How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying

Scott Starkey. S&S/Wiseman, $15.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4424-1685-7
Over the course of a school year, perpetual underdog Rodney Rathbone transforms himself from insecure new kid and bully magnet to class hero—all by goofy happenstance—in Starkey’s debut novel. The farcical chain of events is set in motion when Rodney faces off with bully Josh and an errant baseball gives Josh a bloody broken nose, though the distracted onlookers give Rodney the credit. Several similar incidents help inflate Rodney’s legend—and he’s not complaining. Meanwhile, he’s hoping to make some real friends, woo his crush, and survive a teacher who has it in for him. Though Starkey is in tune with the rhythms of life in upper elementary school, he often turns up the ridiculousness too high in pursuit of campiness, leaving readers with a sometimes tiresome string of episodes. An undercurrent of nastiness among the characters—from local bullies to a truly sinister teacher—is less funny than it is uncomfortable, and while Rodney technically “beats” the bully at his own game, his triumph is somewhat hollow. Ages 8–12. Agent: Barbara S. Kouts Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/28/2011
Release date: 01/03/2012
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4424-1693-2
Paperback - 258 pages - 978-1-4424-8473-3
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