- The Wrong Crowd – Bunty: #1731 (16 March 1991) – #1738 (04 May 1991)
- Reprinted – Bunty: #2227 (16 September 2000) – #2234 (4 November 2000)
- Art: Bert Hill
When Tracey Brown started at a new school, she was immediately befriended by Jane Niven and her friends, Katy and Lorna. At first Tracey thinks they are the only friendly people in her class, but she soon finds out the opposite is true! Jane & Co. are nasty bullies and nobody wants to be friendly with Tracey, as they think she is just one of the gang. When she realizes what kind of people they are, she tries to get away from them but they threaten her and her cat, so she has to do what they say. Not only do they bully and threaten her, they also get her to do some nasty stuff to other people like trip a boy up and poor ink on a girl’s jacket . Tracy tries to get help from some classmates but Jane’s gang attacks them and the girls think Tracey set them up.
Even at home she does not get a reprieve, as Jane barges in when her parent’s are out. Tracey is going to confide in her parents about what is happening, but then sees her cat, Daisy, is hurt, and thinking Jane has carried out with her threats she keeps quiet. She does tell Jane off for doing something so low. Unknown to her, Daisy just got in a fight with another cat, it has nothing to do with Jane, but Jane lets Tracey keep her false assumptions, as it’s to her advantage. A small bit of hope for Tracey when she makes a friend with a girl, Lynne who goes to another school, but when the girls attack her, Tracey loses her only friend as she doesn’t want to hear any explanations afterwards.
Tracey is miserable and participating more in bullying acts because she is scared. Other pupils and even teachers think she is just a bully. Tracey takes a sick day and then tries playing truant, but Jane spots her and her peaceful day away turns into a disaster. When some family visit, she has fun babysitting her little cousin but the bullies then have more leverage to get Tracey to do what they want if she doesn’t want her cousin hurt. Tracey is miserable and trapped, she steals a girl’s notes for a test, when the girl and her friend confront Tracey, the gang “save” her, from a situation they placed her in, in the first place!. During a sport’s match, a visiting team gives Tracey the idea to go to boarding school, and her parents agree to a close one if she can get a scholarship, which she does. Tracey gets great joy in dropping the bomb to Jane and Co. that she won’t be returning to school next term. When she arrives at her new school, there are three friendly girls, but she gets nervous that the same thing is going to happen again. She is reassured when other classmates seem to give approval and she knows she’s in with the right crowd.
This story replaced another Bert Hill story Living a Lie which was also about a girl dealing with bullies, obviously a popular theme! I’m impressed by Tracey standing up to the bullies as soon as she found out their true nature, even if she didn’t get very far! In the beginning she is more proactive about trying to get away from Jane & Co. confiding in classmates and considering talking to her parents, though unfortunately it doesn’t work out. The longer she’s in with the “Wrong Crowd” the harder it is for her to escape and the more isolated she becomes. The reader sees how she gets deeper into co-operating with their schemes. Although she may not be happy with what they are making her do, I wonder if she hadn’t moved school, would she eventually just completely turned into a bully herself.
Surprisingly the bullies don’t get their comeuppance in the end. Clearly they’ve been getting on fine in the school previously and I wonder if the next new girl that comes along will fall into the same trap as Tracey. As for Tracey it is good to see her satisfaction at pulling one over on the bullies, though clearly her experience has made her nervous of new friends. Luckily her new school seems like it will be a lot happier of a place or her.