Eric is thirteen. His family has moved to Long Island. They are in a new place and he is in a new school, but all this happens without his Dad. His Dad did not move with them. He is elsewhere and suffering from depression. In Bystander by James Preller, the reader sympathizes with Eric as he makes all these new adjustments in his new life. He misses his dad, and his mom is very busy trying to create a typical life for her children.
Eric is the new kid in town and in school. He meets a group of middle schoolers while on the basketball court one day. As the dynamics of the group reveal themselves, Eric is quick to realize that Griffin Connelly (the leader of the pack) is not such a nice guy. In fact, he is a bully. One of the main targets for his mean antics is David Hallenback. David is under the mistaken assumption that he is part of the group and a friend of Griffin's. That is not the case.