Review Blog

Jan 21 2020

Otherwise known as Pig by Catch Tilly

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Wakefield Press 2019. ISBN: 9781743056790.
(Age: Years 9-12) Originally presented as a play, this story of year nine students bullying and harassing each other, explores the damage students can suffer at school when these issues are not addressed. Morgan is physically bullied by Stormin, who is a slow learner and makes up for it by being the biggest bully and fear of retaliation means the other students don't intervene or report. Morgan is academically clever but hates sports, much to his father's disappointment. His parents are vaguely aware of his problems but expect him to stand up for himself and his dad suggests self-defence lessons. More worrying than Stormin is Chris, an intelligent manipulator who Morgan has identified as a sociopath. He engineers Morgan's being banned from his haven, the library, and then burns down the art room when Morgan is welcomed there. Even Lissa, the girl he likes, is affected by the bullying when Chris' girlfriend Steph, makes sure she denies him. Morgan is not immune from the culture of bullying, verbally taunting Stormin in a cycle of abuse. This is a story of warped and abusive friendships and a boy desperate for affection and self-respect. 'Loser' is a powerful word wielded by the stronger in a daily struggle growing up in our schools. The protagonists in this story feel powerless and the adults are complicit in not maintaining a safe environment. I can see this would have been a successful play but I found the characters a little thin and unconvincing for a novel. The absence of an adult perspective may make the book popular with younger readers who may feel empowered by it and it will be a useful discussion starter for middle school students.
Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Bullying, friendship.
Sue Speck

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