Ridgeview High School has a wildly out-of-control bullying problem. That is, until the school’s most notorious bullies suddenly find themselves the victims of strange and violent attacks. When the first victim claims he was punched by a robot, Ridgeview’s principal tasks her nephew—and star student journalist—Owen Dinsmore to begin his own search for the perpetrator. His astute investigative skills and knowledge of the school’s population puts him on the trail of students with an aptitude for robotics. One of those students happens to be Erica Litvak, who’s not only Owen’s crush, but now a possible suspect in the attacks. Faced with tough choices, Owen must decide what’s right, even if it means the end of a budding romance.
There’s a certain kind of small town charm that holds the narrative of THE BULLYBUSTER together. A town where everyone knows each other, for better or worse, creates opportunities for conflict to arise. Relationships tangle up in a complex high school ecosystem of bullies and jocks and everyone in between. At the start, THE BULLYBUSTER seems like a simple story with a message heard before: the moral question of whether getting revenge against those who’ve physically or verbally abused their fellow classmates is the right course of action to take.
Surprisingly, THE BULLYBUSTER digs deeper into this issue, getting to the root of bullying and its impact over several generations. The pain that lingers is real and should be taken seriously. The narrative even touches upon anti-Semitism—Owen’s love interest, Erica, is Jewish—which is still an unfortunate reality that many face, and an important issue to bring to young adult readers.
The central mystery in the novel—unmasking those responsible for the robot’s punching spree—has a few twists that are definitely unexpected, especially in the last act. It wavers a bit into the strange, but the ingenuity behind the robotics is fascinating. Owen is a wholesome but appropriately flawed protagonist. Some of the slang used by the high schoolers in THE BULLYBUSTER sounds really outdated at times, but the blossoming romance between Owen and Erica is full of realistic awkwardness and teenage longing.
With a sweet teenage romance and a poignant message about the effects of high school bullying, THE BULLYBUSTER is an enjoyable and unique coming-of-age story.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader