dog.





"Bully stories often tend to be one-note workouts, and although Preller keeps his story focused on this theme, he strikes an unusually complex chord of the various sides of the abuse of power and the strong manipulating the weak. When Eric moves to a new town in Long Island, he quickly sizes up the social order of his new seventh-grade class. Griffin, with a thousand-watt smile and undeniable charisma, sits at the top, while pudgy, annoying David is routinely trampled at the bottom. Griffin takes Eric into his group of friends, but it doesn't take long for Eric to recognize the creep beneath the charm. As Eric alternates between being a witness, accomplice, and victim, Preller displays a keen awareness of the complicated and often-conflicting instincts to fit in, find friends, and do the right thing. Although there are no pat answers, the message (that a bystander is hardly better than an instigator) is clear, and Preller's well-shaped characters, strong writing, and realistic treatment of middle-school life deliver it cleanly." Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.





Bullying is a topic that never lacks for interest, and here Preller concentrates on the kids who try to ignore or accommodate a bully to keep themselves safe. Victim David's pain is evident from the first moment newcomer Eric sees him, but he tries not to acknowledge the reality before him. His mother is trying for a fresh start in this Long Island community, as his father has succumbed to schizophrenia and left her and their two boys on their own. Griffin, the bullying instigator, has charisma of sorts; he is a leader and yet suffers under his father's bullying and aggression. For Eric to do the right thing is neither easy nor what he first wants to do, and the way he finds support among his classmates is shown in logical and believable small steps. Eminently discussable as a middle-school read-aloud, the narrative offers minimal subplots to detract from the theme. The role of girls is downplayed, except for classmate Mary, who is essential to the resolution, enhancing appeal across gender lines. (Fiction. 11-14) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.






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