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Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Playground: A Raw and Honest Read for Middle Grade

13-year-old Butterball hasn't got a lot going for him. He's teased about his weight, he hates the Long Island suburb his mom moved them to, and he wishes he could live in the city with his dad.  And now Butterball is stuck talking to a therapist named Liz, who somehow makes him talk about things that he didn't think he would ever confess- especially not to a stupid white lady who doesn't understand. As truths are revealed about what led to the playground incident, Butterball starts to consider why he bullies, and what kind of person he wants to be.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I really loved this book! Inspired by his own adolescence, and written with his fourteen-year-old son in mind, 50 Cent has written a powerful story of bullying and redemption. Told in Butterball's voice, it is authentic, raw, and honest, and he's an amazingly sympathetic character. Don't get me wrong- the book does not excuse his behaviour, but Butterball believes that he has good reasons to do what he's doing, and I could completely understand where he was coming from.

Butterball is an angry kid, and for good reason. The brief glimpses of Butterball's father reveal a lot about where his attitude come from, and you can't help feeling heartbroken for him. Butterball's relationship with his mother is also difficult. She works all of the time and doesn't talk to him, and there's a lot he doesn't understand so he draws his own conclusions and lashes out. He is virtually friendless at school, and the boys he's hooking up with are bullies themselves. They push him to do things he innately knows are wrong, but at the same time, he doesn't want to look like a coward.

Thankfully, Butterball's a kid who can still be redeemed, and who wants redemption, whether he realizes it or not. Despite his complaints about his mandated sessions with Liz, she is probably the only person who has ever met him without judgement, and she guides him, rather than pushes him, to a deeper self-awareness.

Butterball does swear liberally throughout the text, but it's in context for the character, but don't let that deter you from reading and discussing it. It's gritty, but it's real, and is perfect for kids who are a bit too young for Walter Dean Myers but are craving those kinds of stories.

6 comments:

Alex said...

This sounds like a good books for tweens to read, especially angry ones since it points out that help is available for bullies. Books about kids who get bullied as well as kids who bully is an important sub-genre these days. Thanks for this review.

Petra @ Safari Poet said...

I'm surprised to hear that it's so good. Nothing against 50 Cent, but I just never pictured him as an author. Proof that you can never know.

Great review! New follower :-)

Safari Poet

Rachel S. said...

Hi Petra.

I didn't have high expectations, but was pleasantly surprised! Thanks for the follow!

Rachel S. said...

Thanks for the comments, Alex. Bullying is an important genre these days, and yes- it woudl be a great book for angry kids.

Alex said...

Hi Rachel,

I have just given you a Liebster award which you can find at
http://www.thechildrenswar.blogspot.com/2012/01/award-wow.html

Hope you like it and pass it along.

Rachel Seigel said...

Thanks Very much Alex. Will do!

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