I won’t lie, when I first heard that 50 Cent had a book out about bullying, I was skeptical, thinking why not leave writing to the real authors. But on further consideration, I thought I would give Playground a chance as I enjoy 50 Cent’s music AND I think that there is an audience for Playground.
Butterball, a 13 year old boy, is a bully. He finds himself in counseling after assaulting another boy, Maurice, with a sock full of batteries. Frankly, I had little sympathy for Butterball. I understand he dide what he did because of issues and the want to gain respect and all, but I felt like this kid needed to man up and stop being so over-entitled. Like, there’s one part where he whines about how his $300 shoes from 2 years ago are not as good as the $300 shoes he sees in the store. Dude your family is NOT poor if they can afford to purchase you shoes that are that expensive. But I digress. Okay, so the real gist of the story after my little sidebar over there, is that Butterball goes to counseling and learns that being a jerkface is no way to live life.
I really liked Butterball’s counselor, who he hates at first. All he can think about her is how cheap everything in her office looks. But, she is not a selfish jerk, so she sticks with Butterball and he warms up to her. She genuinely cares and wants to help him through his issues by giving him a creative outlet. I liked that Butterball’s actions as a bully are never condoned.
The writing in Playground by 50 Cent is not terrible. There are lots of swears, which appeals to me, but I kind of could be a sailor with my mouth. There are no real plot holes. ALSO I liked the side characters a lot. I also did find myself empathizing with the bullied kid.
I can definitely see the appeal of Playground to reluctant readers. It’s by 50 Cent a rapper considered to be cool and ‘street’. There’s swears. Butterball could be someone kids relate to– a kid with divorced parents and struggling with their own inner issues. Also, it’s not a challenge to read at all.
The audiobook of Playground is read by Dwayne Clark. He has the PERFECT accent for a young boy from the City and sounds exactly like my friends who are from there. I think the audiobook will be appealing to urban kids, because it’s like a story they know themselves and the narrator sounds like them. And I think being able to identify with what you read/listen to, enhances the experience. Dwayne Clark does different voices for the characters, keeping the audio interesting, also I liked how he put aggression in Butterball’s voice. If you are a high school English teacher looking to hook reluctant readers, I highly recommend adding this audiobook to your classroom or school library, just be aware of the swears.
Disclosure: Audiobook received for review.