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Literature / The Bailey Game

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"Every school has places that you can find if you want to, if you don’t want people to see you. That was important in the Bailey Game – being secret."

The Bailey Game is a novel by Celia Rees. It was published in 1994.

The plot of the novel centres on Alexandra "Alex" Lewis, a schoolgirl, and her new classmate, Lauren Price. While Alex is rather well-liked among her peers, Lauren is an outcast. Initially the students' hostility towards Lauren is subtle, but soon they become openly hateful and start to pick on her, led by Sandra "Sandi" Mitchell and Greg Simpson. Alex is horrified, as something very similar happened to a boy named Michael Bailey several years ago, and it did not end well for him.

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This novel provides examples of:

  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: In order to intimidate Lauren and Alex, Greg Simpson threatens not only them, but also Lauren's little sister Caroline.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Lauren Price is ostracised and picked on by her classmates. When Alex stands up for her, she becomes a victim as well. Also, in the past, Michael Bailey was a victim of this.
  • Alpha Bitch: Sandi Mitchell, an arrogant, vain and generally unpleasant girl who is nonetheless very popular among her classmates.
  • Anachronic Order: The narrative switches between the past and the present.
  • The Bully: Greg Simpson.
  • Cheerful Child: Lauren's sister Caroline.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": As shown in Chapter 2, Sandi will only respond to her nickname, and won't even react if you call her by her full first name.
  • Driving Question: What happened to Michael Bailey?
  • Extreme Doormat:
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    • Sandi's "best friend" Andrea Bowman unquestioningly follows Sandi's lead and does everything she is told to do without thinking, up to and including being an active participant in more than one case of bullying.
    • In the flashbacks, Michael Bailey comes across as this as well. He never shows any kind of resistance against the bullies and generally seems to be very passive and mild-mannered to a fault.
  • Gang of Bullies: The Bridge Boys.
  • Girl Posse: Sandi Mitchell is usually surrounded by one.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Alex in the backstory. Initially, she was just as much of a bully as the rest of her classmates, but unlike most of them, she came to realise that her treatment of Michael Bailey was wrong and started making an effort to help him.
  • History Repeats: On a much smaller scale than usual, but still.
  • Jerkass: Greg Simpson.
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  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: The narrative jumps back and forth between the present-time storyline and the backstory, with information about past events being gradually revealed bit by bit.
  • Love Martyr: Andrea Bowman absolutely adores her "best friend" Sandi, but Sandi sees her as little more than a convenient lackey and treats her accordingly. This, however, does not diminish Andrea's loyalty and affection in the slightest.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Caroline has a fascination for ghost stories, the occult, and other things that most people would consider creepy.
  • Ouija Board: Caroline owns one, and at one point in the novel, she tries to use it to communicate with Michael Bailey's ghost.
  • Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: A central theme of the novel. Jerkasses like Sandi and Greg aside, Alex's class generally consists of mostly pleasant people. However, the effects of peer pressure and group dynamics turn many of them into hateful bullies.
  • The Reveal: Chapter 19, where the full story of what happened to Michael Bailey is revealed. It turns out that he is still alive, but did come close to death during the incident on the bridge, which is where all the rumours about his supposed death and, by extension, about his haunting the school come from. He had been cornered by the Bridge Boys, who were accompanied by a large crowd of other students. In a desperate attempt to get away, he climbed over the bridge railing; in response, the crowd started encouraging him to jump off. A teacher managed to save his life, but the psychological damage was done.
  • Suicide Dare: It turns out that the past bullying incident ended up escalating to such an extent that Michael Bailey was ultimately encouraged to jump off a bridge to near-certain death by a huge crowd of his schoolmates. It is strongly implied that the perpetrators were not actually serious about the dare, given everyone's horrified reaction when he nearly falls, but it's clear from the narrative that this did not diminish the damaging impact of their words.
  • Tears of Remorse: Alex, when she remembers her involvement in the class's bullying of Michael Bailey.
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