When I first heard that 50 Cent wrote a book I was utterly baffled. I mean, seriously? 50 Cent? Writing Young Adult books? It was like trying to imagine Snoop Dog singing in opera, the idea was ridiculous. I'm not a fan of 50 Cent, I don't think I ever listened to any of his songs.. I admit, I don't know much about him as a person, either. It's just that.. he never really struck me as the writing type (if you know what I mean). I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. But at the same time, I was insanely curious about this book! Who wouldn't be? The best part? I really enjoyed reading it! Believable, funny, insightful - Playground made a very positive impression on me. Color me surprised!
13-year-old Butterball doesn't have an easy life. After his parents divorced and his mom moved them away from Bronx to Garden City, Butterball finds himself struggling to adapt to the new environment. Back in Bronx he was someone, he had a group of friends and he was respected by others. Here, he's just the fat, black kid. He lives with his mother, but she's too busy working to spend quality time with him. His father doesn't care much about him, either. He's way too busy pursuing meaningless, purely physical "relationships" to ever pay attention to his son. Butterball is all on his own. Then one day he gets in trouble for assaulting a kid with a sock full of batteries, a kid that used to be Butterball's only friend there. After that, he's forced to attend weekly sessions with a psychologist. Butterball's initial attitude of "I-don't-want-to-talk-about-it" and "you-would-never-understand" begins to change over time, as the psychologist's patient and non-judgmental approach slowly wins his trust. As the story progresses, we learn more about the main character and the motives behind his actions. After all, there's no smoke without fire, and there's definitely more to Butterball than meets the eye.
Playground is a book about bullying, yes, but not a typical one at all. From my experience, most of the bullying-related books out there are focused solely on the victims and their accounts of the accidents. Playground, however, offers something different - the bully's side of the story. Now you ought to know that I went into reading this book with curiosity but also a healthy dose of skepticism. I was afraid that it will turn out to be a major failure. I was prepared to toss it away after the first 20 pages or so. But it never happened. I loved Butterball's believable and often hilarious voice. It was vibrant, full of life and dripping with all sorts of emotions. He turned out to be a great character to read about. Slang, swear words, short sentences and simple vocabulary - all that helped to depict him. I enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes and, believe it or not, I really felt sorry for him at times. Imagine my surprise, when I hit the back cover without even realizing that I was reading for the whole day - without a single break!
Now I don't know if 50 Cent hired a ghostwriter to do all the hard work, and it really doesn't matter. All I know is this book is damn good! It's deeper than I ever expected. It offers a fresh new take on the issue of bullying, one that I found quite thought-provoking and eye-opening. The writing itself is pretty good, too. The characters are well-drawn. The plot is simple, but well thought-out and fast-paced. It's an easy, quick read, but also quite a meaningful one. Don't let your prejudices stop you from reading it, it's definitely worth picking up!