Bystander

Bystander

by James Preller

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312547967
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 05/10/2011
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 54,447
Product dimensions: 5.23(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.64(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Ketchup

The first time Eric Hayes ever saw him, David Hallenback 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.

     Scared witless.

     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.

Excerpted from Bystander by James Preller.

Copyright © 2009 by James Preller.

Published in 2009 by Feiwel and Friends.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. The ending of the book does not provide a typical Hollywood conclusion, where it's all wrapped up. Instead, it strives for something more realistic. What do they will happen with the characters in the future, particularly Griffin and his friends.

What clues in the text support your conclusion?

2. In the character of David Hallenback, we see a victim/target who turns around to become a bully against Eric Hayes. Research shows this to be a common dynamic

— that the target becomes the bully. Why do you think this might be true?

3. From the book, we learn that Mary has been involved in some cyber-bullying the past. Why do you think this particular form of bullying —- creating a web page, or simply send a mean email — is on the rise today? What makes it easier? Why?

4. Think about Eric's mother's actions and reactions in the book. Do you think she made any mistakes? What did she do right? What would you want to tell adults about the "real" stories behind bullying?

5. In chapter 20, a gathered group of boys discuss their responses to Griffin's behavior. A number of reasons are listed by various characters as to why they elect to do nothing, including: 1) The unreliability of authority figures to respond;

2) The threat of retaliation; 3) That the victim, at least on some level, deserves it;

4) That it's human nature, the law of the jungle, and will always persist; 5) That it's better to stay out of it; and lastly, 6) That no one should "rat out" another

student. Are any of these valid reasons for remaining a bystander? Why and why not?

6. Griffin Connelly is represented as a smart, good-looking, intelligent boy. Why do you think he's involved in bully behaviors? What traits do you think he might lack?

7. Eric's father is absent from the story, living miles away. What effect do you think this had on Eric? Do you feel it helped make him a potential target in Griffin's eyes?

8. In what is known as "the bystander effect," it's been learned that group behavior is often less moral/ethical than individual behavior. For example, imagine a figure laying on the sidewalk. Groups of people have, in various tests, failed to stop and help the injured person. Yet individuals — alone — are much more likely to stop and try to be of assistance. Why do you think that is so?

9. To what extent is it fair to blame some of David Hallenback's problems on himself? What mistakes does he make? Are there things he might have done differently? Did he in any way bring these problems unto himself?

10. Do you feel the school authorities — ranging from the principal, teachers,

counselors and school resource officer — acted appropriately throughout? Could they have done more to address the problem? 11. Late in the book, Mary decides to no longer worry so much about what others think. Why do you believe this is a good or a bad thing?

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Bystander 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 71 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
KoryPetersen More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just bought it its really intersting i finished it in a hour i suggest it to everybody.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was a little scepticle at first, but i am really glad i read it. I read for book clubs at school.
Ryan Jones More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WORST BOOK EVER! I had to read this for summer reading and it was so bad. I would give this 0 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book
e-j-k More than 1 year ago
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.
Wedderspoonmi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is about the every day life of teens in High School. The book talks about bulling and how if you dont stop it you could be the next target. I think its a great book to read, becasue it talks about life in high school.
SandyStiles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The subtitle kind of says it all: A bystander? Or the bully's next target? Eric moves to a new school and quickly is "befriended" by Griffin the school bully. Griffin we find out is a product of a violent father. Eric at first figures that at least he isn't actually bullying anyone, but soon realizes that isn't enough. He needs to speak up. A little formulaic, but a good read for middle school.
kayceel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eric's parents split up, and as a result, he and his brother have moved with their mom back to her hometown in Long Island, NY. Eric's fears of starting a new school with knowing no one are relieved when a seemingly popular boy befriends him. But as Eric gets to know Griffin better, he sees an unsettling cruel side of Griffin emerging.While I appreciate the focus on bullying (rather than add it in to another plot line), Bystander has a bit of an "after school special" feel to it. Eric's school's teachers and administrators clearly make an effort to educate the students about bullying, but only Eric's English teacher, citing a creepy study done in the 60s and quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. - "In the end, we'll remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends" - feels natural.The story's resolution was rather abrupt, and Eric's supposed 'solution' to the bullying problem gave me problems - solve a bullying problem with a crime? I feel that aspect of the book was irresponsible.I do, however, appreciate the inclusion of some non-verbal bullying, enacted by a few of the girls in Eric's class - the book and the characters both represent the slandering of a female classmate through a fictitious personal web site is accurately portrayed as being just as damaging as physical bullying.
skstiles612 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sometimes making friends in town can be difficult. Especially when the most popular kid turns out to be a monster. Eric just wants to be part of the in crowd. Griffin seems to want him in his crowd. Things change. One day Eric is Griffin's friend and the next he is his target. I see see the problem of bullying in my school everyday. Sometimes it takes the form of a kid saying something mean to another. Sometimes it is a child saying something nasty about the other kids parents. All of it is a form of bullying. However, most kids don't realize that just standing around saying nothing, doing nothing, when they witness bullying is just as bad. This was an awesome book and one I look forward to placing on my shelves at school. I know the message is good for all of my students but it is even better for those that I have seen bullying others. I think I need to give a copy to our guidance officers as a resource.
oapostrophe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eric is the new kid in school. Griffin is a good looking and popular charmer who exerts an unpleasant control over his friends. Both boys have difficult family situations, fathers. Eric has a bad feeling about Griffin and we see it play out in a fairly predictable story with the usual cast of bully, his cronies, the picked on, and those who struggle with doing the right thing. Useful as a class read for the bullying discussions that are increasingly common. The struggle that Eric has, and Mary (on the girl side) is written in a way very accessible for the middle grades.
chibimonkiez on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"He was running from, not to, and not running, but fleeing. Scared witless." James Preller's Bystander takes you through the adventures of the worst and the most dreaded place on earth, middle school.Eric had just moved to Bellport with his mother and little brother to start their lives anew, hoping to leave their problems behind. With this, he meets a few interesting people, and maybe even makes a few friends. When a kid is new around, they don't exactly know just who to hang out with. With Griffin and his group, Eric finds himself going through a lot. Just when Eric thinks he's got problems of his own, he gets to learn about the dark world of Griffin's. At first, Eric comes out strong and goes along with what Griffin and his friends do, just standing and watching them take the weak down. But when it gets too far, Eric backs down, but thats not an option for Griffin. When someone appears to be weak, thats when the bully takes the chance to push them down. From once a nobody, then to a bystander, to the bully's next target. Eric is not alone, he's not the only one with these problems, and together he and all the others will find a solution.James Preller's Bystander is a great book that has a message to everyone, we are not alone. We are not the only ones and we should talk about our problems with others and ask for help. It describes about how we all have the same problems, and what we can do to stop bullying.
YouthGPL on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kearsten says: Eric's parents split up, and as a result, he and his brother have moved with their mom back to her hometown in Long Island, NY. Eric's fears of starting a new school with knowing no one are relieved when a seemingly popular boy befriends him. But as Eric gets to know Griffin better, he sees an unsettling cruel side of Griffin emerging.While I appreciate the focus on bullying (rather than add it in to another plot line), Bystander has a bit of an "after school special" feel to it. Eric's school's teachers and administrators clearly make an effort to educate the students about bullying, but only Eric's English teacher, citing a creepy study done in the 60s and quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. - "In the end, we'll remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends" - feels natural.The story's resolution was rather abrupt, and Eric's supposed 'solution' to the bullying problem gave me problems - solve a bullying problem with a crime? I feel that aspect of the book was irresponsible.I do, however, appreciate the inclusion of some non-verbal bullying, enacted by a few of the girls in Eric's class - the book and the characters both represent the slandering of a female classmate through a fictitious personal web site is accurately portrayed as being just as damaging as physical bullying.
mom2mdsm More than 1 year ago
my daughter read it for summer reading for middle school and she loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No abla english el lapez leche agua mango gelano bacuta ce el juono
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The beginning was sort of boring but later on, it got more interesting. I wish it was longer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have not read it yet but mrs.frick said that it will be a good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago