Fight for Justice, a middle years novel by Regina author and inner-city elementary teacher Lori Saigeon, is unique in giving authentic voice to bullying in urban schools and vividly portraying bullying behavior as a precursor for gang involvement.
It was easy to sympathize with Justice’s motivations; his machismo, his responsibility as man of the house and his need to protect his twin sister Charity. Students and adults will identify with his slippery slope of bad decisions that leads to his isolation from the protection of adults and further vulnerability to the bullies.
But Justice isn’t stupid. He asks for advice, he studies the adults around them and assesses their behavior. How will they react if he tells them about being bullied? Will they do something dumb (from his perspective) like simply tell Trey to stop it? With maturity and clarity, Justice assesses the people in his life and puts them into categories. Are they his allies, does he protect himself from them, or is he their protector?
Lori Saigeon is deadly accurate in her portrayal of not only the instigation and escalation, but the reasoning that kids go through before deciding to ask an adult to intervene. They know that adults can’t be everywhere, and the choice they make is almost always to do damage control for when—not if—the bully catches them alone.
Not only is this a good book for students (for authenticity and applicability I can’t think of a better one)but it is also a good read for adults, especially those who don’t understand why their kids just won’t tell them who is bullying them so they can put a stop to it. It won’t mitigate the adults’ sense of helplessness, perhaps, but it will show you what’s going through their heads, and help you understand their reasoning. Their decisions are bad, from an adult perspective and experience, but from a child’s they are well reasoned and sound, because adults won’t always be around to protect you, and if you can’t protect yourself, you have to at least do what you can not to make it worse. Fight for Justice accurately and vividly portrays bullying and what to do about it when it happens to you.
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