Chris and I thought it would be fun from time to time to pick a book for each other to read that we might not normally read. He picked this one for me, and I'll admit, I was skeptical, but I ended up liking it.
Author: 50 Cent
Publication date: January 1, 2012
AR levels: Interest level: 6th and up, Book level: 5.4, Points: 7.0
Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9754801-playground
In a nutshell: Butterball is sent to see a therapist after attacking a friend on the playground at his school. To the casual bystander, it appears to be an unprovoked act of violence, but through the eyes of this troubled teen, the reader begins to see just what lead to his actions, and it's anything but what one might think. Take a walk in Butterball's shoes, and you'll learn what it feels like to be a bully and to be bullied too. This is a book for anyone who's ever felt misunderstood or had a misunderstanding derail his or her life.
I'd recommend it for grades: 9 to 12 (There is a good deal of cursing, references to some mature themes, and off-screen drinking and violence.)
I'd recommend it to: future filmmakers (Butterball loves making movies and talks a lot about film), anyone who's ever felt bullied or been tempted to bully someone themselves, and professionals who work with tweens and teens
What I liked most about this book: My favorite thing about this book is that you get to see the horrors of bullying from both sides of the coin in one character. Butterball lashes out at others because of pain in his own life, and he also is a victim of bullying himself, finding himself eating lunch alone in the restroom many days. Yet, he finds a way to stop being the bully and stop being bullied. It'd be a great read for a kid who's bullying others or being bullied himself. Also, Butterball is just so loveable. You really feel for this kid. You hurt when he hurts. You cringe when he does something wrong. You cheer for him when he does something right. The relationship between him and his therapist is both emotionally charged and sweet too. There's lots of great character development in this book, and the writing style is melodic too. 50 Cent definitely has a way with words.
Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): There's a moment when Butterball and his dad are shopping for new shoes when he sees the most beautiful pair of sneakers he's ever seen and he describes them, saying, "they were really incredibly beautiful - the way a sunset or the last shot of Planet of the Apes, the original I mean, not that remake..., the way it cuts from the beach to that wide shot of the Statue of Liberty" (111). At the beginning of this book, I was a bit worried I'd be able to relate to Butterball as a character, but by page 10 or so I was already feeling him. After this scene where he falls in love with some shoes, I was definitely understanding him because who hasn't done that? It's such an innocent and universal moment that quickly turns sour, but that's spoilers. ;)
Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars