The Bully Book: A Novel
By Barbara Schultz,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Harsh realism makes novel about bullying painful to read.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Vocabulary words are used as a weapon against the main character, Eric Haskins, but readers can learn some definitions, despite the unpleasant context. Readers will also get a twisted, but in some ways accurate, view of sixth grade culture and curriculum.
The Bully Book tells bullying victims not to allow themselves to be defined by their tormentors. A bully can't change who you are if you know who you are. A bully can't separate a victim from friends if the victim reaches out to his friends.
Positive Role Models
The main character, Eric, in some ways sets a strong example for bullying victims in that he makes it his mission to change his situation -- he doesn't accept that he must be the "grunt" forever. However, he suffers cruelly without seeking the support of any adults, which can be a dangerous situation for kids. Most of the adults in the book, seen through Eric's eyes, are remarkably clueless and unhelpful, but the children's English teacher, Mr. Whitner, is kind and understanding to Eric.
Violence & Scariness
As a victim of bullying, Eric is chased, pushed, punched, and, at one point, jostled in the boys' room so that he urinates on himself. The physical threats and torture are especially frightening because they often occur in situations where no adults are present or aware.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Eric's friend Melody dates a mean boy, and when the couple doesn't show up for a school assembly, friends speculate that they are off somewhere kissing. Eric's Facebook account is hacked, and kids send messages to Melody, making it look as if Eric is asking his friend for a date.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
There are no curse words in The Bully Book, but language is used as a weapon. Eric, who is called the "grunt," is teased in class when almost every one of his classmates uses one of the students' vocabulary words in a sentence that has an insult to Eric built in: "Eric Haskins is an imbecile," for example. Homophobic language is also used against Eric, who is called "gay," "gaywad," "gaywood." Eric, however, rationally rejoins that being called "gay" is not an insult.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Facebook, Wii videogames.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the novel The Bully Book tells the story of Eric Haskins, who is victimized by most of his classmates. Some boys have come into possession of "The Bully Book": a manual that tells sixth graders how to survive socially by choosing a "grunt" to tease, alienate, and otherwise torture. The boys call Eric names, chase him, threaten and humiliate him, and occasionally assault him physically. Many of the names hurled at Eric are homophobic in nature: "gay," "gaywad," etc. Though Eric has the inner strength to try to unravel the mystery of the "Book" and try to change the way he's perceived, it's painful to read about this degree of bullying. This novel is geared toward fifth and sixth graders, in terms of reading level and content, but it could make sensitive kids fearful of the transition to middle school. Editor's Note: Eric suffers cruelly without seeking the support of teachers or parents, yet we always recommend that kids report bullying situations to a trusted adult.
Where to Read
Based on 2 parent reviews
More like the bully bible
Report this review
Do not let your child read this book
Report this review
What's the Story?
In Eric Kahn Gale's novel THE BULLY BOOK, sixth grader Eric Haskins becomes the victim of an ongoing conspiracy outlined in a kid-created manual, also called "The Bully Book." Each fall, a selected group of sixth graders receives the book and uses it to choose a "grunt," a victim to be teased, humiliated, alienated, and tortured. They then follow the book's instructions to encourage other classmates to avoid the grunt and separate him from his friends. Eric begins a quest to find out everything he can about the book and its creator(s), and work out how he can change others' perception of him as the grunt.
Is It Any Good?
Some aspects of The Bully Book are extremely effective, particularly the painful realism of Eric's situation as the "grunt." His fear and the cruelty he suffers are so believable, the book becomes pretty difficult to stomach. The mystery of the "Book" is also engaging and suspenseful. However, the adults in this novel --granted, seen through the eyes of the young narrator -- are clueless, wounded, and immature to an almost absurd degree. Eric's realization at the end of the story seems like the kind of platitude one of those clueless adults might offer to a kid who's being bullied mercilessly: They can't change who you are if you know who you are.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about bullying. Have you ever been bullied or known someone who was? What's the best way to handle a situation like Eric's?
Does this situation seem realistic to you? How is this book different from other novels you've read in which a character is bullied?
How do you feel about the conclusion of the novel? Is Eric's problem solved?
- Author: Eric Kahn Gale
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date: December 26, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Read
Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate