Eric, new to Long Island, meets Griffin, who appears to be a quite a seventh grade ring leader. Looking to fit in and not rock the boat, Eric walks the border of friendship with Griff, although he is uncomfortable with much of what Griff does. But Eric is smart enough to avoid crossing Griff or his friends; he fears that being outside the circle is much worse than being inside. Eric can’t maintain the balance for too long, though. After an attack of the conscience, he decides to take Griff head on and deal with the repercussions that are sure to follow. In a matter of hours, he goes from a member of the pack to the hunted.
James Preller’s novel, Bystander, is one of the most realistic and thoughtful stories about bullying that I’ve ever read. Written for reluctant readers, its content does not fall prey to a simplistic plot or lazy writing. Short chapters with cliffhangers urge readers to continue. I can’t wait to recommend this book to the first student who says, “I don’t like to read.”