Bullyville

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Overview

My father was killed on 9/11.

When eighth grader Bart Rangely is granted a "mercy" scholarship to an elite private school after his father is killed in the North Tower, doors should have opened. Instead, he is terrorized and bullied by his own mentor. So begins the worst year of his life.

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Overview

My father was killed on 9/11.

When eighth grader Bart Rangely is granted a "mercy" scholarship to an elite private school after his father is killed in the North Tower, doors should have opened. Instead, he is terrorized and bullied by his own mentor. So begins the worst year of his life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In a taut, brilliantly controlled novel, Prose (After) dissects the unspoken dynamics that create bullies and their intended victims. Bart Rangely, the narrator, has begun eighth grade when his father dies in one of the Twin Towers on 9/11, and because his mother would have been at the same office except for Bart's illness that day, he achieves unwanted fame as the Miracle Boy. (Nobody knows that Bart's dad had left his mom for another woman.) The publicity lands Bart a full scholarship to prestigious nearby Bailywell Prep, known to the locals-with good reason-as Bullywell. The scenario Prose then unfolds is all the more chilling because it is not especially outrageous but, rather, recognizable. Bart's mentor, Tyro Bergen, "too handsome to pass for a regular kid," steadily persecutes Bart, and although he eventually retaliates, Bart feels obligated to protect his mother's illusions about Bailywell. The headmaster accommodates the deep pockets of Tyro's parents, who fund Bart's scholarship and have their own reasons for confusing the manipulation of others with compassion and generosity. Few YA authors tackle issues of class so smoothly: the school, a microcosm of privilege, has no room for a middle-class kid unless he is cast as a lesson for the others, and the Bergens, Bart realizes, will always be allowed to write the lesson plan. The pace is quick, and the characters' motivations on target and revelatory. Connecting grief, rage and violence, Prose's insights are piercing and powerful. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Bart Rangely never wanted to be "The Miracle Boy," the kid whose sudden bout of flu kept him home from school and his mom home from her job in the Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. His dad, however, was already in his office in the North Tower on that horribly memorable day and Bart is now half an orphan; no one was ever told that his father had left the family for a younger woman six months earlier. His dad had not been around all that much anyway, but stayed in touch with Bart via frequent text messages; this new and very permanent absence feels devastating. Bart's mother no longer has a job, and Bart cannot deal with the kind of attention he receives from friends and teachers in his eighth grade classes so he just stays home—and they both sink into depression. When the director of Baileywell, the elite preparatory academy on the hill, comes to offer Bart a scholarship, donated by an anonymous benefactor, his mother is so desperately grateful that Bart agrees to go, against all his instincts. The school has a reputation among the local kids as a hotbed of brutish bullying, and it is not long before Bart finds out just how cruel the rich kids can be. He never says a word to anyone because his mom seems finally to be pulling herself together, and he just cannot take that hope away from her. The bullying escalates, becoming more physically and psychologically damaging, and when they send Bart a series of text messages that concludes, "It's very hot… I'm burning up…Love, Dad," Bart loses it. He vandalizes the expensive car owned by the lead perpetrator, Tyro, and the whole story comes out. Rather than being asked to leave the school, however, Bart and Tyro are assigned to participatein community service, and Bart ends up working with really sick children at the local hospital; that is where he meets 10-year old Nora. Hooked up to tubes and confined to bed, Nora manages to restore Bart's spirit and humanity. Not until Nora is dying does Bart learn she is the younger sister of Tyro, the tormentor. The final interaction between the two boys, unfortunately, is not reconciliation but a bloody fist fight. At the end of the book we hear the adult Bart wax philosophic about the parallels between bullying and terrorism and about how people may mend and move on but never be completely whole again. While this may be true, and while Bart's reactions of meeting violence with violence may be perfectly understandable, perhaps this is not the most useful message to promote to potential teen readers. The book could be a useful discussion starter about finding other ways to respond to the large and small acts of hatred they will inevitably encounter. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - C. J. Bott
Bart's father has left the family for a younger woman. Bart's father and mother and this younger woman all worked in the same office until September 11, when his father was the only one who died in the Twin Towers. His death starts the world spinning for Bart. A transfer to a private middle school on a full scholarship-earned because of his loss-puts Bart in the crosshairs of the worst bully in Baileywell (aka Bullyville), a bully so bad that Bart equates him to a terrorist. For his big brother, Bart is assigned Tyro Bergen, the same Tyro that rumors say drove a student nearly insane. Everything in this book goes to that level of twistedness that some might call sensationalism. The story has glimpses of heart in the scenes between Bart and Nola, a young critically ill girl whom he visits as part of his community service for fighting back at his bully, and in the car when Bart and his mom talk about how they both miss his father. But most of it is just too over-the-top. The plot is event driven, and the characters are mostly stereotypical bad guys. The teachers are blind idiots, the principal is an incompetent who accepts gifts such as a new car from Tyro's father, and the bully squad is pervasive but unacknowledged. At the end, Bart transfers back to his old school and his old friends, and the reader can only guess that Bullyville goes on its bullying way.
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2007: When Bart's father is killed in one of the Twin Towers on 9/11, the 8th-grader is offered a "mercy" scholarship to Baileywell, a fancy all-boys prep school in his New Jersey town. Bart's mother is thrilled, but Bart knows the school's reputation for bullying. Soon he is the target of a vicious junior named Tyro and his friends. Small stuff like tripping Bart and pouring ketchup all over his lunch escalates to stuffing him in his locker and finally a particularly cruel text message that leads Bart to retaliate by keying Tyro's car. When Bart is caught in the act, he tells about what's been happening to him, and both boys are required to do community service. Bart starts visiting a sick but spirited young girl at the hospital and bonds with her, only to discover a surprising connection between her and Tyro. The realistic ending, however, is anything but sentimental, and Prose, the author of After, Blue Angel and other notable books, succeeds in shining a light on the hidden culture of bullying in adolescents' lives. An important book for starting discussions, as well as a good story in its own right, this deserves a wide readership. There's a curse word or two, for those who need to know. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
Kirkus Reviews
When eighth-grader Bart Rangely wakes with a fever, his mother stays home from work. They're sensitive because Bart's dad recently left his mom for another woman. But the day Bart stays home is no ordinary day; it's 9/11 and Bart's flu saves his mother's life but not that of his Wall Street dad. Because of this, Bart is offered a scholarship to a deluxe private school, Bailywell Preparatory Academy. At "Bullyville," the 13-year-old is, as expected, bullied by his "big brother." The second half of Prose's story has less talk and a little more action, but not much. The story features four distinct ideas-9/11, bullying, dealing with bullying and service learning-that are soldered together to make one narrative. No writer really needs a 9/11 pretext to address bullying. Readers may also wonder about Bart, who sounds too introspective for an eighth-grade boy. The final pages reveal the narrator's age: He's a grown man with a family of his own. If Bart is in eighth grade in 2001, how can he be old enough to be a father in a realistic novel published in 2007? Someday, this won't matter, but in the meantime, it's just one more flaw in a forced and artificial story. (Fiction. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060574970
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/18/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.12 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Francine Prose

Francine Prose is the author of twenty works of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York City.

Biography

When it comes to an author as eclectic as Francine Prose, it's difficult to find the unifying thread in her work. But, if one were to examine her entire oeuvre—from novels and short stories to essays and criticism—a love of reading would seem to be the animating force. That may not seem extraordinary, especially for a writer, but Prose is uncommonly passionate about the link between reading and writing. "I've always read," she confessed in a 1998 interview with Atlantic Unbound. "I started when I was four years old and just didn't stop…The only reason I wanted to be a writer was because I was such an avid reader." (In 2006, she produced an entire book on the subject—a nuts-and-bolts primer entitled Reading Like a Writer, in which she uses excerpts from classic and contemporary literature to illustrate her personal notions of literary excellence.)

If Prose is specific about the kind of writing she, herself, likes to read, she's equally voluble about what puts her off. She is particularly vexed by "obvious, tired clichés; lazy, ungrammatical writing; implausible plot turns." Unsurprisingly, all of these are notably absent in her own work. Even when she explores tried-and-true literary conventions—such as the illicit romantic relationship at the heart of her best known novel, Blue Angel—she livens them with wit and irony. She even borrowed her title from the famous Josef von Sternberg film dealing with a similar subject.

As biting and clever as she is, Prose cringes whenever her work is referred to as satire. She explained to Barnes & Noble.com, "Satirical to me means one-dimensional characters…whereas, I think of myself as a novelist who happens to be funny—who's writing characters that are as rounded and artfully developed as the writers of tragic novels."

Prose's assessment of her own work is pretty accurate. Although her subject matter is often ripe for satire (religious fanaticism in Household Saints, tabloid journalism in Bigfoot Dreams, upper-class pretensions in Primitive People), etc.), she takes care to invest her characters with humanity and approaches them with respect. "I really do love my characters," she says, "but I feel that I want to take a very hard look at them. I don't find them guilty of anything I'm not guilty of myself."

Best known for her fiction, Prose has also written literary criticism for The New York Times, art criticism for The Wall Street Journal, and children's books based on Jewish folklore, all of it infused with her alchemic blend of humor, insight,and intelligence.

Good To Know

Prose rarely wastes an idea. In Blue Angel, the novel that the character Angela is writing is actually a discarded novel that Prose started before stopping because, in her own words, "it seemed so juvenile to me."

While she once had no problem slamming a book in one of her literary critiques, these days Prose has resolved to only review books that she actually likes. The ones that don't adhere to her high standards are simply returned to the senders.

Prose's novel Household Saints was adapted into an excellent film starring Tracey Ullman, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Lili Taylor in 1993.

Another novel, The Glorious Ones, was adapted into a musical.

In 2002, Prose published The Lives of the Muses, an intriguing hybrid of biography, philosophy, and gender studies that examines nine women who inspired famous artists and thinkers—from John Lennon's wife Yoko Ono to Alice Liddell, the child who enchanted Lewis Carroll.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 1, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College, 1968

Read an Excerpt

Bullyville

Chapter One

The school I went to, that worst year of my life, was officially known as Baileywell Preparatory Academy. But everyone called it Bullywell Prep. Or Bullyville Prep. Or sometimes, Bullyreallywell Prep. Because that was what it prepared you for. You learned to bully or be bullied, and to do it really well.

Perched high on a hill above our town so you could see it for miles, the school looked like a scaled-down, cheesy medieval castle. The walls were gray stones, large and rough as boulders. Once, in English class, a kid whom everyone called Ex (as in, Can we do this extra thing for extra credit?) read a poem he'd written (for extra credit) about an ancient race of giants rolling stones up Bailey Mountain to build Baileywell Prep so that famous knights in armor could go there.

O Monster Masons!
How we honor your dream

That we Baileywellers would be in these seats today
Like Lancelot and Aragorn
Enjoying the fruits of your giant labors.

The poem went on for about an hour. Or so it seemed, just as it seemed to me the giants must have been seriously retarded to imagine that King Arthur or the Lord of the Rings would want to attend a freezing, bully-ridden, all-boys boarding school on the highest point in Hillbrook, New Jersey. On clear days you could spot the school's tower barely peeping out from under the toxic cloud that hung constantly over our high-priced (if you didn't count our block) and rich (if you didn't count our family) but severely polluted suburb. The kids at Bullywell, most of whom came from somewhere else, called thetown Hellbrook. The kids I'd grown up with called it Hellbrook, too, but that was our privilege, we'd earned it. It was our town, we'd lived there all our lives.

Among the things I never understood about Baileywell was why everything and everyone had to have a nickname. In all the time I was there, I never learned the real names of kids I knew only as Pork or Dog or Buff. The gym was "the sweat lodge," the dining hall—the refectory—was "the slop shop." Our headmaster, Dr. Bratton, was never called anything but Dr. Bratwurst. In fact, he did look a little like a sausage that had figured out how to walk around on remarkably tiny feet and wear glasses and one of those unstylish college-professor tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows.

The school's main building, Bracknell Hall, was known as Break-knuckles Hall. It had a pointed roof and notched turrets. Most likely they were just meant to be decorative—unless some crazed architect actually imagined that a crack team of archers or sharpshooters might someday need to defend the school from an invading army. But who would want to capture it? No one even wanted to go there. A tower rose from the highest point on the roof, but no one ever climbed it. The entrance to the tower had been permanently bricked shut, supposedly for safety and insurance purposes.

But there was another story, which Bullywell students and the rest of the town did, and didn't, believe. People said that some long-ago bullies, pioneers of the school's great tradition, had chased their victim into the tower and sealed it off and he'd died there, and the school had hushed it up. On windy nights, people said, you could still hear the dead kid screaming for his mom and dad.

People told lots of stories about Bullywell Prep. They said a gang of bullies had drowned one kid in a pot of split pea soup, and at lunch the next day his eyeballs bubbled up to the surface of the music teacher's bowl. They said that, in the dead of night, ambulances pulled up to the back gate and picked up kids who'd been bullied until they were hopelessly insane, and carted them off to mental asylums from which they never returned. They said that every year, at the Bullywell graduation, there was always one kid whose brain had been so destroyed he couldn't even remember how to say thank you when they handed him his diploma.

I'd heard all those stories—and scarier ones—before I started at Bullywell. But what happened to me there seemed even worse, I guess because it happened to me.

Through seventh grade, I'd gone, like most of the kids in my town, to Hillbrook Middle School. And before that, we'd all gone to Hillbrook Elementary. School was school, no one thought about it all that much. It was just a place we went, something we did every day.

In class, me and my friends had long ago figured out how to stay in constant communication and still keep quiet enough to not wind up in the principal's office. We listened—or pretended to listen—to our teachers. We did exactly as much homework as we had to, and not one minute, not one second, more. Already my mom had started saying I should begin thinking ahead, to college, but that was way much farther ahead than I could imagine.

As far as I was concerned, school was where I got to hang out with my friends, most of whom I'd known since the first grade. Lunch and gym were the best parts of the day, though none of us—me, Mike Bannerjee, Tim Reilly, Josh Levine, and Ted Nakamura—were all that good in gym. We didn't care about playing on the teams, but nobody gave us a hard time. The other kids seemed to like us okay. We were flying miles under the radar, and that was where we liked it. We laughed a lot, we had fun.

Looking back, I can see how safe and sheltered and naive we were. None of us realized how we should have been thanking our lucky stars that we were at Hillbrook rather than Baileywell.

At Hillbrook Middle School, even the teachers made jokes about Bullywell. When a kid acted up in class, a teacher might say something like, "Young man, maybe the best thing for you would be a semester at Baileywell." Then everyone would giggle nervously, as if the teacher had said that the best thing for the kid would be to smear him all over with honey and tie him down on an anthill swarming with stinging red ants.

Bullyville. Copyright © by Francine Prose. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 18, 2011

    cool

    this book is a very interesting book

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  • Posted February 25, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Will the bulling ever stop?!

    I like book that are very down to earth. This is one of them. I loved the storyline. A boy who struggles in school whom happens to have a bully making it all worse. In a new school with no friends he has to deal with his own problems. It also has a huge twist that makes it all the more interesting. I recommend.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Rebecca Wells for TeensReadToo.com

    When Bart Rangely's absentee father is caught in the North Tower and killed on September 11th, he thinks that life can't get much worse. <BR/><BR/>Unfortunately, he thinks too soon. <BR/><BR/>Because of the public nature of his tragedy, Bart is offered a scholarship to the exclusive Baileywell Academy, an institution better known to its students as "Bullywell" for the rampant bullying that takes place behind its expensive doors. <BR/><BR/>Upon his arrival, Bart is assigned his own personal tormentor, Tyro Bergen, and his life descends into hell. But when he tries to retaliate, and is assigned volunteer work at a hospital for punishment, he finds a friend in an unlikely place, and discovers that sometimes a bully is hiding more from the world than his venom, and that things are not always <BR/>precisely what they seem. <BR/><BR/>The idea most compelling to me in BULLYVILLE is the world of the bullied, a world all but invisible to the adults responsible for the safety of its inhabitants. It is easy to imagine the story descending quickly into darkness and remaining there for the duration of the book. <BR/><BR/>Instead, Francine Prose presents a story that is at its core violence and personal disaster while still maintaining an uplifting tone. Bart Rangely is a funny, charming protagonist who keeps the story light even when dealing with its most serious concepts. I enjoyed Bart's tale immensely, and anyone who has been touched by bullying will identify with his dilemma.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2008

    Review by jo'von LaMarr

    The book Bullyville by Francine Prose was much interesting. It all starrtee with a 13 year old boy named Bart Rangely who was sent to a top of the line preportory academy. The bad thing about it was his welcome wasn't pleasant at all for him. imagine your father dying on 9/11 also knowing you saved your mother from the same terrible tragedy. Being bullied was tearing bart apart, by using cruel joke and abused. for example: by pouring ketchup all over his hamburger at lunch, then another time where he put dog fecies all over barts locker. In the mist of it all he found himself connecting with tyro bergens little sister Nola, who was very ill, that why bart can't her company two day out of the week. Bart was a victim of group of kids who took all the problems out on him. His friend nola and bart family especially his mother keep him strong. Through this journey bart has ventured thru ups and downs. 'What doesn't kill you makes you stonger'! In that case it did for bart. Till this day bart will never forget the day his step foot into Baily wells preportory academy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2007

    So far . . .

    I read Prose's After and fell in love with it the plot, the writing, everything. One thing about Prose is that, no matter WHAT the plot is, it always has tragedy. And Francine Prose writes tragedy well: in a realistic and believable voice. That's how Bullyville ranks. Her main character, Bart, has a realistic voice that many readers will find is similar the THEIR thoughts. I'm only about half-way through but I can assure any reader that if you liked After, you'll likely like this.

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    Posted July 17, 2011

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