Of bullying, guns and pigshooting

pig_boy_COVER_ARTWORK_Layout 1TITLE =PIG BOY

AUTHOR = J.C. BURKE

GENRE = RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 AND UP

This is an engrossing story which is cleverly told. Readers will be constantly on the edge of their seats trying to figure out whether they like the main character Damon Styles (or whether they are somewhat scared by what he might be about to do). Because Damon is not a particularly likable character – he can be quite angry and rude, even to his mum and his (few) friends. He clearly has anger management issues at times and can explode aggressively. He is also fascinated by violent computer games and makes lists of people he doesn’t like. Yet the reader also has some sympathy for the boy: he has obviously been mercilessly bullied from a young age, his mother isn’t always as loving and “parental” as might be expected (in fact, Damon sometimes has to mother her) … and Damon is clearly (and understandably) terrified of the town bullies. We know he wants to get a gun but we also know that is too frightened to use one when he starts working for the local pig shooter. This book is about bullying and violence but it is also about prejudice and how easy it is to misjudge those around us – whether they be friends, foe or family.

An exciting and well written story which should appeal to boys especially with the clever twists and turns in the plot.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

The horror of cyberbullying revealed

destroying avalonTITLE = DESTROYING AVALON

AUTHOR = KATE MCCAFFREY

GENRE = SCHOOL STORIES, GROWING UP, PEER PRESSURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 UP

This is a powerful story and a deserving winner of numerous awards. Avalon is pretty and smart and has every reason to feel confident about herself. But starting the new school year at a new school can be daunting for any teenager and things are no different for Avalon, especially when she finds herself at the centre of a vicious cyberbullying campaign. With nasty postings about her placed on the web and messages about her sent to students’ mobiles, Avalon feels threatened and exposed. Her bedroom is no longer a sanctuary. Fear prevents her from telling her parents or her teachers (because she believes their interference will only make it worse). The only support she finds at school is from a group of “misfits” who befriend her, especially Marshall, a boy all too  familiar with school yard taunts, as half the schools assumes he is gay. When the bullies turn the full glare of their campaign from Avalon to Marshall, things go from bad to worse.

The power of this book lies in its credibility, from the school yard to the classroom to the main characters themselves. The pain suffered by Avalon and Marshall is raw and terribly convincing – as victims they are too afraid to reach out to the very people who ultimately can help them: the school and their families. For solutions and answers are also provided and perhaps the most telling part of this story is in the revelation of who is the perpetrator of the bullying campaign.

There are clearly some powerful messages in this novel about bullies and victims, about the insidiousness of cyberbullying and the dreadful impact it can have on all it touches. The fact that these messages are woven into a compelling story ensures that readers will not want to put it down till they reach the final page. However, readers should be warned that the ending is incredibly moving and may challenge younger readers.

Highly Recommended for mature readers (dma) *****