"Bully Boy" by Tom Wade
So, this book is technically flawed, ultimately unsatisfying and doesn’t really go in any direction near where you are hoping it will go – and you know what? I loved every minute of it! Tom’s book is great. With its tangible air of menace permeating throughout, simmering below the surface from very early on, it is safe to say that you spend much of it in nailbiting suspense, just wondering where bullied Henry is taking all of this. And the author knows this. Furthermore, he fosters and relishes in it, even dropping a big red herring of a clue about midway through. But in the end Tom is more intelligent than that; he doesn’t need populist sensationalism or shock value to tell his story. Sure, Henry is an angry boy, but he is also a boy with a brain, and a profound sense of right or wrong – so whatever lengths you are worried he is going to go to, you never need worry too much about the righteousness of his actions.
And there is something undeniably righteous about this book, and the story behind it. I don’t know if the author was a victim of the soul-destroying bullying that Henry is subjected to, but I suspect so. In this case, Henry’s tale becomes a fantasy of wishful thinking, when he is pushed too far and retaliates using every resource at his disposal – though most prominently, his brain and his will to fight. And retaliate he does, against the bullies, against the school, against the very system which enables and condones his bullying. His retaliation may not really be disproportionate, and it may be cathartic, but in many ways it is clearly unhealthy for his own state of mind. The teachers, his parents and even his friends know this, but Henry is single-minded in his fury, and he will browbeat anyone who gets in his way. His obsession becomes pathological, and it is difficult not to fear for the future of him or anybody who crosses him.
Wade has created something of an antihero in the making – maybe not now, but certainly later in life; you can’t help wondering what he will have become should you visit Henry at a later date. Whilst initially rooting for him, you might very quickly find yourself wanting to shut him up – we all knew a kid in class like Henry becomes: obstructive, arrogant and annoying. His campaign against the bullies becomes an infuriatingly haughty and imperious one, his manner equally so, though this is utterly forgivable simply because of the fact that the adults are equally infuriating and characteristically obtuse, complacent or simply inept – again, we all know of these types of professional: feigned ignorance for a quiet life, rather than doing good in their job, and creating victims of their dependants. The fact that literally every single adult in this book is like them perhaps labours the point a little, and Henry’s power over them, as well as his story arc, does perhaps become a touch far-fetched – but then again, why not? It’s Tom’s fantasy.
A great book, which technically improved could have earnt a well-deserved five stars and is highly recommended. The lack of chapters was a bit of a problem for me, and I don’t know why Tom opted to exclude them, but you certainly shouldn’t let that put you off – just make sure to use a bookmark.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: tom-wade suspense drama coming-of-age bullying high-school