Julia's Reviews > Bystander

Bystander by James Preller
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's review
Mar 22, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: appropriate-for-middle-school, realistic-fiction
Read in March, 2010

This is a story about bullies and being bullied. It begins with the new kid in town, Eric, meeting the local bully, Griffin. Griffin takes a liking to Eric, and though Eric sees something dark in Griffin, Eric hangs out with him and his gang and tries to deny what he is seeing. Eventually, things take a bad turn and Eric becomes Griffin's victim.

What I liked about this book is that it did a good job of raising the issues around bullying. It also did not have a good guy/bad guy dynamic. None of the characters are perfectly good, including the main character (Eric).

Up until the final climax of the book, I thought it portrayed a realistic middle school situation and was a good example of what a student would face in making decisions about friends and behavior.

However, the ending is too abrupt & Eric's way of resolving his problems with Griffin seemed to be something that was ethically wrong, rather than standing up for his rights. It left me with a sour feeling toward Eric, who otherwise I liked through the book. Also Griffin's decision to ignore Eric after this seemed artificial.

It is a relatively slim & fast book & might be good for reluctant readers, but I wouldn't want someone who has been bullied to use all of Eric's behavior as a guide for handling the situation.

Also, in this book Griffin was portrayed as not just being a bully, but as also having criminal tendancies & a disturbing emotional make up. The vibe I got through the book was that he might have a serious psychological disorder. That kind of character would have been fine, if creepy, but the book never really deals with the more serious parts of Griffin's make up.
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