This is a fast-paced and compelling novel with twists and turns that keep surprising the reader. The story is set in New Zealand and deals with the issue of bullying. The protagonists Mark and Nicole are portrayed realistically and the development of their characters throughout the story reveal the novel’s themes of young people fitting in with family and peers, moral choices, betrayal and loyalty, victims and bullies.
Mark no longer feels that he fits in when his passion for photography sets him apart from old friends. Despite this he has the courage to be different and pursue his art. He has to learn that his passion can cause grief if he does not follow the key rule laid down by his parents, who were professional photographers: don’t photograph what people want to keep to themselves. Mark upsets Nicole with his photography, making her feel even more a victim than she already does. Nicole has plenty of reason to feel victimised and she is helpless until she finally is heard and believed, gets help, becomes proactive and takes charge of her life.
The novel looks at bullying in almost all its forms, including the thoughtless acts of otherwise good people. As well as parental bullying and artistic stalking, the story describes malicious stalking, violent physical bullying and the passive bullying by bystanders. The book pre-dates email and Facebook which means cyber-bullying is not covered.
The story examines the effects of bullying on the victims and looks at reasons why people bully. Most interestingly, the novel unflinchingly describes how the very people who should try to put a stop to bullying – parents and teachers - prefer to hide their eyes and pretend it does not take place.
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