Critical Acclaim for "The Prize"

     " 'The Prize' is a courageous and compelling story that challenges all the taken-for-granted "truths" about bullies and victims that have proven over and over again to be ineffective in reducing school violence. The Prize, however, is far more than an exposé of the inadequacies of traditional ideas in the amelioration of bullying. The book offers an inspirational alternative based on two revolutionary ideas. LaCourt takes the very provocative perspective, considered downright dangerous by many, that bullies and victims are co-conspirators-not equal participants, but contributing players-in the tragic cycle of violence, and she considers proactive action by both to be critical. Perhaps even more radical is her abiding faith in these participants, the bullies and the victims, to solve their differences in their own way, without the encumbrances of adult-imposed rules. The result is not only a refreshing alternative that embraces and enlists the natural resiliency and competencies of youth, but also an entertaining story that is both evocative and delightful to read. I will heartily recommend this book to adolescents and their families, and to anyone desiring a creative perspective that incorporates the voice of youth.

—Barry Duncan, Psy.D.
Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change
Co-Author of:
The Heroic Client: Doing Client Directed, Outcome Informed Therapy
Heroic Clients, Heroic Agencies: Partners for Change

     Read it, loved it. La Court's 'The Prize' is a winner.

     Teachers, counselors, parents, and kids will find it helpful in changing the tyrannical relationship between bullies and their victims. I wish it had been around when I was growing up!

—Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.
Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change

   " 'The Prize' starts like a familiar cliché about two guys in a bar. A bully-turned-priest and his former favorite punching bag, who’s now a successful business tycoon, meet for dinner. The now humbled executioner, John Murphy, begs his old victim, Sydney Schuster, for a donation to save the school run by his church. Sydney gets the last laugh, end of story.

   But, no, wait. What follows is hardly a cliché. This timely novel starts where we’d expect the story to end. Intriguing characters quickly draw you in and make you wonder why the reunion. From there, writer M. La Court takes us on a literary journey few have imagined: the two think adults can learn from kids who behave as they did. Then, they plot a way to test their radical idea.

   La Court crafts a timeless tale which reads like a tour through a school year of bullies and victims. Readers witness the unlikely pair selling their idea to all who they hope can make it happen. All the while, we become familiar with the middle school aged bullies and victims of the next generation. Although the boys and girls have changed over the years, the same fears exist.

   La Court deliberately takes us from peer pressure-filled schools to dysfunctional homes and back again. She crafts each complex character carefully so that we not only see the stereotypical, public masks they use to cope, but also their vulnerable natures within. She sets the boys and girls up in an idealistic place where they are treated like equals and gives them to motivation to save themselves from their own bad habits. We see the strengths and vulnerabilities in each as they grapple with their present and prepare for their futures.

   At times while reading 'The Prize', we suspend our belief. For instance, we wonder how Sydney developed such a close relationship with Kevin, his manservant. Together, they occasionally discuss philosophical concepts. Kevin even gives Sydney a new interpretation of Darwin, which earns him the afternoon off. If this manservant is so enlightened, might he earn his wages in a different occupation? Still, don’t let such instances keep you from this modern folktale.

   'The Prize' is essentially a window into the lives of bullies and victims, yet it is more than a literary, reality show. It is based in an idea that misdirected intelligence lies behind bully-victim behavior patterns. It ponders the question of whether or not bullies pass the behavior on to their children. Finally, it moves our common understanding of victims as objects and examines them as subjects capable of choices, just as the bullies are.

   For those entrusted with guiding youngsters junior high as well as for those who never wanted to relive it, you'll be surprised at how impelled you'll be by this page turner to read through the months to the end of the school year.

Reviewed by Deborah Turner
University of California Santa Cruz
Multicultural Outreach Librarian