Francine Prose's AFTER demonstrated that she knew a thing or two about bullying. She goes one step further in her latest novel, Bullyville. After his father is killed in the WTC attacks of 9-11, Bart is offered a full ride to Bailywell Academy, known to all in town as Bullyville. Once enrolled and handed over to a Big Brother named Tyro, Bart learns how Bullyville has earned its name and its reputation. Tyro is the king of the bullies. Some of the insults are small, Bart is introduced to Tyro's pals as Fart Strangely. However, other incidents are much more serious as are the threats that Tyro openly uses.
Interestingly, this story veers off in several different directions as readers follow Bart, his mother, his school "career", and the bullying in an almost daily hodgepodge that mirrors real life. How do you grieve for a father who had already left his family before the events of 9-11? How do you deal with the public display your grief must take as journalists swarm? How do you deal with a bully the size of Tyro? Just as soon as you think you have the answer, right along with Bart, things change; circumstances do 180s, and the situation is not as it was before. Just as AFTER examined school shootings in an aftermath aspect, so BULLYVILLE takes an almost sideways glance at bullies and the bullied. This is a great choice for reluctant readers due to short chapters, fast paced action, and a sympathetic yet well rounded character in Bart and those around him.