When I picked up bully.com, I honestly wasn't too sure I was going to like it - mostly because of the cover. I know, I know...you can't judge a book by its cover. BUT, you know how you can tell when a movie is really low-budget because the picture quality absolutely stinks and the special effects are laughable? Yea, well that's how I felt about the cover of bully.com: LOW-BUDGET.
However, I was totally impressed with the plot of the novel, and with the way a male author was able to so expertly capture the true antics of middle school "mean girls".
The novel's protagonist/hero/sleuth-in-training is 7th grader Jun Li, a complete nerd who generally flies under the radar, unless he's arguing with teachers about extra credit, of all things. Jun's low profile all changes, though, when defamatory pictures of stereotypical "It Girl" Kimmie Cole are published to his school's website. Jun is instantly blamed, because he was logged in to a school computer at the time of the security breach, and it's common knowledge that he is a very capable hacker. Jun pleads innocence with the principal, who's feeling tremendous pressure to crack down on cyberbullying. So, the principal leaves Jun with an ultimatum: uncover the true perpetrator's identity in a week's time, or face expulsion. And so begins Jun's journey into a land he never thought he'd inhabit - the land of the Middle School Mean Girls. There are hiccups along the way, but Jun and his trusty sidekick, Chris, make sure justice is served. I was actually really shocked at who the offender was proven to be.
At first, as I read, I was honestly thinking, "wow, these characters are way too stereotypical - their actions are so predictable." But, the more I thought about it, I could see some of my students fitting into these tight molds - the predictability was totally accurate.
Some parts of the novel were underdeveloped and there were some sections that felt annoyingly repetitive, but overall it was a good read, and a great first novel for author Joe Lawlor.