The Revealersby Doug Wilhelm
Throwing light on a dark problem
Parkland Middle School is a place the students call Darkland, because no one in it does much to stop the daily harassment of kids by other kids. Three bullied seventh graders use their smarts to get the better of their tormentors by starting an unofficial e-mail forum at school in which they publicize/b>/b>/b>
Throwing light on a dark problem
Parkland Middle School is a place the students call Darkland, because no one in it does much to stop the daily harassment of kids by other kids. Three bullied seventh graders use their smarts to get the better of their tormentors by starting an unofficial e-mail forum at school in which they publicize their experiences. Unexpectedly, lots of other kids come forward to confess their similar troubles, and it becomes clear that the problem at their school is bigger than anyone knew. The school principal wants to clamp down on the operation, which she does when the trio, in their zealousness for revenge, libel a fellow student in what turns out to have been a setup. Now a new plan of attack is needed . . .
This suspenseful story of computer-era underground rebellion offers fresh perspectives on some of the most enduring themes in fiction for young readers.
The Revealers is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
Janet L. Rose
“Braiding a different twist on the old story of getting back at the school bullies, Wilhelm has created three characters with qualities that make them targets, but also make them capable of combining efforts and mounting a terrific, innovative defense . . . Will fascinate even reluctant readers.” School Library Journal
“[Wilhelm] shines a harsh light on many facets of bullying and never, even at the novel's rosiest moments, implies that every bully is a good kid just waiting to be redeemed. Middle-schoolers will appreciate the honesty.” The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“The promise of the modern age is that information equals power, and in Wilhelm's entertaining and thoughtful tale, that notion is put to the test.” Publishers Weekly
“Books like this make [readers] feel less alone.” Booklist
“Using humor along with realistic examples, Wilhelm draws the reader into the world of middle school turmoil. An excellent book.” SIGNAL
Read an Excerpt
By Doug Wilhelm
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2003 Doug Wilhelm
All right reserved.
When I was in seventh grade I did not understand the things that came out of my mouth. Of course I'm a year older now, and a lot happened last year-and that's what this story is about-but sometimes I think back and I just cringe.
I wanted people to say, "Hey, Russell! Sit with us!" But I'd open my mouth and what would come out would be loud and clanky and wrong. And they would give me that quick, flat, puzzled stare that is the stock weapon of the cool seventh grader and seems to ask, "What species are you, exactly?" And I would go away thinking I was hopeless. I just wished that once I could say the right thing-but next chance I had with somebody important my words would pop out clanky and loud and I would want to run my head into a wall. I'd wonder, What happened to me?
Basically, when seventh grade started I found out I was out. It was like everyone else took a secret summer course in how to act, what to say, and what groups to be in, and I never found out about it. Maybe they didn't tell me on purpose. Maybe they thought it'd be fun to see how out of it I could get. See how you could start to think? But the truth is, nobody thought about me much at all back then. I wasn't the type anybody paid attention to-not before all this startedhappening.
So I would go home from school by myself. I was riding my bike the particular day when this thing occurred that pretty much captures what I'm talking about: my having had this talent, just then in my life, for saying an incredibly wrong thing to exactly the person I should never, ever have said it to.
I was taking my time, that afternoon. I had nowhere special to go. My mom doesn't get home till about five-thirty, later if she has to go to the store. And I liked to dawdle along. I mean, after a whole day of being herded-having to go here, sit there, and rush with the crowds to the next class before the bell rings and you're late again-why not take your own time when you can? That's what I did, as soon as I could get away from school.
Our school is called Parkland Middle School, and it's on the corner of School and Union streets. You can look up Union and see the downtown stores. But school lets out on School Street, around the corner, where everyone crowds out the big side doors and the buses pull up, and the parents' cars wait behind the buses in a long line.
If you're going downtown after school, or if you need to go through town to get home like I do, most people head up Union. But I usually left the crowds (where nobody was waiting for me anyway) and went up a shady side lane called Chamber Street. I'd tell myself I liked going my own way. I mean, everybody else in seventh grade had to go everywhere with their friends-they'd walk in their little cliques through the halls, they'd eat together in the cafeteria, and they'd head home (or wherever they went) together after school. But why attach yourself to the same people every day, with everybody gabbling like a bunch of baby ducks? I didn't mind going by myself, really. Not that much.
Chamber Street leads to the police department. It's a faded brick building, and behind it is the old town parking lot, and across that is the back of Convenience Farms.
Convenience Farms isn't a farm, of course-it's a squat white store with a red plastic roof. It's easily the ugliest building in our downtown, and it has all kinds of good junky food inside. I coasted my bike in from the parking lot and leaned it against the side of the building, and went in to get my root beer.
That's what I always got after school back then, a root beer. My mom gave me $1.10 each morning so I could get one. "There's for your treat," she'd say. (I don't have a dad. He died when I was too young to know. I wouldn't mind having a dad, but I don't.)
I always got a twenty-ounce A&W, in the plastic bottle with the white cap. (I've tried them all. It's the root beeriest!) When I came out of the store with my bottle this eighth grader, Richie Tucker, was leaning against the side of the building, and my bike was lying sprawled on the pavement.
Richie Tucker. Whoa. Now he was someone you stayed away from. If you were going somewhere and Richie Tucker was hanging around and he tried to catch your eye, you just didn't look at him. Even I knew that.
But here-I suddenly realized-here was one person who didn't have to be in a group with anybody. Probably nobody was cool enough, or strange or scary enough, to hang around with Richie Tucker anyway.
So I looked at him. He had on this black army jacket, with his hands shoved in the big side pockets. I was thinking maybe I could get a jacket like that, I was wondering where you could buy one, when Richie turned his head and looked at me.
"Is that thing yours?" he asked softly, motioning his head toward the sprawled bike.
"It was in my way."
"That piece of crap you left there." Richie said this softly and earnestly, nodding at me like we were two very concerned citizens. "It was in my way." He put his hands on his hips. "What are you going to do about it? Hmm?"
So I bent over, picked up my bike, and-okay, this was a mistake-shook my finger at it.
"Bad bike," I said. "Bad bike! Don't ever do that again!"
See what I mean? Was that stupid?
Richie jerked forward like he was coming at me; I hopped on the bike and started pedaling. I nearly dropped the root beer as I rode, a little too fast, up Union Street to get home.
But then for the next couple of days I kept thinking about that black jacket. I wanted to get one. I looked in the Yellow Pages and found an army-navy store, about half an hour away. I could ask my mom to take me, maybe on Saturday. I could tell her I needed it.
Meanwhile, I guess Richie was watching how I went home.
Two days after the incident at Convenience Farms, I was walking home after school. Just this side of the police station there's a narrow, bumpy little driveway. It connects to the parking lot behind the police building, but it isn't the main way into the lot, and hardly anyone uses it. It's shadowed by a line of trees on one side and a windowless brick wall of the police building on the other. I was halfway up the driveway when Richie stepped out from the trees.
He moved to block my way, and smiled. A prickling crackled in the back of my neck. I saw his fist pull back and I wanted to say No, please! I didn't mean to, but I just watched his fist drive into my stomach.
I couldn't breathe! I made this panicky hreek! hreek! sound, trying to get air. I crumpled up and my heart was pounding and I was shaking all over. Richie grabbed my chin and yanked my face up.
"Nobody mocks me," he said. "You understand? Nobody!"
I went, "Hreek."
Richie stood up and crossed his arms.
"I guess you are nobody," he said. "I guess that's you, huh?"
One tear tipped and fell down my face. Richie's eyes lit up, and he leaned in really close.
"Aw-you got to cry, little boy? Are you a little crying nobody?" I turned my face away. He grabbed it and yanked it back.
"Let me tell you how it is, little boy. This is not over, okay? This is never over. Every time you turn around-every time you think the coast is clear-you better be watching for me. Okay, little boy? Because you're mine now. You are mine. And every time you think you're not ..."
He jerked his fist back; I grabbed my stomach. Just like that.
He stood up. "Yeah," he said, and smiled. "Just like that."
And then he was gone.
the man without fear
My mom came home. She was calling hello. I was sitting at my computer, but it wasn't on. The lights were off. I was just sitting there.
"Hi," my mom said from the door to my room.
She walked in. I turned away.
She reached out and took my chin. She was gentle but it made my face burn, her doing that.
"Russell," she said. "What is it?"
I shook my head free. She leaned back and studied me.
"You look flushed." She felt my cheek with the back of her hand. "Do you feel okay?"
"Did something happen?"
Her palm was on my forehead. "You are warm," she said. "I'll just take your temp."
She went away and I was thinking, What's wrong with me? Why do the things I say make people despise me? Why do I say one thing to this one guy, really just trying to be funny, and it makes him that mad?
I didn't get it.
I didn't get anything anymore.
My mom came back and stuck the thermometer in my mouth. I just sat there till she came back again, pulled it out, and peered at it.
"It's normal," she said, shaking it. "Why don't you lie down for a little while? I'll call you when dinner's ready."
I shrugged, but when my mom was gone I went over to my bed and just lay there. I looked up at the ceiling, at nothing. The room slowly got dark.
Middle school, at least our middle school, was basically a place you tried to survive. Last year in sixth grade, when it started, I still had a lot of friends from elementary school-but it was like we had all gone from a family sort of place to this big dim noisy train station. Everybody was rushing around and you hardly knew anybody, and there were predators. They were all over, the predators. Even some of the kids you knew started turning into them. Plus, a lot of kids at our school were changing and making these tight little cliques, and if you didn't fit in somewhere you could be in trouble. One by one, my friends went pfft.
And now I knew I was in trouble.
This kind of thing didn't really happen in elementary school. We all grew up together there, we understood each other there. Maybe sometimes a kid would shove you on the playground, or make fun of you for falling down in dodge-ball in gym-or maybe somebody would organize his friends to ignore you for a while ... but you knew those kids. You knew it wasn't a big deal, because it wasn't.
Middle school is different. Ours is named Parkland School, as I've said, but most people in the school call it Darkland. It's a dark brick pile of an old school, and inside it's murky and crowded until it spreads into a newer wing out back, with flat light from windows up too high to see out of-and the whole place is an obstacle course of kids alert for someone they can pound on or ridicule. If you have no hope of being accepted in a cool clique, or any clique for that matter, you're safest if you can manage not to get noticed at all. And suddenly not getting noticed was all I wanted, starting the day I got singled out by Richie to be the new target of his personal psychological terror campaign.
When I woke in the morning I didn't want to get up. I saw Richie's face like it was right there. By the time I walked into school, my stomach was caving in. I couldn't stop thinking about what he'd said, how every time I turned around he might be there.
I didn't want to turn around. I didn't want to be alone and I didn't want to be in crowds either, but I figured being in crowds was better. Safer. I went to my locker and got out every book I would need all day, and stuffed them in my backpack so I wouldn't have to be out at my locker again.
My backpack felt like a sack of bricks. By third block my shoulder was killing me. I switched sides, then both shoulders were killing me.
Suddenly classrooms were warm protected places, where nothing bad could happen to you. Nothing really bad. I watched the clock, hoping I could make time go so slowly it might actually stop. But then the class would be over, and I'd have to go out there again.
Between classes, the Darkland hallways are jammed with people pushing, stepping on your feet 'cause they're jumping up to catch their friend's eye, or just shoving past you in a big elbowing hurry. Most kids just troop along in the herd. That's where I tried to stay.
And all day I didn't see him. But as the afternoon wore on, I started getting into this damp panic about having to make it home after school. I was going to have to go out there. How could I get home?
Then it hit me-I didn't have to go the same way! I could go up Union Street, where everyone could see. He wouldn't try anything where everyone could see, right? I could even go up Bishop Street, which was beyond Union on the far side. I started wondering if I could go all the way on Bishop without being seen from Convenience Farms. I was trying hard to visualize it, to see all the spots of possible exposure.
At the end of school, I came out fast and turned to walk across Union at the corner. Then something made me look back.
Richie was leaning against a tree, just watching me. He didn't move at all; he looked in my eyes, and raised his eyebrows. It was like he knew all along where I was going, even what I was thinking. It felt like he knew everything.
Every day after that was about nothing but whether I would run into Richie, and when, and how he would act. Sometimes he would ignore me, he'd look right past me like I wasn't there. Sometimes he'd look right at me, just watching me-and when I looked back he'd lift his eyebrows that same way. One time he winked, like he and I had a secret. (Which I guess we did, since I sure wasn't telling anyone.)
Another time I passed him in a corridor. I was in a crowd going one way and he was coming down the hall, not in a crowd. Richie was never in a crowd. When I spotted him he was glaring at me-then he sidestepped to block my way. An electric surge bolted through me. Richie's dark eyes were burning; he looked really mad. People flowed past paying no attention.
My chin started to twitch. Then Richie made a scrunched-up, sad face, as if to say: "Oh, are you scared?" I stepped around him and just kept walking. My face was burning hot. All the way down the hall I could feel him looking at me. I knew he was laughing at me, in a way that only I could hear.
I started getting stomachaches every morning and bad headaches at two o'clock every afternoon. I didn't tell anybody. Each day I tried to go home a different way, but there were only a few ways you could go. I didn't spend my $1.10 on root beer anymore because I couldn't go near the store. I started buying superhero comics in the drugstore, instead. They made me feel a little better. I would imagine having my own special powers.
My favorite was Daredevil. Even though he's blind, he's The Man without Fear. Courage is his power, and extrasensitive perception. One night in my room I cut out a full-page picture of Daredevil in action, swinging from a rope between two skyscrapers on a dark night way up above the city. I folded the picture in a tight little square and kept it in my pocket all the next day at school, so I could touch it if I needed to. All day, I didn't see Richie even once. I was so happy, by the end of the day, I felt like I was skating.
The next day I had Daredevil in my pocket again. At lunchtime I had to stop at my locker. I couldn't carry all my books around anymore-my shoulders were just too tired. I was late and the long hallway where my locker is, on the way to the lunchroom, was empty. I was starting to turn my combination when, at the end of the corridor, Richie appeared.
He leaned against a locker, looking at me. My fingers turned slippery. The combination was wrong. I couldn't get the lock open-I couldn't do it!
He started walking toward me.
There was total silence except for his footsteps. The hallway was echoing. I wasn't breathing. My fingers were paralyzed.
Beside me, he stopped.
I didn't want to look up. But it was like I had to ... like he had control.
"How you feeling today, little boy?"
My mouth opened, but there was no sound.
"Hey, don't worry about it," he said. "You needed to learn something. And you learned. Right?"
"Uh ..." I blushed.
He leaned closer. "Little boy. Am I right?"
Finally I whispered, "Okay."
"Yeah." He smiled, stepping back. "That's that," he said. He looked me up and down.
"Listen," he said. "You need to stop by the Farms after school today."
"Yeah. You do."
His forehead wrinkled. "Because I told you to," he said, patiently.
He started to walk away. "Be there," he said without turning around.
Excerpted from The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm Copyright © 2003 by Doug Wilhelm. Excerpted by permission.
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
Doug Wilhelm has written several books for young readers. He lives in Rutland, Vermont.
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