Bullyville by Francine Prose
Release date: September 18, 2007
REVIEW FROM ARC
Basic Plot: Bart Rangely’s father leaves his mother for another woman. Though he’s been gone for several months, neither Bart nor his mother tell their friends or relatives. Then, his dad is killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. His mother, who worked in the same office, is saved from the same fate because she called out of work that morning in order to stay home with her sick child. Hailed as a miracle worker for inadvertently saving his mother’s life, Bart becomes something of a local hero and finds himself on the receiving end of much largess from the community. Among this outpouring of generosity is a full scholarship to a private school in town. Bart is not thrilled with the prospect of enrolling in Baileywell Preparatory Academy, but it seems to be the only thing that rejuvenates his mother, so he goes. The story that follows covers his year at Baileywell, I mean Bullyville Prep.
Let me again remind you that the review that follows is based on the ARC. I have not had the chance yet to review the published version, so in the event that things were changed, please pardon me.
I liked the premise of the book. Living in Central NJ, my town and surrounding communities were hit pretty hard by the September 11 attacks. And, in with all the awfulness of the news from that week, I remember many “miracle” stories – the father who stayed home from work to bring his daughter to her first day of kindergarten, the mother who missed her regular train because of a last-minute crisis that needed to be smoothed over, the newlywed couple who left for their honeymoon the weekend before… So, the idea of Bart’s miraculous tragedy (mom saved, dad not) really hit home.
That being said, I was only ho-hum on Bullyville Prep.
The book feels like two stories: tragedy and bullying followed by freedom and forming a friendship with a sick child. Prose ties together the two threads in the final chapters by relating the loss of the father with the SPOILER death of the sick child, but it doesn’t seem like enough. Then, and I really hope this changed in the final version, at the very end, the author has Bart looking back on his time at Bullywell as a FATHER. What is the point of that?! It totally didn’t belong and it made no sense.