Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Dear Bully edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones

Title:  Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
Editors:  Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones
Genre:  Young Adult Literature
Pages:  352
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Summary:  You are not alone. Discover how Lauren Kate transformed the feeling of that one mean girl getting under her skin into her first novel, how Lauren Oliver learned to celebrate ambiguity in her classmates and in herself, and how R.L. Stine turned being the "funny guy" into the best defense against the bullies in his class. Today's top authors for teens come together to share their stories about bullying--as silent observers on the sidelines of high school, as victims, and as perpetrators--in a collection at turns moving and self-effacing, but always deeply personal.

The Dish:  I have been awaiting the release of this book ever since I first heard about it.  Now that I have read through my own copy... how to begin my review. *inhales and exhales* We've all been there in some form or fashion whether we are the bullied, the bully, or the bystanders.  I can sum the whole situation up into 2 words: bullying sucks.  Personally, the only times I can recall was when I was bullied, though there might have been a time when I was the bully.  It's hard to forget the feelings you experience at that time even now 15 years after the fact.  But in all honesty, I think Dear Bully is a wake-up call, one that is sorely needed in this world.

Now, some readers might dread having those feelings dredged back up from the tiny recesses of their minds that they've shoved those painful memories inside.  And I've already seen reviews criticizing the book for that fact or that those who really need to read it won't.  Even if most of the bullies don't read it (and they really don't know what they're missing out on), as long as it speaks to just one child, one teenager, one adult, I do believe it would make a difference.  To read about authors bearing their souls, revealing those painful memories that they have had to carry makes them all the more real to me rather than just names of people whose work I love reading.  That makes them almost more real in my eyes than seeing them at a library conference or a book signing.  Because they have been there just as I have been there and just as most of us have been there.

There are so many great letters, stories, and poems within Dear Bully, but one of the stories I find the most memorable is the one by Cecil Castellucci called "They Made Me Do It and I'm Sorry."  I think it stuck with me most because I love graphic novels, and that was how Castellucci chose to tell her story with illustrations by Lise Bernier.  What really struck me about this story was how within a group of six friends, five would choose to "freeze out" one for a time.  And once that one was let back into the group, the others would behave as if nothing had happened... before freezing out another.  Watching how friends could do this to one another is baffling to say the least, but the illustrations really hammer the situation home.

I think my only complaint about Dear Bully is why there haven't been more books of its kind before.  The bullying situation is nothing new.  It happened when I was a kid, it happened when my parents were kids, and it will most likely keep happening until someone chooses to stand up and say, "Stop. It's not okay to do this."  The logical part of me knows it won't happen overnight, but the bullying will continue if we don't keep bringing it up.  I will definitely recommend this to any parent, teacher, and librarian because it needs to be read.  The stories need to be heard.


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