Bullies and the bullied: Could it help if they just better understood each other?
Baskin (Anything But Typical, 2009) has proven that she can sensitively handle the complex interpersonal relationships of the middle school set. Here, she takes on a daunting project, presenting a couple of separate bullying incidents from the perspectives of a variety of the players. Elizabeth’s growing up in an impoverished, single-parent home. Her notably lackadaisical mother takes in pets for an inadequate living, but Elizabeth, responsible and sensitive, handles the chores. Maggie—who’s become a middle school diva and turned her back on former best friend Freida—decides (but later regrets) to seek revenge for a perceived slight in the form of Elizabeth and Freida’s evolving friendship by creating a nasty social media page in Elizabeth’s name. Meanwhile, Matthew punches career bully (and richly deserving) Stewart after the hostile boy urinates on his leg. Does Stewart’s back story—a disabled sister—explain his behavior? Since it, like Maggie’s, is only sketched, not really. More information about the bullies and less about the bystanders would have been welcome. The often blundering attempts of the school administration to intervene are appropriately made light of and the nearly hopeless situations of some victims vividly illustrated, although a few glimmers of hope appear at the conclusion.
A thought-provoking and worthy effort on a multifaceted, seemingly all but insurmountable, problem. (Fiction. 9-14)