bully.com by Jim Lawlor has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Jun Li is a model seventh-grade student. When he is unsatisfied with the 100 percent that he earned on a recent test, having missed the bonus question, he uses a computer in the library at his school to do research on the school's network.
The following day, Jun approaches the teacher to discuss his grade. A girl named Olivia blocks his way. She tells him that he is in big trouble with Kimmie Cole, a popular girl in the eighth grade. Jun is surprised and confused by this information, because he has never spoken to or been in the same room as Kimmie.
After class, Jun looks for his best friend, Chris, who is the tallest girl in the seventh grade. One of the biggest boys in the eighth grade, Charlie Bruno, charges into him. Charlie also warns Jun that he will be sorry for messing with Kimmie. Soon, Jun is called into the principal's office.
Principal Hastings says he is the prime suspect in a cyberbullying incident that targeted Kimmie. Apparently there were pictures of Kimmie posted on the school’s website, along with an accusation that she is bulimic. Jun denies involvement in the scandal. Principal Hastings gives him until the following Monday to clear his name and find the real culprit. Otherwise, he will be expelled.
Anyone who knows Jun describes him as a kind, quiet student, who always strives to achieve excellence. Jun aspires to attend a prestigious preparatory school and was going to ask his teachers for letters of recommendation. But he can't do that now. The photos of Kimmie were posted from the school network using Jun’s account the previous day.
Jun enlists Chris' help to clear his name. They work to find out who was in the library that same afternoon and who has a motive to hurt Kimmie. Since Kimmie speaks her mind and can use her words to be hurtful, she has enemies.
Chris interrogates Kimmie’s friends. Jun talks to the librarian, Mrs. Dent. She remembers that Little D. was in the library that day, and he becomes a prime suspect. At home, Jun begins an online search for the culprit. His mother hears from a friend about a cyber-bullying situation at school. When she asks Jun if he knows anything about it, Jun lies and says he doesn't. He is afraid of how his mother will react if she knew the truth.
Jun and Chris now have a list of suspects: Little D., Rachel, who Kimmie cyberbullied, and some girls who used to be friends with Kimmie until she was unkind to them — Leah, Koko and Ashley.
Another girl named Melanie is added to their list because her name keeps popping up in conversations. She transferred to St. Mary's last year, after Kimmie led the charge to bombard her with mean texts. Melanie had tried to kill herself by cutting her wrists.
Jun and Chris go to St. Mary’s, but the person they meet looks nothing like the bubbly, blond girl with a winning smile that used to go to their school. Now she is a frail girl with jet-black hair and a wrist full of black bracelets. She does perk up when she hears that someone posted hurtful pictures of Kimmie online. They do not think she is the perpetrator.
After the group of Kimmie's ex-friends are interviewed but don't seem like cyberbullies, Jun and Chris look into Little D, whose given name is Dion Little. He assists Mr. Wainwright, the English teacher, with his weekly class updates. Mr. Wainwright is a teacher who is resistant to technology and welcomes the students' tech help.
What Mr. Wainwright doesn’t realize is that even though Dion’s access to his homepage is seemingly restricted, his access to the network portal and his familiarity with the school website increases with regular use. When Jun and Chris visit Mr. Wainwright to corroborate Dion’s alibi, they find a frazzled teacher, deep into grading tests and reluctant to share his time with them. They are shocked at the test on top of Mr. Wainwright's stack. Mr. Wainwright is famous for never giving out A’s. Of all people, Charlie’s paper on top reveals that he earned an A on a recent test.
The night before Jun is set to face expulsion, his parents search his email account and learn about the cyberbullying. They are disappointed that Jun did not tell them what was happening. They choose to help him. Jun spends the night examining the evidence, and his parents go with him to the principal's office the next day.
Those who Jun and Chris have interviewed are in the principal's office. There, Jun reveals the culprits of two offenses, not one. First, Dion has been using his tech savvy skills to access Mr. Wainwright’s teaching files. He has been selling tests to students, namely Charlie Bruno. Second, he reveals that the Mrs. Dent, the librarian, is Melanie’s mother.
Because Kimmie's actions changed Melanie, Mrs. Dent gave Kimmie a taste of her own medicine. Kimmie’s remorse is real. She pleads with Mrs. Dent to forgive her and asks her to tell Melanie that she is sorry.
As Jun and Chris reflect on the events of the past week, Jun is deeply appreciative of the teacher references Principal Hastings pulled together on his behalf, though the thought of switching schools is now far less appealing. Kimmie asks Jun and Chris what she should do about Melanie. They suggest she practice the art of being a true friend and giving Melanie time to heal.
Another girl at school approaches Jun and Chris. She wants them to solve a new mystery. Jun's initial refusal turns to curiosity. Chris realizes she will have her hands full helping him on their next case.
Other Belief Systems
Charlie attacks Jun. Chris gets involved by fighting with Charlie to help Jun get away.
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Lying: Jun's mother hears from a friend about a cyber-bullying situation at school. When she asks Jun if he knows anything about it, Jun lies and says he doesn't.
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