Study Guide

Flipped Prejudice

By Wendelin Van Draanen

Prejudice

When I looked up, he was sitting there holding out the newspaper to me. "Read this," he said. "Without prejudice."

[…] I shoved the newspaper in the bottom drawer of my desk. Like I needed to know any more about Juli Baker. (3.65, 67)

Bryce's Granddad loves the story about Juli in the newspaper. But Bryce… well, he has different feelings. So Granddad Loski wants Bryce to try to see Juli in a different light. Check out how Granddad didn't just tell Bryce to read the article but to do so "without prejudice." It seems like Granddad predicts that Bryce is already biased against Juli—and so far, it looks like Bryce isn't moving past his prejudices one bit.

My grandfather's quiet for a minute, then asks, "Do you know why the Bakers haven't fixed up the yard until now?"

"Why? Sure. They're trash, that's why. They've got a beat-up house, two beat-up cars, and a beat-up yard."

"They are not trash, Rick. They are good, honest, hardworking people—"

"Who have absolutely no pride in how they present themselves to the rest of the world. We've lived across the street from those people for over six years, and there is no excuse for the state they're in." (7.80-83)

Mr. Loski has some strong assumptions about the Bakers—and they're all based on looks. He doesn't like that they don't have a pretty house or yard. But he's not just judgmental—he also does his fair share of name-calling. Take a look at how Mr. L calls the Bakers "trash" and "those people." Now those are some mean phrases that let us know Mr. L is not about to get over his biases easily.

My grandfather looks at him for a minute, then quietly says, "Juli's father has a retarded brother, and—"

My father interrupts him with a laugh. "Well, that explains a lot, doesn't it!"

"Explains…a lot?" my grandfather asks. Quietly. Calmly.

"Sure! It explains why those people are the way they are…!" He grins around the table at us.

"Must run in the family." Everyone looks at him. Lynetta's jaw drops, and for once she's speechless. My mother says, "Rick!" but all my father can do is laugh a nervous kind of laugh and say, "It was just a joke! I mean, obviously something's wrong with those people." (7.86-90)

Whoa—Mr. Loski just took his prejudices to a whole new level. Before he was being biased against the Bakers because of their messy yard, but now he's making jokes about the family because Juli has a disabled uncle. Check out everyone's reactions—they seem pretty horrified to us. And pretty surprised, too.

But after everything that had happened, I was really freaking out, and I couldn't escape the questions tidal-waving my brain. Where would I be if things had been different? What would they have done with me? From the way my dad was talking, he wouldn't have had much use for me, that's for sure. He'd have stuck me in a nuthouse somewhere, anywhere, and forgotten about me. But then I thought, No! I'm his kid. He wouldn't do that… would he? (7.115)

Bryce has just gotten a whole new look at his father's prejudices—his dad has made it clear that he doesn't have any positive feelings toward the Baker family and Juli's disabled uncle. And now this has Bryce wondering if his father would hold the same prejudices against him if he had a disability. These are some really tough questions for Bryce to face… and the answers might not make it any easier.

Juli Baker had always seemed just plain dusty to me.

I snapped on my desk lamp and dug the newspaper with the article about Juli out of the drawer where I'd tossed it.

Just like I thought—they made it sound like Juli was trying to save Mount Rushmore or something. They called her a "strong voice in an urban wilderness" and "a radiant beacon, shedding light on the need to curtail continued overdevelopment of our quaint and tranquil community."

Spare me. […] The piece in the paper was gag-me gush.

Except
. Except for the places where they quoted Juli. Maybe it was just in contrast to the reporter's slant or something, but Juli's parts didn't come off all oh-woe-is-me like I was expecting. They were, I don't know, deep. Sitting in that tree was seriously philosophical to her. (7.141-145)

Before Bryce reads the newspaper article on Juli, he's got some definite ideas about her—in fact, he's made some assumptions about how "dusty" she is. (By the way, that's a weird way to describe someone. What do you think of that word choice?) But when Bryce reads the article, he discovers something new about Juli: she's pretty cool. In fact, she's "deep" (which sounds a lot better than "dusty" to us). Looks like Bryce finally took his Granddad's advice to read the article "without prejudice" (3.65).

Dad also thought we shouldn't talk about Uncle David to others because David was retarded. "People jump to conclusions," he told me. "They assume that, by association, something must be wrong with you. Trust me, I know."

So we didn't talk about it. Not at home, not with friends. It was almost like there was no Uncle David. (8.46-47)

Juli learned about her Uncle David a long time ago, but it's not until the convo about cleaning up their yard that she realizes how important he is to her family. Her dad is so worried about people being judgmental, that they just never talk about David at all. What do you think about this fear? Since Mr. Loski has been so judgmental, it looks like Mr. Baker's worries are justified. But the downside to not talking about Uncle David is that he becomes almost invisible. And that's not a good thing either.

"But then I found out that they don't even own that house. They're all poor because her dad's got a retarded brother that they're, you know, paying for."

Garrett gives me a real chumpy grin and says, "A retard? Well, that explains a lot, doesn't it?"

I couldn't believe my ears. "What?"

"You know," he says, still grinning, "about Juli."

My heart started pounding and my hands clenched up. And for the first time since I'd learned to dive away from trouble, I wanted to deck somebody. (9.117-121)

Garrett is expressing some super prejudiced ideas here, and Bryce is surprised to hear such things from his good bud. And so are we. Do Garrett's comments remind you of anyone else in the book? Yep, we're thinking of Mr. Loski, too. Both Garrett and Mr. Loski think it's funny to make jokes about Juli and her family because she has a disabled uncle. And in both situations, Bryce is super horrified to hear his dad and his chum say such mean things.

After school Garrett asked me to come to his house and hang for a while, but I had zero interest in that. I still wanted to slug him.

I tried to talk myself down from feeling that way, but in my gut I was flaming mad at the guy. He'd crossed the line, man. He'd crossed it big-time.

And what made the whole thing so stinking hard to ignore was the fact that standing right next to him, on the other side of the line, was my father. (9.124-126)

Garrett has said some cruel things about Juli's disabled uncle and her family. Check out how physical Bryce's reaction is to Garrett's remarks—he says he feels his anger in his "gut." And his fury isn't going away any time soon. So Bryce's encounters with prejudice have him losing faith in his dad and in his buddy. Now that's a rude awakening.

The man behind the counter scooped as fast as he could, but in that short time David knocked over a table and two chairs with his flailing and managed to smear chocolate everywhere. The checkers and customers at the registers seemed frozen with terror—like David was some sort of monster out to destroy the world. (10.88)

When David's ice cream cone breaks, he gets really upset—and this means Juli sees how the rest of the world reacts to David. Juli gives us a pretty powerful description of how everyone in the store was "frozen with terror" and looked at David is if he were a "monster." Those are some intense similes and metaphors to use. What do you think about this description? And what do you think Juli's reaction is to David? Does her tone sound like she agrees with the people in the store, or do you think she disagrees with their fear?

It was what Bryce and Garrett had said that I couldn't forget. How could they be so cruel? And so stupid? Is this what my father had gone through growing up?

The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. What right did Bryce have to make fun of my uncle? How dare he!

I felt a fire burn in my cheeks and a cold, hard knot tighten in my heart. And in a flash I knew—I was through with Bryce Loski. He could keep his brilliant blue eyes. He could keep his two-faced smile and… and my kiss. That's right! He could keep that, too. I was never, ever going to talk to him again! (10.165-167)

Juli is getting an up close and personal look at the discrimination against her Uncle David. It was bad enough for Juli to witness prejudice from the shoppers when David's ice cream falls, but Bryce's comments hit even closer to home. Check out Juli's reaction to this prejudice—she's so angry that it changes the way she thinks about Bryce. But she also realizes that this is what her father might have experienced as a kid and teenager, so experiencing prejudice has Juli feeling both anger and sympathy.