The Bluford Series - Let me just say, I just love these books!
“The Bully” by Paul Langan is the story about a quiet teen named Darrell Mercer. Darrell is nervous about moving to California with his mother and attending a new high school. Anxiety over transferring to a new school is a common issue with high schoolers, but the reader learns quickly that Darrell is different. While attending his previous high school, Darrell never had to stand up for himself and was ‘protected’ from bullies by his friend. Now a new student at Bluford High, the 15 year old that has a physical build of a 12 year old becomes a victim of bullying. Tyray Hobbs and his gang of followers bully Darrell daily out of his lunch money and destroy his self-esteem.
Life at home isn’t any better. Darrell’s mother is pre-occupied with her new job and his uncle believes the solution to all of Darrell’s problems is for him to just ‘toughen up.’ When Darrell’s English teacher Mr. Mitchell gives him the book, “The Hamlet” to read, things begin to change. Darrell joins the wrestling team and his self-confidence and popularity improves. His classmates give him a new respect for trying and shows interest a classmate, Amberlynn. Despite these social gains, Darrell continues to be tormented by Tyray and he makes a decision: run or fight. In a climatic cafeteria scene, Darrell finally stands up to Tyray, breaks his arm and embarrasses him in front of the entire school.
Despite the predictability of “The Bully” I really liked it. Langan captures the voice of teens and their experiences effectively in the story and I believe this is why books written by him are so popular with pre-teens and teens. Readers can really experience the pain of bullying and cheer Darrell on as he makes accomplishments on the wrestling team. This book could be used with boys beginning in 7th grade as a platform for discussion on the subject of bullying. Kids that read this book will definitely relate to this story and either place themselves in the shoes of Darrell or Tyray.
"The Bully" by Paul Langan is a must read book for reluctant readers and should not be missed by pre-teens.