In this gripping debut, a teen takes a bottle of pills and lands in the psych ward with the bully who drove him to attempt suicide.
Victor hates his life. He’s relentlessly bullied at school and his parents constantly ridicule him at home.
Bull is angry. He’s sick of his grandfather’s drunken beatings. And he likes to take out his rage on Victor.
Determined to end it all, Victor takes a bottle of his mother’s sleeping pills—only to be disappointed when he wakes up in the psych ward. And his roommate? None other than Bull, whose loaded-gun effort at self-defense has been labeled as a suicide attempt. Things go from bad to worse—until the boys discover they might just have something in common: a reason to live.
Cracked Victor I HAVE WISHED THAT BULL MASTRICK WOULD DIE almost every single day. Not that I would ever have anything to do with his death. I’m not a psychopath or some wacko with collaged pictures of him hanging in my room and a gun collection. I’m the victim.
Bull Mastrick has tortured me since kindergarten. I’m sixteen now, and I understand that he’s an asshole and will always be an asshole. But I wish a rare sickness would suck the life out of him or he’d crash on his stupid BMX bike and just die.
Lately, as in the past two years of high school, he’s been absent a lot. Each day that he’s not in school I secretly wait for the news that he’s died. A sudden tragic death. As in, not-ever-coming-back-to-school-again dead. Then I’d have some peace. I could stop looking over my shoulder every five seconds and possibly even digest my lunch. Bull has a pretty solid track record of being a dick, so death is my only option.
Last year Bull pantsed me in gym. Twice. The first time was—and I can’t believe I’m even allowing myself to think this, but—the first time wasn’t that bad. It was in the locker room and only two other guys saw me in my underwear. And they’re even more untouchable than I am. They’re what everyone calls “bottom rungers.”
Fortunately, the bottom rungers just dropped their eyes and turned away.
But a few weeks later Bull put a little more thought and planning into it. He waited until we were all in the gym, all forty-five of us, and when Coach Schuster ran back to his office to grab his whistle, Bull grabbed my shorts and underwear and shouted, “Yo, look! Is it a boy or a girl?”
I’m not what anyone would categorize as dramatic, but it seriously felt like he grabbed a little of my soul. I remember standing there like a half-naked statue—not breathing or blinking—as wisps of me leaked out of my exposed man parts. I heard a snort, which unfroze me. I slowly bent down, pulled up my underwear and shorts, and walked back into the locker room.
And puked in the corner like a scolded animal.
He got suspended for it, which earned me two guaranteed Bull-free days in a row. You think that would’ve made me feel better. But each time I walked down that hallway in school or thought of the forty-five fellow ninth graders—eighteen of them girls—seeing my balls, I would gag. Then I’d run to the closest bathroom and regurgitate perfectly formed chunks of shame and disgrace.
Bull has a habit of triggering my body functions. In second grade, he made me pee my pants on the playground. He sucker punched me, and I landed face-first in a pile of tiny rocks. Bull squatted down just so he could use my head to push himself back up, squishing the rocks further into my face. He had just enough time to tell everyone I’d peed my pants before the playground monitor wandered over to see what the commotion was.
“Victor pissed his pants! Victor pissed his pants!” Bull shouted over and over again.
I laid facedown for as long as I could. I knew I’d peed my pants. I felt the warm humiliation spread through my tan shorts. And I knew that as soon as I stood up, the difference in color would be a blinking arrow, alerting the entire playground that yes, Victor Konig had just pissed his pants.
I got up on my elbows and felt my cheeks. It was as if my face sucked up those rocks like they were nutrients or something. Many were embedded and had to be popped out by the school nurse. I looked like I had zits—twenty-three red, oozing zits.
My father wanted to know what I had done to provoke “that boy”—like Bull was actually human. My mother only cared about what the adults at the school thought of her eight-year-old son pissing his pants. She said it made her look bad and that grown-ups would think she wasn’t raising me correctly.
“Only weird boys pee their pants on the playground,” she said. And then she asked me if I was weird.
She actually asked me, “Victor, are you one of those weird boys? Are you? You can’t do that to Mommy. I’ve worked very hard to get where I am in this community, to live in this lovely neighborhood and in this beautiful home. I can’t have my only child embarrassing me. Do you understand, Victor? I can’t have you be one of those weird boys.”
I remember apologizing for embarrassing her.
Bull cut in front of me in the lunch line the next day. He shoved me and said, “Out of my way, pee boy.”
1. Who do you think had worse parents, Bull or Victor? Why do you think that?
2. Who do you think made the most personal growth by the end of the book, Bull or Victor? Explain.
3. Do you think Bull or Victor would have survived if they hadn’t ended up in the psych ward? Why or why not?
4. Who do you think influenced Bull the most? How about Victor?
5. If you met Victor right now, what would you say to him? How about Bull?
6. Put yourself in Victor’s shoes. What would you do differently? The same? How about if you were in Bull’s shoes? Explain your answers.
7. At what point in Cracked do you feel Bull grows as a human being? How about Victor? What makes you think that?
8. Think of one prediction you had while reading the book and reflect on it. Did it happen? If not, what happened instead? How did making the prediction and reflecting on it help you to understand the book better?
1. Write a letter to Victor or Bull as if he were your best friend. What would you tell him?
2. Describe the part in Cracked that impacted you the most.
3. Describe the most courageous part of Cracked. Explain it in detail. What made this scene/part so daring?
4. Make a connection between Cracked and your own life, another story, or something in the world. Write about this connection in detail—describe the relation and why it is so significant. How did making that connection help you to understand the book better?
5. Write about a time when you faced a challenge and how you dealt with it.
6. Which characters in Cracked took a risk for something they believed in? Why did they take these risks?
7. How do Bull and Victor show courage? Choose two experiences and explain.
8. Make a compare/contrast chart or Venn diagram comparing/contrasting Bull and Victor. How are they alike? How are they different?
9. Choose a scene from Cracked and rewrite it as a film script.
10. Make a collage of images and words to represent the main idea of Cracked or one of the characters.
11. Write an interview between you and one of the characters from Cracked about their courageous experience. Be sure to use details from the book.
12. Write a news bulletin about a major event in Cracked. Be sure to include all of the necessary details – Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
13. Draw a portrait of one of the main characters from Cracked. Make your drawing based on the character’s descriptions written by the author. Label your drawing with key descriptions that apply to the character.
14. Write a detailed summary of your favorite part in Cracked. Explain why it is your favorite. Then, rewrite the scene but change something about it – the characters involved, the setting, the problem, the outcome, etc. Or rewrite the scene from the point of view of another character in the story.
15. Think of an experience in your life when you showed/displayed courage. How did you feel when you finally reached your goal? How is this similar to a character(s) in Cracked?
16. Write instructions on how to be courageous. Use details from Cracked to help you.
17. The characters’ feelings often changed throughout Cracked, especially when they faced challenges. Make a chart to show how the character’s feelings changed from the beginning, to the middle, and then finally in the end. Be sure to explain why the change happened each time.
18. Choose someone you think is courageous, such as a friend, family member, or public figure. Brainstorm a list of adjectives to describe the person. Using your brainstormed list, describe the person in a collage with pictures, words, and/or phrases.
19. Choose three adjectives that describe a courageous person and write a paragraph or poem explaining courage.
20. Write a letter from one of the main characters to yourself as if you are friends. The letter can ask for advice, or describe a problem or experience.
Guide written by the author.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
K. M. Walton is the author of Cracked and Empty. A former middle school language arts teacher and teaching coach, she is passionate about education and ending peer bullying. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family. Visit her online at KMWalton.com and follow her on Twitter at @KMWalton1.
“In this powerful debut novel, K.M. Walton takes an unrelenting look at the corrosive effects of bullying, sometimes coming from where one would least expect it. CRACKED crackles with emotional intensity from beginning to end.”
--James Howe, bestselling author of THE MISFITS
"Readers who enjoy stories of dysfunction, personal growth, and redemption will love this book." — VOYA, February 2012
"[Bull's and Victor's] stories offer a strong message of hope to the bullied and abused." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April 2012