Odd Man Out by James Newman


Odd Man OutOdd Man Out by James Newman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quite a disturbing novella. Not a fantastical horror story, but bullying and a hate crime.
SPOILER WARNING…

A group of young boys are sent to a new holiday camp as a test group before the camp itself properly opens to the public. The supervision is relatively lax, and the main owners are drawn away from the camp when one of the boys has a medical emergency, leaving the less experienced teenager in charge. Being left primarily to themselves, the group therefore begin to bicker and argue. Two of the boys knew each other from earlier in their childhood, and one of those is at first clingy, and soon revealed to be gay. What then follows is bullying and taunts, psychological segregation between the “us” and “them”, and inevitably ends with the boys goading each other into performing terrible acts.

The story is book-ended with the grown-up main protagonist, Dennis, being involved with a vote in their local church on whether or not to continue to allow the Boy Scouts to use their facilities after a change in rules that no longer allows exclusion of individuals based on their sexual orientation. Again here, fear leads the way.

It is an extreme example of how group mentality can rapidly descend into hate, far easier than to accept people simply for being different. Fear of the unknown, and all that leads to, seems to win out more often than understanding and acceptance. Before some people have even thought about the big picture, and how our differences enrich our culture more than uniformity, they’ve already made up their minds that “If you’re different from me, I don’t like you”.

As much as recent news items have brought these extreme views into the public eye. It’s worth remembering that more often than not, these are usually smaller groups who shout loudly to get attention. Some of the individuals involved are, like the characters in this story, likely goaded into these actions through peer pressure and may not feel these things for themselves. I’m a firm believer that the majority of people are good at heart, and the views actions of these others do not represent the whole. Take care of one another.

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