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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale

TITLE: The Bully Book
AUTHOR: Eric Kahn Gale
PUB: Harper Collins
PUB DATE: 12/26/12
SOURCE: from pub 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. Hilarious and compelling, The Bully Book is a must-read for every tween, tween parent, librarian and educator!

THREE WORDS: Palpably Powerful & Poignant

MY REVIEW: At a time when bullying is sadly at an all time high, many authors have touched upon this subject, but none have done so quite like Eric Kahn Gale and his The Bully Book. This short read surprised and moved me in ways I never expected.

Eric Haskins' life has been fairly average, but when he starts the sixth grade everything changes. His best friend starts hanging out with the “cool” guys and they in turn start to refer to Eric as Grunt. Soon, these boys have the whole class laughing at and making fun of Eric. One of the boys, Jason “Crazypants”, even steals Eric's crush and only friend, Melody, away from him. Eric learns of the existence of The Bully Book, a manual written long ago by a sixth grade boy that tells its possessor how to rise to popularity by choosing a Grunt and uniting the class in his/her torment. With the help of former Grunts, Eric sets out to find the original writer of the book and discover why he was chosen as the Grunt.

The Bully Book begins with a letter from the author stating how he was bullied in elementary school and how this book is very much an account of his own experiences. This letter to readers really sets the powerful tone for this book. Eric Kahn Gale has written a stunningly raw and honest look at all aspects of bullying, from the painful effects felt by the bullied to an insightful look into the unexpected mind of the bully, culminating in a truly poignant and important story.

This is a quick, but fully satisfying read that is refreshing in its genuineness, relentless in its captivating honesty and authenticity, and moving in surprising ways. The scene Gale sets is real and all too easily imagined, and his characters are layered and relatable. The chapters alternate between Eric's POV and sections of The Bully Book, creating a highly effective juxtaposition of emotions and thought-provoking scenes, sentences, and images. Eric's POV had me laughing one moment and teary eyed the next, while the Bully Book sections are strangely fascinating.

Gale does a superb job of getting into the complex mindset of both the bullied and the bully without turning either into cheesy cliches, which isn't an easy thing to do. While some of the storyline is a bit predictable, nothing is taken away from the power and poignancy of the story, and the mystery of The Bully Book's author and contents that Eric sets out to uncover is well-written and intriguing. I love that Gale not only touches upon the effects bullying has on children, but on how that bullying can affect and follow people well into adulthood. 

Eric's relatable, and at times achingly painful journey, really captures something that so many children face everyday of their lives. I would eagerly place this book in the hands of children everywhere, not just the bullied, but the bullies, teachers, and parents as well. 

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: The Bully Book kept me entertained from beginning to end and left me truly thoughtful, but I don't think its story and message will ever really leave me. This affective little book moved and surprised me in so many ways and I think it will captivate readers of all ages. 


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SacredmOOn said...

Wonderful review! I had just received a paperback of this book last week. This is such an important subject that we as a society can no longer turn our backs to. It needs to stop. I'm excited to start reading it soon. :)
DeAnna Schultz

Kristen said...

Great review! Such an important issue, I'm glad they have found a way to add humor to it.

Kristen @OCA