. Athena's Books: Bullyville...Be a Bully or be Bullied
Friday, December 4, 2009

Bullyville...Be a Bully or be Bullied

A few weeks ago, I heard of a bullying incident at my son’s school. I don’t know what became of it, but just know I am very thankful none of my children have ever been a victim of bullying. Most kids and teens will face some sort of ridicule at one time or another because, let’s face it, some people don’t understand or truly consider or want to consider the harm of making someone feel ashamed. I know I faced a lot of that growing up. But, bullying is a whole other level because it includes ridicule and intimidation, and in some instances turns physical. How do you deal with that as a kid? How do you deal with it as an adult?

This week I am reviewing Bullyville by Francine Prose. I guess you can tell one of the major themes of the book. Normally this is not the type of book I choose to read because it deals with a younger protagonist and is missing a romantic love story. But, I completely love Prose’s style of writing, and something else in the book jacket caught my interest—9/ll. Yes, that 9/ll, and it’s like an underlying current running through the novel. I wanted to see how she merged it into the storyline, since I’m also tying in 9/11 to a novel I am writing. What a way to study it…through the writing of a great YA author!

So, what does 9/l11 have to do with bullying? Well, it is the reason why Bart is able to enroll at Baileywell Preparatory Academy on a fully paid scholarship. And, everybody knows Baileywell is really Bullyville Prep or Bullywell. Bart and his friends have grown up hearing horrid stories of students who attend Bullyville, but Bart doesn’t really know the full extent of it or even how much truth is behind those rumors.

Quote: I’d heard all those stories—and scarier ones—before I started at Bullywell. But what happened to me there seemed even worse, I guess because it happened to me.

Quote: I had only been at Bullywell for less than five minutes and already I was learning to laugh hysterically at unfunny jokes—jokes on me!

Back to 9/11—what does it have to do with his enrollment? Bart was a hero, a Miracle Boy, and a compassion case all wrapped up in one. Both of his parents worked at the World Trade Center. His father was one of the thousands that was killed, but his mother’s life was salvaged due to the fact that she had to stay home with Bart who had the flu.

Listen to what Bart has to say about all this: Boy, the lucky orphan. The kid who lost his dad, but saved his mother’s life. I had everything, grief and hope, tragedy and consolation, wrapped in one neat package.

Bullyville was a gift, a reward for an outstanding young man, yet it was also a charity case.

Well, my review is getting pretty long, but it’s because I love this book. I won’t give you any more details other than this was the worst years of Bart’s life and that Bart deals with public and private tragedies and losses—the Big Event that shook America, his father’s abandonment for a younger women, the deaths of his father and a close friend, the bullying. And, I’ll tell you the ending is very powerful and hopeful.

I’ll end with this:

Each time I hit him, it was like there was something behind it, aiming my fist, a force that was making me pound…I hit him once for Nola, and for how unfair it was that she’d died. One punch for every time he’d made me miserable since I came to Bullywell, one for the ketchup, one each for the names, the kids, the locker, the text message supposedly from my dad. And then I was hitting him for my dad….for the towers and the planes flying into them…