Bystanderby James Preller
Eric is the new kid in seventh grade. Griffin wants to be his friend. When you're new in town, it's hard to know who to hang out with—and who to avoid. Griffin seems cool, confident, and popular.
But something isn't right about Griffin. He always seems to be in the middle of bad things. And if Griffin doesn't like you, you'd better watch your back./p>
Eric is the new kid in seventh grade. Griffin wants to be his friend. When you're new in town, it's hard to know who to hang out with—and who to avoid. Griffin seems cool, confident, and popular.
But something isn't right about Griffin. He always seems to be in the middle of bad things. And if Griffin doesn't like you, you'd better watch your back. There might be a target on it.
As Eric gets drawn deeper into Griffin's dark world, he begins to see the truth about Griffin: he's a liar, a bully, a thief. Eric wants to break away, do the right thing. But in one shocking moment, he goes from being a bystander . . . to the bully's next victim.
This title has Common Core connections.
“Preller has perfectly nailed the middle school milieu, and his characters are well developed with authentic voices. The novel has a parablelike quality, steeped in a moral lesson, yet not ploddingly didactic. The action moves quickly, keeping readers engaged. The ending is realistic: there's no strong resolution, no punishment or forgiveness. Focusing on the large majority of young people who stand by mutely and therefore complicitly, this must-read book is a great discussion starter that pairs well with a Holocaust unit.” School Library Journal, starred review
“Bullying is a topic that never lacks for interest, and here Preller concentrates on the kids who try to ignore or accommodate a bully to keep themselves safe. For Eric to do the right thing is neither easy nor what he first wants to do, and the way he finds support among his classmates is shown in logical and believable small steps. Eminently discussable as a middle-school read-aloud, [with] appeal across gender lines.” Kirkus Reviews
“Preller displays a keen awareness of the complicated and often-conflicting instincts to fit in, find friends, and do the right thing. Although there are no pat answers, the message (that a bystander is hardly better than an instigator) is clear, and Preller's well-shaped characters, strong writing, and realistic treatment of middle-school life deliver it cleanly.” Booklist
“Plenty of kids will see themselves in these pages, making for painful, if important, reading.” Publishers Weekly
“An easy pick for middle school classroom and school libraries, this book is a worthy addition to collections focused on bullying and larger public libraries, especially those with an active younger teen population.” VOYA
“If Judy Blume could write a book about Little League, about its players' deepest fears and secret dreams, it might come out something like this.” Publishers Weekly, starred review on Six-Innings
“Dishing up a rare example of a character-driven tale that is also suspenseful and exciting, [Preller] chronicles a magnificent championship game between two Little League teams that is as much about the players as the plays.” Booklist, starred review on Six-Innings
“Following the play-by-play builds suspense and brings the reader right into the action and the special world of baseball and the people who love it.” Kirkus Reviews on Six-Innings
“A tale of baseball, friendship, growth, and coming to terms with hardships, this fast read will grasp any reader who enjoys sports.” School Library Journal on Six-Innings
“This is a book whose emotional pull creeps up on you, pitch by pitch....Like the boys on the field and in the press box, readers will feel this is a game to remember.” Shelf Awareness on Six-Innings
Read an Excerpt
By James Preller
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2009 James Preller
All rights reserved.
THE FIRST TIME ERIC HAYES EVER SAW HIM, DAVID HALLEN back was running, if you could call it that, running in a halting, choppy-stepped, stumpy-legged shamble, slowing down to look back over his shoulder, stumbling forward, pausing to catch his breath, then lurching forward again.
He was running from, not to, and not running, but fleeing.
Eric had never seen the boy before. But in this town, a place called Bellport, Long Island, it was true of most kids. Eric didn't know anybody. He bounced the basketball, flicking it with his fingertips, not looking at the ball, or the rim, or anything else on the vast, empty grounds behind the middle school except for that curly-haired kid who couldn't run to save his life. Which was too bad, really, because it looked to Eric like he might be doing exactly that — running for his life.
Eric took a halfhearted jumper, missed. No lift in his legs. The ball bounced to the left wing, off the asphalt court and onto the grass, where it rolled and settled, unchased. Eric had been shooting for almost an hour. Working on his game or just killing time, Eric wasn't sure. He was tired and hot and a little bored or else he would have bounded after the ball like a pup, pounced on it after the first bounce, spun on spindly legs, and fired up a follow-up shot. Instead he let the ball roll to the grass and, hands on his hips, dripping sweat, watched the running boy as he continued across the great lawn in his direction.
He doesn't see me, Eric thought.
Behind him there was the sprawling Final Rest Pet Cemetery. According to Eric's mother, it was supposedly the third-largest pet cemetery in the United States. And it's not like Eric's mom was making that up just to make Eric feel better about "the big move" from Ohio to Long Island. Because, duh, nobody is going to get all pumped up just because there's a big cemetery in your new hometown, stuffed with dead cats and dogs and whatever else people want to bury. Were there pet lizards, tucked into little felt-lined coffins? Vietnamese potbellied pigs? Parakeets? People were funny about pets. But burying them in a real cemetery, complete with engraved tombstones? That was a new one on Eric. A little excessive, he thought.
As the boy drew closer, Eric could see that his shirt was torn. Ripped along the side seam, so that it flapped as he ran. And ... was that blood? There were dark red splotches on the boy's shirt and jeans (crazy to wear those on a hot August afternoon). Maybe it was just paint. The whole scene didn't look right, that much was sure. No one seemed to be chasing after the boy. He had come from the far side of the school and now traveled across the back of it. The boy's eyes kept returning to the corner of the building, now one hundred yards away. Nothing there. No monsters, no goblins, no ghosts, no thing at all.
Eric walked to his basketball, picked it up, tucked it under his arm, and stood watching the boy. He still hadn't spotted Eric, even though he was headed in Eric's direction.
At last, Eric spoke up. "You okay?" he asked. Eric's voice was soft, even gentle, but his words stopped the boy like a cannon shot to the chest. He came to a halt and stared at Eric. The boy's face was pale, freckled, mushy, with small, deep-set eyes and a fat lower lip that hung like a tire tube. He looked distrustful, a dog that had been hit by too many rolled-up newspapers.
Eric stepped forward, gestured to the boy's shirt. "Is that blood?"
The boy's face was blank, unresponsive. He didn't seem to understand.
"On your shirt," Eric pointed out.
The boy looked down, and when his eyes again lifted to meet Eric's, they seemed distant and cheerless. There was a flash of something else there, just a fleeting something in the boy's eyes: hatred.
Hot, dark hatred.
"No, no. Not ... bl-blood," the boy said. There might have been a trace of a stutter in his voice, something in the way he paused over the "bl" consonant blend.
Whatever it was, the red glop was splattered all over the boy's pants and shirt. Eric could see traces of it in the boy's hair. Then Eric smelled it, a familiar whiff, and he knew. Ketchup. The boy was covered with ketchup.
Eric took another step. A look of panic filled the boy's eyes. He tensed, stepped back, swiveled his head to again check the far corner of the building. Then he took off without a word. He moved past Eric, beyond the court, through a gap in the fence, and into the cemetery.
"Hey!" Eric called after him. "I'm not —"
But the ketchup boy was long gone.CHAPTER 2
THEY CAME SOON AFTER, AS ERIC HAD GUESSED THEY might. Four of them on bicycles. Three boys and a girl.
Eric was alone on the court, standing at the foul line. He dribbled twice, caught the ball in both hands, feeling for the lines of the ball with his fingertips. Foul shooting was a ritual, a practiced set of precise patterns. He took a deep breath, blew the air out, bent his knees, eyes fixed on the rim. Elbow up and out, wrist flicked. The ball shivered through the mesh. Perfect.
The hunters came from around the far side of the big brick building. They weren't pedaling hard, didn't seem in any big hurry. They were talking and laughing as they rode, glancing around, the trail gone cold. Eric retrieved the ball and stepped back to the foul line. He glanced behind him, in the direction where the ketchup boy had fled. There was no sign of the boy; he had vanished like a ghost among the tombstones. That left just Eric. And now the bike riders were headed his way, four sailboats fixed on a distant shore, tacking this way and that in zigs and zags, but surely aimed toward the boy on the court in red basketball shorts, white new kicks, and a sleeveless tee.
The shaggy-haired boy in the lead pulled up right in the middle of the court, halfway between the foul line and the basket. He stayed on his bicycle seat, balanced on one leg, cool as a breeze. The boy looked at Eric. And Eric watched him look.
His hair fell around his eyes and below his ears, wavy and uncombed. He had soft features with thick lips and long eyelashes. The boy appeared to be around Eric's age, maybe a year older, and looked, well, pretty. It was the word that leaped into Eric's mind, and for no other reason than because it was true.
The other three stayed on their bicycles and slowly circled the perimeter of the court, riding behind Eric and then back around and around, the noose of their circle drawing tighter each time. They, too, said nothing, as if content to wait for instructions.
Eric wondered if something bad was about to happen. And he wondered, too, if there might be anything he could do to avoid it. A part of him watched the scene unfold as if he wasn't in the middle of it, as if it was in a movie or something, as if he watched from an overhead camera, the cyclists circling like vultures around a carcass.
"You didn't see anybody come by here, did you?" the boy asked.
"Looks like a french fry," a skinny, hatchet-faced boy added. He laughed, and the third boy joined in. Eric glanced at them, avoiding eye contact, then turned to look directly back at the leader, the one who had asked the question.
"I've been shooting around," Eric explained with a shrug. "I didn't really —"
"Nobody, huh," the brown-haired boy said, sliding off his bike and dropping it carelessly to the ground. He didn't look that big or that strong, but he moved with an easy confidence. There was toughness there, a hardness beneath the long lashes and full lips. The boy held out his hands, clapped once. Said, "Let's see that ball, huh."
Eric didn't hesitate. He made a sharp bounce pass to the boy. "Sure, here," he said, as if there was nothing he wanted more than to hand over his ball to this stranger.
The other two boys deposited their bikes on the grass. The girl — with a high, round forehead and straight blond hair parted in the middle — remained seated on her bike, wrists dangling over the handlebars, silently watching.
"You new around here?" the boy asked. He dribbled the ball a little awkwardly, his skills unrefined.
Eric nodded. Yes, he was new. Eric sensed that he'd have to be careful; this encounter could go either way. It could turn out okay, or go very bad. Threat hung in the air, though no one had said or done anything wrong. It was just a feeling Eric got. A knot in his stomach.
The boy turned to the hoop and took a shot that clanged off the metal backboard and bounced away. He grinned and shrugged, eyes smiling. "I'm not really one of those basketball guys," he explained. "My name's Griffin. Most everybody calls me Griff."
Griffin gestured toward the school building. "You gonna go to school here? What grade you in?"
"Yeah," Eric answered. "Seventh."
One of the other boys, the heavy, raw-knuckled one, snorted, "You any good at homework? We could use somebody to do our homework."
The hatchet-faced boy laughed. His large front teeth protruded slightly and his black hair was limp and ragged. Eric instinctively disliked him. Weasel, he thought.
Griffin smiled at Eric. "Don't pay any attention to these guys," he said. "They think they're funny. Anything for a laugh, right, Cody?"
The ugly one, all beaked nose and buckteeth, blew a bubble and let it burst. "Good times," he chirped. "Good times."
"I feel sorry for you," Griffin said to Eric. "You move here — and all we've been trying to do is figure out how to break out of this place!"
Griffin had a way about him, a certain kind of natural leadership that Eric respected. Words came easily to Griffin, his smile was bright and winning. Eric felt almost envious; Griffin seemed to possess a quality he lacked, a presence.
"So, tell us," Griffin continued, commanding the court. "Why did you move here?"
"Well, it wasn't my idea," Eric confessed. "My parents ... sort of ..."
He trailed off. Better keep that part to himself.
"You don't talk a lot, do you," Griff noted.
Eric tilted his head, shrugged, embarrassed.
"He's a shy boy!" the big one squealed.
"Shut up, Drew P.," Griff said. "Get me that ball, will ya?"
And Drew P. did.
"Droopy, Droo-pee," Cody chimed in a mocking, singsong voice.
"Get a life," Droopy snapped back.
Griffin shook his head, as if the dialogue disappointed him. He explained to Eric, "His name is Drew Peterson. The other day we started calling him 'Droop' and 'Droopy.' Get it: Drew P." Griffin smiled. "I don't think he's crazy about it."
Eric didn't respond, just listened and nodded.
Griffin weighed the ball in one hand. "You mind if we keep this?"
"The ball, Eric," Griffin said. "You don't mind if I keep it for a while, do you? As a souvenir?"
"Yep, yep, yep!" Cody chirped.
Eric started to answer. "I, um —"
"Um ... what?" Griffin interrupted, his face a mask now, hard to read. "You think maybe you have a choice?"
The two other boys moved a little closer to Eric, one on each side. They seemed to grow in stature. A little taller, a little fiercer, the way a dog looks when its hackles are raised.
Eric did the math. Three against one, not counting the girl. She wasn't doing anything, just standing by, watching.
No, no choice, Eric thought. No choice at all.CHAPTER 3
HE DID NOT WANT TO PART WITH HIS BASKETBALL. BUT Eric knew that if he caved right now, just a week before school started, he'd be a marked man for the whole year. It was funny, almost. School hadn't begun, but he was already taking his first test.
"Actually, um, I do mind," Eric finally said. He didn't whine it or say it with a whimper. He just told it flat out. The sky was blue, the grass was green, and he would certainly miss the damn ball. "But you guys can play with it," Eric quickly added. "I mean, I was about to head home in a few minutes, but —"
Griffin laughed out loud. "Dude, hey, we're just busting on you." He passed the ball back to Eric, a one-handed fling. "I don't even like basketball."
"Come on, Griff, let's go. I'm bored."
It was the girl.
She said, "It's too hot. Let's find Sinjay and get invited into his pool."
Griffin looked at her, nodded once. "Yeah, I guess." He turned back to Eric. "So," he said, landing on the word with emphasis, like it was a complete thought, a summarizing statement. So. "You really didn't see a kid come through here? For sure?"
Eric looked him in the eye and blinked. "I'm just shooting around. I'm like in my own little world out here."
"Okay, I'll take your word for it." Griffin looked around, slowly rubbed his hand across his chest and belly.
Eric could see the doubt in Griffin's eyes. He volunteered, "I mean, I think I would have noticed somebody if —"
"I gotcha," Griffin replied, sharp and dismissive. "Loud and clear. You didn't see him. Nothing wrong with that. We're just looking for one of our buddies, that's all. You can understand that, can't you?"
Eric said that he could.
Griffin's face brightened. "Hey, I've got an idea," he said, snapping his fingers. "This will be really fun, Eric. You will definitely enjoy it. We'll give you one shot, from right there" — he pointed at the foul line — "and if you make it, you get to keep the basketball. If you miss" — he shrugged — "we take it."
"Sounds like a plan," Drew P. said.
"Yep, yep, yep!" Cody called out. That's when Eric recognized the voice. Cody was doing a pitch-perfect imitation of Petrie from The Land Before Time. Eric's younger brother, Rudy, had spent a full year obsessed with those videos.
"Come on, Griff," the girl persisted. "This is so lame."
Eric considered his options. There weren't any good ones. "Okay," he relented. "One shot. But what do I get if I make it?"
"Ho-ho!" Griffin exclaimed. "Now you're bargaining, huh? I like that, Eric, very ballsy."
"I bet a dollar he makes it," the girl said.
"I'll take that bet," Cody said.
Griffin eyed her appraisingly, eyebrows arched in mock surprise. "You like the looks of him, huh? The new boy in town?"
She made an "oh, please" face, like the very idea was stupid. "Let's just get this over with, Griff."
So Eric dribbled once, twice, took a deep breath, and laid a brick. He missed everything, the backboard, the rim, the works. His heart sank.
"Air ball!" chortled Drew P.
"You owe me a dollar, Mary!" Cody claimed.
Mary. Her name was Mary.
Griffin grabbed the ball. He set it on the ground, rested his foot on it, stood pondering the possibilities, then gently rolled the ball to Eric.
Eric bent to pick it up and murmured, "Thanks." The word slipped past his lips as a reflex, just tumbled off his tongue without thinking, a verbal somersault of ingrained manners, thanks, and Eric kicked himself for saying it. What an idiot. Thanking these guys for not stealing his ball! Actually thanking them! How pathetic.
"I am disappointed in you, Eric. I really thought you'd make that shot," Griffin said. He lifted his bike off the ground, climbed back onto it. "We'll see you in school, Eric. Who knows? Maybe we'll have a few classes together. Wouldn't that be special? We could go to the library and do homework together!" He let out a friendly laugh, like it was all a big fat joke.
"Yeah," Eric replied.
The gang of four pulled away. Griffin gestured toward the pet cemetery, and they headed for a gap in the fence.
Eric let out a deep breath. He felt the tension seep out of his neck and shoulders. Good riddance, he thought. No wonder his shot fell short. Too stressed. The girl, Mary, was right. It was hotter than hell out here.
Eric didn't hear Griffin's return, not until the boy was almost on top of him.
"Hey, man," Griffin said, startling Eric as he pulled up behind him, back tire skidding. The others hadn't followed. It was just Eric and Griffin now, no one else. "I don't want you getting the wrong idea. You know we're just fooling around, right? I was never going to take your ball or anything like that."
Excerpted from Bystander by James Preller. Copyright © 2009 James Preller. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
James Preller is the author of the popular Jigsaw Jones mystery books, which have sold more than 10 million copies since 1998. He is also the author of Six Innings, an ALA Notable Book, and Mighty Casey, his own twist on the classic poem, "Casey at the Bat." In addition to writing full-time, Preller plays in a men's hardball league and coaches Little League. He compares coaching kids to "trying to hold the attention of a herd of earthworms." He lives in Delmar, New York, with his wife, three children, cats and dog.
James Preller is the author of the popular Jigsaw Jones mystery books, which have sold more than 10 million copies since 1998. He is also the author of Bystander, named a 2009 Junior Library Guild Selection, Six Innings, an ALA Notable Book, and Mighty Casey, his own twist on the classic poem, “Casey at the Bat.” In addition to writing full-time, Preller plays in a men’s hardball league and coaches Little League. He compares coaching kids to “trying to hold the attention of a herd of earthworms.” He lives in Delmar, New York with his wife, three children, cats and dog.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Eric is the new kid in seventh grade. Griffin wants to be his friend. When you're new in town, it's hard to know who to hang out with-and who to avoid. Griffin seems cool, confident, and popular. But something isn't right about Griffin. He always seems to be in the middle of bad things. And if Griffin doesn't like you, you'd better watch your back. There might be a target on it. As Eric gets drawn deeper into Griffin's dark world, he begins to see the truth about Griffin: he's a liar, a bully, a thief. Eric wants to break away, do the right thing. But in one shocking moment, he goes from being a bystander . . . to the bully's next victim.When Eric moved from Ohio to Long Island, he expected there to be challenges, but he did not anticipate being befriended by the local bully, charismatic and troubled Griffin. As the boys' relationship grows, Eric is unsettled by Griffin's actions, which include stealing from elderly people, physically abusing classmates, and emotionally tormenting peers. Eric decides to stand up to Griffin through his actions, but quickly becomes a target. He must access all support available-through friends, teachers, and within himself-to do the right thing. Bullying is a topic that never lacks for interest, and here Preller concentrates on the kids who try to ignore or accommodate a bully to keep themselves safe. Victim David's pain is evident from the first moment newcomer Eric sees him, but he tries not to acknowledge the reality before him. His mother is trying for a fresh start in this Long Island community, as his father has succumbed to schizophrenia and left her and their two boys on their own, Griffin, the bullying instigator, has problems of sorts; he is a leader and yet suffers under his father's bullying and aggression. It is not easy moving from the Heart Lands to Long Island with a broken family, harder still being the new seventh grader in middle school. Wanting only to make friends, Eric Hayes finds himself in the middle games being played by the resident bully, Griffin, and his current target, David Hallenback. I think it's a very good book. I would recommend it to anyone.
The book Bystander is about the new kid in school, Eric. He moved from Ohio to Long Island. When Eric first started this new school, a kid that was seemingly very nice and confident named Griffin wanted to be his new friend. Griffin was a great guy, good looking, confident, nice, and very trustable, according to the quote, “Griffin seems cool, confident, and popular” But as Eric becomes better friends with Griffin, he betrays Eric and things go down hill from there. Eric started to become really good friends with Griffin and his group. He thought he really did fit in somewhere. They sat together at lunch, Eric and Griffin have hung out a couple of times, and overall things were going Eric’s way, until Griffin stole from Eric. At that time he knew that Griffin no longer wanted to be friends with him. He stole money from Eric’s little brother when they were hanging out at his house. Eric also finds out that the elderly Griffin has been helping; he has actually been stealing from their cars when he helps them with their groceries. Now a target has been painted on Eric’s back, as said on the very first page, “You’d better watch your back; there might be a target on it.” Eric is the new target to the bully, Griffin. Eric only tried to stop Griffin from physically abusing, emotional tormenting, and bullying his peers. But when he tries to stop it, he becomes the victim. The earlier victim, David Hallenbeck is now on Griffin’s side and is going against Eric and all he does. All Eric did was try to help David. Later in the book, David asks Eric if they want to hang out at the basketball court, of course he says yes, at this time he has no idea that David is on Griffin’s side. They walked to the basketball court after school and David is acting strange, he leads them into the pet cemetery where Eric quickly realizes that Griffin and his buddies are following them. Griffin approaches Eric and says a couple of things about his friend that Eric called a weasel as said in the book, “Hey uh, Cody heard what you called him, he’s not to happy about it” At this point Cody steps forward. Cody is one of Griffin’s friends. Cody confronts him on the topic and when Eric repeats the word, weasel, Cody hits him hard in the face with a right hook as said, “And at that moment his fist went flying from the right, nailing me with a vicious right hook” Eric tried to fight back but Cody was a master at his martial arts. He is a black belt. After Cody beats up Eric in a “fair fight” David comes over and starts to kick Eric while he’s down” Eric now realized that he was the target and David was no longer. The book, Bystander should have been a best seller. This book really hooked me. I read it every day and after every day it was harder to put down. Anyone I have talked to about this book agrees that it is a great book. I really liked how the book was complete and total truth about what goes on when you’re the new kid in 7th grade. When I moved, I was the new kid in 7th grade so I could really connect. You didn’t know who the bullies were, or the nice guys, or the popular ones. Everyone had already established their groups the previous year and you felt like you couldn’t fit in. I was very surprised after I finished the book that it wasn’t a best seller. I think this book definitely deserves a spot.
I just finished this book yesterday, and i loved it. It was one of the very few books that i am sad to see it end. My LA class is reading it, for bully proventchen, and i loved it the moment i started reading it. My teacher said that there is a movie that is a lot like it, and we are going to watch it. But i think that they should make amovie on this book. I don't want to see any changes in the movie. This is a great book and i would recamend it to anyone. Espeshaly to teachers that are looking for a book on bullying!!! PS - Sorry i know that i am a horrible speller!! Bye.
I just bought it its really intersting i finished it in a hour i suggest it to everybody.
I was a little scepticle at first, but i am really glad i read it. I read for book clubs at school.
This book is akazing. Its about a 7th grader who wants to fit in,but doesnt know whou to become friends with. Lots of betrayal and bullying.
WORST BOOK EVER! I had to read this for summer reading and it was so bad. I would give this 0 stars.
I love this book
Excellet read for 6th and 7th graders - can even be used as a classroom read to discuss bullying, why kids bully? The roll of the bystander, the victim etc.
my daughter read it for summer reading for middle school and she loved it.
I read the whole book in one week and i loved it in the begining it was borring but it seamed as if something bad was going to happen so it makes you want to keep. But it got interesting in the middle of the book and i do wish rhe book was a lot longer i felt like it left me off and i was still wondering what was going to happen. ONCE AGIAN I LOVE THIS BOOK.<3
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The beginning was sort of boring but later on, it got more interesting. I wish it was longer.
I have not read it yet but mrs.frick said that it will be a good book
I thought this book was a pretty nice book :) I kinda enjoyed reading it. Its not that it was bad it just didnt catch my attention real well.