Playground by 50 Cent

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Playground by 50 Cent

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Rap star 50 Cent puts his name to a moving story about a boy who has become a bully, and why. An accessible read, making important points in a non-judgemental way.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: November 2011
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1780873301

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When Butterball fills a sock with batteries and attacks geeky Maurice in the playground, his school sends him off to twice-weekly meetings with a therapist. Butterball is not impressed. It's a waste of his time and he will never, never, tell anyone the truth about that day. Besides, any problem could be easily fixed if his mother just gave up on this idea of nursing school and moved them out of the stifling suburbs and back to New York City.

But Liz has other ideas...

It's interesting to see that the stereotype of a single mother this American book portrays is one who is working double and triple shifts and who is careful with money, but who isn't around much because of this. Butterball's father is also portrayed as a bit of a ne'er do well, but he has a job too. It's a far cry from the benefit-scrounging, Jeremy Kyle-watching stereotype we are constantly told about on this side of the pond.

Whatever the transatlantic differences, though, it's clear right from the beginning of the book that poor Butterball is struggling with life. His weight has ballooned since his parents broke up, he's had to move to a new neighbourhood and start at a new school midway through the term, he feels betrayed by the only friend he's made so far. And this betrayal has triggered an explosion of violence that has sent him to counsellor Liz, who is determined to tease out exactly what happened, and why. I didn't see the why coming at all, although once it's revealed, you can see how the clues had been building up.

This mostly true story of a former bully is told in a direct and accessible way. It's a simple story - bullies aren't born but made - and perhaps too simple for the most sophisticated readers, but makes important points in a non-judgemental way and it inhabits the emotional landscape of the school environment and peer pressure in an immediately recognisable way. Bullying is something we very much need to see less of, and I'm glad someone like 50 Cent is prepared to stand up and be counted.

You'll find a more subtle book about bullying in Inside My Head by Jim Carrington. Claustrophic and unbearably tense, it's extremely compelling. I think you'd also enjoy If a Tree Falls at Lunch Break by Gennifer Choldenko.

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Buy Playground by 50 Cent at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Playground by 50 Cent at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Playground by 50 Cent at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Playground by 50 Cent at


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