Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
The promise of the modern age is that information equals power, and in Wilhelm's (Raising the Shades) entertaining and thoughtful tale, that notion is put to the test. Three seventh-graders-a mousy boy with the unfortunate last name Gekewicz, a half-Filipina girl named Catalina and the always tongue-tied Russell-have had their fill of being bullied, and Catalina posts a letter on the school network to squelch rumors being circulated about her by the popular girls. The letter strikes a chord with the downtrodden of Parkland (nicknamed Darkland) middle school; before long, students are sending their own reports to the three underground publishers, who issue electronic editions of "The Darkland Revealer." It seems to work: raised awareness causes a drop in bullying. Wilhelm develops the story in surprising ways, and if not all the action seems fully credible, most of the dynamics here reflect secure knowledge of middle-graders and their behavior. He raises compelling arguments, including a fascinating discussion of whether or not wartime Jews would have been better able to face their persecutors if the Internet had been available to them. The book's deepest point comes early on, though, and it is breathtaking: "If one adult did this to another, he'd be in jail. Why should it be different for kids?" asks Russell's mother after a particularly brutal incident. "I don't know," comes the chilling reply, " 'Cause we're kids?" Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-7-Russell Trainer, a seventh grader at Parkland Middle School, is being bullied. After a particularly bad episode, he reaches out for help to another boy who is the target of daily bullying at school. The two new friends notice that there's also a girl being harassed, and the three join forces to create a place online for bullied kids to publish their stories via the school's Internet service. The Bully Lab becomes a way for them to give voice to their feelings without the fear of being ridiculed. But when one of the bullies plays a prank on the trio, the principal calls an end to the email forum for fear of being sued. Russell and his friends prevail in the end, with a satisfying closure to the story. While the plot is predictable, Doug Wilhelm's honest story (Square Fish, 2011) will resound with kids who have experienced similar situations. Jon Toppo's narration lacks consistency, making it difficult to follow the characters when more than one person is speaking in a scene. Listeners will find it a challenge to connect to and stay with the audio version.-Lyn Gebhard, Sparta Public Library, NJ (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 4-6. Wilhelm takes a fresh path down some well-trodden territory in this book about bullying. Seventh-grader Russell, who is being physically terrorized, reaches out to a geek named Elliot and to Catalina, who has incurred the wrath of seventh-grade queen Bethany and her minions. The kids first become friends and then devise a way to use the school's pilot project e-mail system to tell their stories--and the stories of other kids who are subject to regular bullying. Readers will identify with many of the elements Russell talks about in his earnest first-person narrative: the impotent anger; ineffectual parents; obtuse teachers who smile at the wrong kids. The plot structure is readily apparent, so it's no surprise when the kids' publication causes trouble or when the heavily foreshadowed science fair redeems the trio. Readers won't mind, though; books like this make them feel less alone. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Tired of being bullied, three new friends use their middle school's electronic network to tell their stories, sparking others to share their experiences with harassment. Compiling the tales into an e-newsletter, the students feel a palpable shift in their school's tolerance for bullying, until the paper is accused of libel. Issues of bullying and alienation are handled frankly in this multilayered tale. From HORN BOOK Spring 2004, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
A thought-provoking experiment about bullying and how to handle it. Seventh-grader Russell suddenly and inexplicably becomes the target of another boy's fists, so Russell asks Elliot--not a friend, but the school's general punching bag--for advice. Elliot distracts himself in a world of dinosaurs, but soon the boys become friends with Catalina (another tormented seventh-grader) and the three create an online forum called Revealer, where students tell their own stories of bullying and being bullied. Seeds of understanding sprout around the school as more and more stories come out. A late, well-crafted triumph of the aggressors almost crushes hope, but once again, going public proves invaluable. It's unclear why certain mean characters seem less bad by the end, and the parental passivity is sometimes hard to believe; however, Wilhelm poses intriguing questions about the role computer networks can play in rebellions, kids' lives, and possibly grander politics as well. (Fiction. 10-13) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.