Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Odd Squad: Bully Bait

Fry, M. (2013). The odd squad: bully bait. NY: Disney Book Group.

free ARC via NetGalley -- Thanks Disney-Hyperion!
to be released February 12, 2013

Young-Young Adult / Realistic Fiction / Illustrated, notebook style novel

QuickNEasy; 214 pages; ages 9-13 (but appealing to older, I think)

This book was hilarious, and even though the art wasn't finalized in the version I read, the sketches were great and really added to the storyline.  Nick is our main character, and he's "the shortest seventh grader in the history of the world" and bullied on a regular basis. His parents are divorced and he lives with his eccentric grandmother (Memaw - my favorite character) and his mom, and he's just trying to make do with himself and fly under the radar as much as possible.  His counselor puts him with two other oddballs so that together, they can belong to a group! And everything's better when you're part of a group, right?

Odd Squad is written in the style of Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries, but it stands apart because adults **GASP** are not incompetent and unhelpful!  There are four adults in the story, and they are all supportive and caring and **GASP** have good lessons to impart.  And two of them, Memaw and Mr. Dupree, the school custodian, are super-interesting, surprising, and funny! 

Though some of the things that happen in the story are a stretch, it's mostly realistic and humorously fleshes out what's typically found in most middle schools: the bullies, the bullied, the helpers, the loners.  Fry nails this slice of middle school life. I laughed out loud at many parts, while finding other parts poignant in their truth.  There are reminders that people are not always what they seem and that there is sometimes a fine line between being bullied and being a bully.

Some of my favorite quotes. . .
"A mystery is like a pig wearin' underwear. Don't make no sense 
till you see him puttin' on pants."  -- Memaw

"Hippies are dinosaur versions of skaters." -- Nick

"Karl's one of those kids you avoid eye contact with because he'll think you want to be friends. Then he'll latch on to you with his superhuman loser grip." -- Nick

Mr. Dupree: What does every bully fear? They fear losing control. If they lose control, they get afraid. If they get afraid, they run away.
Nick: How do you make them lose control?
Mr. Dupree: You take it from them.
Nick: How?
Mr. Dupree smiled as he leaned down and got right in my face.
Mr. Dupree: You bring the crazy.

Happily, this gets a perfect 10 on my Clean-O-Meter scale, which is only appropriate given the intended audience.  No sex, no swearing, no violence. 

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