Problem Child, by James Roy

‘There was another reason that we thought this would be a good idea. You might have noticed that Triffin is very shy. Painfully shy.’
I’d noticed this of course, so I just nodded.
‘You see Max, you’re very different. You’re a very confident young man, and I was hoping that you could help him find himself.’
If he goes and lsoes himself, there’s not a lot I can do, I thought. But what I actually said was, ‘What do you mean, exactly?’

Max Quigley isn’t a bully. He just notices the inadequacies of others and points them out to them. A lot. One of the people he likes to point such things out to is Triffin Nordstrom, a nerd who loves fat books and Lego. But when Max and his friend Jarrod shut Triffin in a fire escape on a school excursion, they go too far. Triffin is left behind and Max is in a whole lot of trouble.

Grounded with no pocket money and forced to apologise, Max thinks the worst is over, but when Triffin and his mother visit, he knows there’s more to come. Triffin is going to help Max with his maths. In return, Max is going to spend time with Triffin on weekends, getting to know him. He can’t think of anything worse; neither can Triffin. But, as their forced togetherness progresses, the pair find they actually do have things in common.

Problem Child is a hilarious book which deals with childhood bullying. This isn’t a new subject for a kids’ book – but author James Roy offers a different perspective on the topic, by writing from the first person point of view of the bully, Max. Readers get to see Max’s take on his actions. This isn’t to say we are invited to sympathise with Max – but we do empathise with him, as he becomes increasingly aware of the consequences of his actions. He doesn’t become an angel, but his character does develop and become more likeable in the course of the story.

This is not just a funny read – it is also an important one, for kids and for teachers and parents.

Problem Child, by James Roy
UQP, 2007