cover image Bystander


James Preller, . . Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (226pp) ISBN 978-0-312-37906-3

The question at the heart of this story turns on what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the appalling silence of the good people.” Is it just as bad to see someone get mistreated and not act as it is to be the bully? The villain is Griffin Connelly, a smooth operator with a megawatt smile and a dark heart, who regularly receives the back of his father's hand and passes along the abuse to any “sick gazelles” he finds at Bellport Central Middle School. When new student Eric refuses to play lapdog, he becomes the target. The strength of Preller's (Along Came Spider ) narrative lies in how well he orchestrates Eric's response—he knows there is no easy answer and that going to adults is not always the best thing to do. As he wrestles with his conscience, Eric is befriended by Mary, a classmate making her own stand against malicious teasing. Plenty of kids will see themselves in these pages, making for painful, if important, reading. The resolution, though realistic, may leave some dissatisfied, as the bully moves on but never gets the comeuppance he so richly deserves. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)