Tom, Mia and Oliver are the victims of a gang of bullies - who waylay them on the way home from school. It's not at school, so the teachers wouldn't be able to help, and they don't want to tell their parents, so there's only one option - to pay up. At first. But as the pressure builds more and more, a terrible suspicion begins to surface: could one of the three friends be helping the bullies? And if so, just who is . . . the traitor?
"Pete Johnson exercises his considerable storytelling skills in Traitor . . . . the story is fast-paced and energetic. This is a sensitive and credible tale; scary, but not too menacing." The Bookseller
"A thrilling story that keeps you guessing until the end. Unputdownable . . ." Primary Times
"This is an absorbing novel, which provides some excellent material for classroom discussions or PHSE lessons." Booktrusted News
‘Pete Johnson’s skilfully written dialogue takes us into the story on the first page and gives the book a strong sense of immediacy and truth. There is real menace here, as the accessible story offers food for thought – not easy answers.’ The Bookseller
‘I think ‘Traitor’ was amazing. It really showed what keeping quiet about bullying can lead you to. This is a brilliant book and I would give it 10/10.’ Putnoe Lisa Masango. Bedfordshire Libraries review
‘This book is great. One of Pete Johnson’s many thriller/horrors. IT CHILLS YOUR SPINE.’ Neemtree (aged 10), FIRST NEWS Children’s Newspaper
‘This is a page-turner, interesting, realistic characters you can identify with. Good reading for anyone between 8 and 16 and adults (like me) who love children’s books.’ Lydia’s Books, The Hive
HOW ABOUT DISCUSSING …
A one-word title: ‘TRAITOR.’
This is unusual. Why do you think the author has done this?
Look also at the cover image. No faces, just a threatening message on phone.
What sort of book does it suggest?
The book begins with Tom being bullied on the very first page, before we know anything about him.
Why has the author done this?
Does this pull you into the story right away and encourage identification with Tom’s plight?
Did you find yourself asking what you would have done in this situation?
‘Read the first page and prepare to be hooked.’ (Cindy Shanks)
Would you agree?
Compare Tom’s experience of being bullied with that of Mia, in Chapter Three. Are there any similarities in the way the gang treat Mia and Tom?
Consider too the differences – for instance the personal comments the gang make only to Mia (‘I’d really hate to have hair that red,’ (P.24)
Different reactions to bullying
Tom doesn’t tell anyone – Why not?
Look at… ‘All my credit was going to evaporate when they heard I was being terrorised by girls.’ (p.18)
Is this a typical boy’s reaction?
Mia does tell someone – her mum. (p.29/30) Is she right?
What would you have done?
Compare too, Tom’s relationship with his dad and Mia’s with her mum.
What does Tom think of his step-mum Lydia?
The third victim, Oliver.
What is your initial opinion of him? (p.36/39)
Tom describes him as a ‘wet lettuce.’
Is this fair?
Does your opinion of Oliver change?
Look for instance at Oliver talking about his badge (p72-75) and his tea party (p.99-108)
The text messages (p.51 etc)
Is this in some way worse than the physical bullying?
‘This is so nasty,’ says Oliver on (p.51)
Would you agree?
What makes it feel so nasty?
All the gang are girls.
Does this surprise you?
What does it add to the story?
They are shadowy figures but what do we learn about them?
(‘How I wish I had a posh uniform like that,’ (p.25) for instance)
Oliver says, ‘When people pick on you, don’t take it personally (p.45) they’re really doing it because they don’t like themselves.’
Tom replied sarcastically, ‘Next time the gang are stealing money off me I’ll remember that feel so much better.’
But has Oliver got a point?
What do you think?
Do the CIS not like themselves?
Is that why they pick on people?
A famous scene (p.93-95)
The attack on the CIS with water pistols.
Is this a highlight for you?
Do we enjoy seeing the victims take control?
Were they right to do this?
Look at the implications (p.112 etc)
‘Maybe at school tomorrow we could see a teacher quietly,’ (p.147)
But could you tell a teacher about something which is happening outside school?
Who else could Mia, Tom and Oliver tell?
What advice would you give them? Oliver’s break-in (p.132)
It looks as if he may have faked the whole thing.
Why do you think he did this?
What would your reaction to this revelation have been?
Who is your favourite character in the book?
Who would you most like as a friend?
Who do you think is the most interesting character?
‘Traitor offers food for thought, not easy answers.’ The Bookseller
What food for thought does ‘Traitor’ offer you?
‘Traitor is one of those delicious books that once read it is impossible to put down.’ Cindy Shanks, Humanities Review
Would you agree?
How does Pete Johnson keep you gripped?
If you were persuading a friend to read ‘Traitor,’ what would you say?
TALKING POINTS ‘TRAITOR’ aims to show how devastating bullying can be,
It can lead people to feel …
WANT TO WITHDRAW
Look at the effects of bullying on Tom, Mia and Oliver.
Which words above best describe their feelings?
Can you think of others?
WHY A BULLY MIGHT TARGET TOM, MIA AND OLIVER?
To look tough and feel powerful?
They’re being picked on themselves?
They’re jealous of them?
To escape from their own problems?
Use the suggestions above or add your own.
TIPS FOR - TOM, MIA AND OLIVER
If you’re being bullied. DON’T BLAME YOURSELF STAY PROUD OF YOURSELF GET HELP
What other tips would you add?
‘To defeat a bully you need to retain your self control and preserve your sense of self.’ HelpGuide.org
A Sense of Threat: The Opening to Traitor, by Pete Johnson
‘Tom.’ Someone was whispering my name. Someone I couldn’t see. ‘Tom.’ There it was again. A girl’s voice, too. I strained my eyes. I still couldn’t see anyone. ‘What do you mean?’ The overhanging trees creaking and sighing in the wind were my only answer. Someone obviously thought they were being funny. Well, I wasn’t laughing. I turned round. I was on my way home. My house is at the end of this narrow, twisty laneway which I’m not keen on walking down, especially when I’m late: like tonight. Still, I’d soon be there now. ‘You’re late tonight, Tom. Been to football training, have you?’ I whirled round. ‘Who is that?’ I cried. There was a weird kind of rattling sound. And then I was able to make out someone: a long, dark figure. I could see the shadow of a hood too. It was just as if the Grim Reaper was calling me. A cold chill ran over my body.’
Notice how the writer has suggested different senses. Find examples of sight, sound and bodily feelings that suggest fear or threat.
We have all experienced a time when we were afraid of someone, that someone might really hurt us. In the book, Tom, Mia and Oliver are terrified of the three dark ‘gothic’ bullies.
Let’s make some notes . . .
Remember the time you were afraid of someone; now close your eyes and try to feel how you felt inside then. You may have felt cold and shivery or so hot you felt you would go up in smoke. How did your arms feel? Could you think straight? Whatever you felt try to remember and find words to describe it.
Next try to remember what sounds and smells you were aware of – in the story the girls wear a particular cheap perfume. Where did it take place? If it was outdoors, what noises came from the street and your bullies? If indoors, what were the noises in the room and any beyond the room?
Finally, remember what you saw. Was it light or dark, could you see clearly or was everything in shadows? Could you see the bullies clearly or does it remain blurred? How do you remember them looking? What did they do that made you afraid of them?
An extract from Traitor
Tom, Mia and Oliver are being picked on by a tough girl gang on the way home from school. But they plot an ambush – with water pistols . . .
I grabbed my pistol. My fingers were like jelly, but I took aim at Chris, fired and got her, right in the face.
And I’ll tell you, that jet of water was so strong it didn’t just drive off all her make-up, but it knocked her earrings right off too. And her hair was soaked through. It was wonderful to see.
But the most amazing thing was the way that tough, confident mask, which she always wore, just fell off her face in an instant. And all that was left were her eyes, so huge and totally shocked they seemed about to pop out. I’ll never forget it.
Mia and Oliver hit their targets too.
Itta was actually bent double and snorting through her nose like a horse, while Sonia just kept moving her head back and forth like a very angry, very confused bull. Oh, how I wished I’d brought my camera. But I knew we couldn’t afford to linger.