SUMMARY (From amazon.com):
One day, something’s going to snap. . . .
Ernie doesn't have a lot of friends at school. Just Will. They have stuff in common—like fishing. But more important, they have common enemies: the school jocks, who seem to find bullying just another sport.
For the most part, Ernie and Will take life at high school in stride. Until Will has one very bad day. Now nothing is remotely funny. Ernie finds himself a witness—to loss, to humiliation, and to Will’s anger—an anger that’s building each and every moment.
Ernie doesn’t want to believe his best friend is changing, but he can’t deny the truth. Soon he has a choice: join or die. Or can he find another way?
OPINION: 5 STARS
This is book is absolutely gripping, gut wrenching, and horrific. I've read bully stories, but this one is heartrending. It's different in the way its written, in that it isn't just Ernie, the character telling the story, who is being bullied and it isn't just him having to deal with it. Ernie is watching his best friend- his only friend and ally- slowly waste away with every torment thrown on them. Coupled with a horrible home life, Will deteriorates. Not only does Ernie have to deal with everything thrown at him, he has Will's issues as well.
There have been worse cases of bullying in books, but this one got to me because even when things in Will's home life became public knowledge, it didn't stop. If anything, those events seemed to spark his tormentors and neither boy could really stand up for themselves or the other without bigger consequences. That particular aspect is one I found a little unique to the bully story- their decisions to stand up for the other, knowing it would be worse them but because it meant the friend didn't have to suffer, it was better, right?
Ernie was caught between a rock and a hard place more than once in this book and it was rough to watch him go through this. His home life wasn't great but compared to Will's it was kind of like paradise- and he recognized that. This was another aspect I really enjoyed because despite everything, in the right circumstances, Ernie could see the good things. But that means Will still didn't have it and that was even harder to read.
As the book progressed, I had the same growing sense of trepidation Ernie did but because I got to know Will so well also, I didn't want to see what was clear. Hyde did a magnificent job showing that- showing how Ernie could not see what was right there, and vouch for his friend. It happens- and as an outsider, it is so easy to point fingers and place blame but Hyde shows the impossibility of it when it's your best friend.
Anyone who has ever been bullied will relate to this book- and should read it. Because everyone has a breaking point- and consequences they might not be able to see because they are too blinded by hurt and hate. This book doesn't shy away from that- Hyde went in with tormented characters and she carried it all the way through until the spark hit the powder. And anyone who is doing the bullying also needs to read this because it doesn't hold back on just how much even the smallest things can tear a person apart.
High school, in many ways, can make or break a person for their future. You either gain interpersonal skills and confidence or you don't- and more often than not, what pushes it one way or another, ultimately, is genetics and family status. What makes a person popular? It isn't who they are, it's how they look, how well they can play sports or jump up and down with pom poms, and how well off their parents are. The rest of the students? Ignored, pushed away, and sometimes even ridiculed. And everyone knows it happens- even saying kids are cruel and that's high school for you- but it never stops. As parents and educators, it isn't seen- the tormented ones don't want to admit it and the parents of the tormentors never want to recognize their child is making the life of someone else hell. Books like this one really thrust that into light because there always will be students like Ernie- overweight, no matter what the reason and already embarrassed and unsure of them, only to have it preyed on and spotlighted. There will still be kids like Will with severe acne problems and ears that stick out with parents who aren't the greatest. And they are an easy and constant target- and it is a scenario that plays out over and over, happening in our high schools everywhere right now. I applaud Hyde for broaching this subject and not holding back on it because I firmly believe it needs far more attention.
This book easily deserves 5 stars. It is a very real, very rough subject from all sides, tackled strategically. This book left me with plenty of things to think about and I know it will stick with me for a long time. The characters are in depth and their growth and decisions are very realistic, even if hard to read. I most definitely recommend this book to everyone because it is eye opening, maybe even more so than some other bully books I have read because of the way it is presented and the way the plot plays out. In some ways, the ending was satisfying and perfect and beautiful- the kind that I love. Read it, because even though it is a fiction, it mirrors real events entirely too well and could easily become a biography or the next breaking news story.
Source: Purchased through amazon.com
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (August 25, 2009)
Other Reviews- Clearly not enough people have read this book because I could only find one review to link: The Compulsive Reader