read: 24 February 2006
Doug Wilhelm is a local YA author who I used to see in my library all the time. This book has gotten a lot of press because it deals with a hot teen topic: bullying. I haven’t read much of the rest of the books about bullying, so I don’t know how this one compares, but I will say that it was a lively book with some nerdy but redeeming bullying victims and some atrocious but redeeming bullies. The kids who are being tormented group together and find a good solution to dealing with bullies and we learn, as we often do, that a lot of bullies are just people who want to be respected, or understood, or have terrible home lives that they are grappling with. Wilhelm doesn’t serve it all on a platter, some interpretation is left to the reader. This story also has a technological angle where the kids use the local LAN server to chat about tactics and other things. The chat sessions are reprinted verbatim which I guess lends some sort of technorealism to the story, but the transcripts ring false to me -- too many full sentences, too little chatspeak, but that’s a minor quibble. The story doesn’t read like an After-School Special, no one is perfect and even the good guys have their flaws and Achilles heels. The descriptions of the kids in school and their adult teachers and parents ring true without, again, being moralistic about responsibility or behavior. One kid smokes. One adult is a jerk. Some teachers aren’t helpful, you know just like real life.
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