cover image The Bully Book

The Bully Book

Eric Kahn Gale. Harper, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-212511-8

This gripping debut novel, previously published by the author as an e-book, explores school bullying and power dynamics from perspectives at both the top and the bottom of the classroom social order. Excerpts from “the Bully Book” address readers directly, explaining how to rise to a position of power (“You need to pick lieutenants, loyal friends who can help you carry out [these] instructions”) at the expense of the “Grunt,” a student singled out for abuse. Sixth-grader Eric Haskins writes intervening journal entries that detail his growing awareness that he has become his grade’s targeted Grunt. Using the Bully Book’s guidance, three boys mount a step-by-step campaign of psychological warfare against Eric, sabotaging his few friendships, turning classmates against him, and collapsing his self-esteem. Yet an inner resilience emerges as Eric tries to unravel the origins of the Book, a layered and attention-grabbing mystery. Gale’s accounts of bullying are subtle and chilling, but readers will finish the book believing that the humiliations Eric suffers can be conquered. Ages 8–12. Agent: Erica Rand Silverman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.)