Half Mast
Christopher Null
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Half Mast

Christopher Null
Sutro Press
220 pages
July 2002
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Bullying. Itís been the subject on many a reporterís lips of late, and for good reason -- think Columbine and other school atrocities committed by children, to either rid themselves of bullies or in some twisted way gain their respect. Bullying is something that has reached out from all of our childhoods and touched us on the shoulder as adults.

Christopher Nullís book Half Mast tells a story about what itís like to live under the shadow of a bully. To have everyday of your life affected by the whims and fancies of another person. You only know joy by how much or how little you see of this person. Every day, every single day, you live in fear of encountering this person and of what new humiliation you will experience at their hands. School becomes not a place of learning or of establishing your foundation for adulthood: itís pure hell and nothing else.

Alex is the central character of Half Mast, and he makes the mistake of actually thinking that school is a place of learning and sharing ideas, of growing as a person and developing intelligent camaraderie. Alexís innocent attempt to reach out makes him a prime target for Steve Williams, the class everything who can do no wrong. Enduring years of torture (swirlies, cleaning befouled gym lockers, getting lunch for the entire football team) and humiliation turns Alex from a sweet geek into a scheming murderer.

Christopher Nullís first foray into writing touches on a subject that most people can not only relate to, but avidly think about. The media has saturated the minds of everyone that bullying is happening and that it does have gruesome and longlasting effects on children. Todayís bullies are not like those of yesteryear, intent on stealing your lunch money and knocking you down. Todayís bully is accurately reflected in Half Mast as someone who begins to degrade and torture their victims until they snap.

With a deft literary touch, Null encompasses the school experience for Alex and how he deals with the abuse from and eventual murder of Steve Williams. The ending is extremely satisfying as it is not obvious the direction Null intends to take.This book is written like a diary, and with the well-written ending it could have actually been one. I am deeply impressed with this novel and I hope to see many books of all types from Christopher Null, heís made it to my immediate buy list from this moment on.

© 2003 by Kimberly Lightfoot for Curled Up With a Good Book

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