The Bully Book: A Novel

Common Sense Media says

Harsh realism makes novel about bullying painful to read.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

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.

Positive messages

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

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.

Sex

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.

Language

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.

Consumerism

Facebook, Wii videogames.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Eric Kahn Gale
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Friendship
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:December 26, 2012
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of The Bully Book: A Novel was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 10 years old April 20, 2013
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Very enjoyable and relatable for older kids!

This book was a really great one! Not only was it (pretty much) realistic, but the character was relatable. Even if you haven't ever been bullied, you will feel for the character. It lets you see how damaging being picked on is to a person's self esteem. The language is really mild and only occasionally used. Also, the main characters have a good sense of humor. Over all, this is a wonderful piece of literature.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Parent Written byracheld2 February 20, 2015
AGE
17
QUALITY
 

Do not let your child read this book

In giving an inside look into what it's like to be bullied, the author inadvertently wrote a manual for how to be a bully. This book glorifies being popular and in control of everyone and tells you exactly what you need to do to manipulate the people around you to get what you want. It tells you exactly how to start rumors, and cause trouble and make people feel horrible, and how to do it without getting caught. I am astonished that my daughter received this book from her school as a prize. This could be very dangerous in the wrong hands.

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