Book Review: The Bailey Game – Celia Rees


The Bailey Game explores the terrifying effects of childhood bullying through the eyes of a child who witnesses it happen. We see the story unfold from Alex’s point of view. She’s seen the extremes bullying drove a previous school student, Michael Bailey, to, and when she watches a new girl Lauren experience the same nasty taunts, she decides to step in this time. She can’t deal with the guilt of what happened to Michael Bailey all over again…

“What was it about him that had made them hate him so much? Had he really been that different from other kids? It had seemed so then, he’d seemed like a freak, a monster. But thinking back, he seemed just – ordinary. He was a bit of a loner, but he hadn’t had much choice, it wasn’t clear that he was naturally like that. He wasn’t especially good at anything, but neither was he especially bad. Maybe it was his name, or his plumpish build, or his red hair and high forehead, or his clothes, or the way he wore his bag slung across his chest, maybe it was things as trivial as that. There was nothing you could point to in particular, but somehow all of them together had marked him out as the butt of all their jokes and what had started as mocking and ridicule had ended in vicious hatred.”

It was a short read and beautifully written. Celia Rees did a fantastic job of creating different realistic characters, and she succeeded in making me feel uncomfortable when reading the bullying scenes. There was nothing physical involved; it was all mental, which can cause much deeper wounds in the long run.

“What could hurt more than the sly digs and insults, left to fester like sores…

From the start of this short story, the reader is kept in the dark about what exactly happened to Michael Bailey. I thought I had the right idea about it, but when it came to the telling scene… well wow. I had to put the book down, not because I wanted to, but because I could no longer read the words on the page due to the tears forming in my eyes. What an impact the reveal had on me. Four days later and it’s still on my mind. This really is a story this will stick with me for life. And I think the reason the impact was so great is because these things happen in our real life, and it’s horrifying.

“Condensation stopped him from seeing out. It dribbled and ran, dripping on the floor like a distillation of the hate forming around him.”

I was truly affected in mounds. I am lucky to have never been a victim of bullying, but the subject is something that makes me feel greatly uncomfortable and upset. Bullying is never okay. And it is okay to speak out, to anyone.

I almost gave this book a 4 star rating, and then I decided against it. Why shouldn’t a book that impacted me as much as this one did get a 5 star? It might not be a masterpiece, or may not creating an incredible world in your mind like novels do, but it sure does pull on your heartstrings and get a firm grip of your emotions.

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