Tellwell Talent (2018)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (10/18)
“A Bullied Reunion” by Chris Ponici is a gripping psychological read involving a young man and his tumultuous journey through high school as the target of bullies. The toll that years of mental and physical abuse play on his psyche will leave readers feeling battered, heart-broken, and demanding of justice by the end.
From the very first day of high school, Cristiano Leuca is easy prey for a trio of bullies, and the torment continues through to graduation. A bright student and athlete, Cris is quiet and keeps mostly to himself. His only friend, Alex, is his exact opposite - a feisty young girl who doesn’t let anyone stand in her way. It seems there is little she or anyone can do to help, but Cris is patient and bides his time…
The writing in this book is phenomenal. Just, wow. Chris Ponici has a knack for showing the reader exactly what is going on in the narrative. From the horrendous actions of the trio of bullies, to the raw emotions of Cris, to the indifference and condescension of many adults and students, I had such a clear visual the entire time I was reading it almost felt like I was there. Perhaps Ponici’s telling will even hit a nerve with memories thought long forgotten?
The characters set an equally impressive tone. As a protagonist, Cris portrays the exact kind of kid that as an adult you want to protect and root for, but as a peer you just want to ignore, especially if there are similar traits in your own personality. Alex is such a fun character with an admirable quality in her unconditional support of Cris. The bullies are first-class jerks you will remember from your own high school days, and again, Ponici nails it through their mannerisms, speech and brute mentality.
Though one might get a feel for what “could” happen, the ferocity of the ending will simply astound the reader, and the way the story comes to a close is absolutely perfect.
Make no mistake, while “A Bullied Reunion” spotlights a high-school student, some of the subject matter, including drugs and sexual violence, does not make for a coming-of-age teen read. A mature young adult crowd will enjoy it, but the intended audience is clearly adult. I highly recommend “A Bullied Reunion” by Chris Ponici for an intense, riveting psychological thriller. A stunning debut novel.