It has been a dozen years since Doug Wilhelm’s landmark book about school bullying, The Revealers, was released. Fortunately it’s still in print. Unfortunately, it’s still needed, and relevant as ever.
The Revealers centers around three middle school students who are bullied by schoolmates in different ways at Parkland Middle School. Russell suffers physical bullying and intimidation off campus at the hands of an older, snarling, cigarette-smoking boy. Catalina, the new girl in town, is the subject of cruel rumors started by the popular girls clique. And awkward, dinosaur-loving Elliot has been the target of playground and hallway bullying as long as anyone can remember. Together they form an unlikely trio to battle bullying at their school using the e-mail function of the school’s computer network.
From a “tween reading” standpoint, the book is serviceable but not tremendously engaging or entertaining. Most readers will find something familiar about the bullying episodes. The plot moves along at a moderate pace. Although our bullied heroes learn to stand up for themselves, we don’t get the feeling that they’ve grown a lot, or that they have a new perspective on their predicaments. Many readers will recognize the plot resolution scenario when it’s first presented about half-way through the book. The use of technology is a key element, and a few text changes in the next edition would improve the book. For example, a student brings a file to school on a computer disk – a technology that most middle schoolers today have never used. Today’s students would put the file on a USB drive, upload it to the cloud, or Bluetooth it to their phone.
As teachers and guidance counselors have realized, the value of The Revealers becomes clear when the book is used as a springboard for discussion on the topic of bullying. Most students will find at least one character with whom they can relate. The current Square Fish imprint includes useful discussion questions, and additional material from the author. Any middle school seeking to address the problem of bullying in schools should consider The Revealers as a resource. School and classroom libraries would also do well to keep a copy on the shelves.