The book is called Dear Bully, and it’s a compilation of essays, poems, and short stories about bullying from 70 young adult book authors. Some of them were the bullied, some the bullies, and some the bystanders who saw the bullying happen.
This book was important for me to read. I was bullied but I was also a bully. I was a perpetrator and a victim. And I also was one of those who stood on the sidelines, more often than not, watching as friends and acquaintances mercilessly picked on a student deemed “to different” from us. And doing nothing about it.
This book will have something to resonate with someone.
There are a lot of contributors (70 authors!) so there will be something that someone can relate to. R.L. Stine talks about being the “funny guy”. Sophie Jordan, in the voice of a popular girl, writes a eulogy for a kid who committed suicide because of bullying. Nancy Garden intersperses researched facts about bullying with memories from her past. These authors are just like us: they were bullied because being themselves is too different for other people. Some of them were the bullies, and are now filled with remorse and wisdom that comes with age. Some of them were bystanders who either did nothing, or did something and in the process saved a life.
A lot of these stories really struck me. I found myself nodding at almost every written down thought, emotion, and memory from these writers. It made me think back to the time I was a bully and was bullied, and I think I came out a bit more insightful, thoughtful, and kind after reading Dear Bully.
If there was one complaint I have about the book, though, it’s that since there are so many contributing authors, almost every essay, poem, or story felt too short. I sometimes felt that some of them cut off abruptly, or that I wanted to read more but the story already ended.
Still, it’s overall a great book. I wish more people would pick this up and read it, because far more than the small technicality I mentioned above is the underlying message: that bullying is wrong, it is not a rite of passage, and everyone should speak up when they see it happen.
Putting a face to the bullies, the bullied, and the bystanders
Everything in this anthology is based on real-life situations, from young adult book authors that some or most of us know. I think what this book is most successful at doing is giving a face to these people in the form of the authors, and making those feelings and emotions about bullying more accessible and relatable. It also keeps us alert. It says: hey, this is my experience with bullying, and these things happened and are still happening. It’s not something that should be ignored.
There’s a lot of wisdom in the pages of this book. I read through everything, even (and especially) Ellen Hopkins’ introduction. Because after all, the introduction holds the underlying reason why this anthology exists in the first place! This line in it is just one of the lines that I love (and have highlighted on my Kindle, haha!):
[But] the human animal has a brain capable of compassion.
It’s what separates us from animals, from “survival of the fittest,” which some people think bullying is all about. It’s not. And throughout the book the theme of kindness and compassion is ever-present, reminding us to listen to our humanity, which sometimes is the hardest thing to do.
I also like that there is, overall, little to no victim-blaming in this anthology. Also important to note that although the bullies are also given their own spotlight in the book, they are all notably regretful of their actions. In no way do they condone their actions of the past, no matter their reasons for doing so.
Because bullying is never okay.
Jo Knowles in her short, true-to-life story “Kicking Stones at the Sun” puts it excellently:
We can’t do this anymore. We can’t pretend that words are just words. We can’t say kids will be kids. We can’t dismiss cruelty as a rite of passage. We can’t be onlookers. We can’t say “I didn’t have anything to do with it.” We can’t teach our kids to not step forward and say “Stop.” And “No.” We have to say it. We have to shout it.
And although this book is written by YA authors, everyone needs to read this book, no matter your age. I recommend this book to anyone who’s ever bullied, been bullied, or seen someone else being bullied. I believe that the more people read about and talk about the subject of bullying, the more we can raise awareness and take action on it. Bullying shouldn’t be something whispered along corridors or kept as a deep, dark secret. It should be recognized for what it is, and our protests should be loud and unwavering. Because that’s the only way the world will take notice and change.
My rating: (4 / 5)
Dear Bully also has their own website, where you can share anything you want about bullying, including but not limited to stories, photos, and advice. You can also read stories from YA authors or editors that aren’t included in the book. Visit them here.
You can also purchase Dear Bully on Amazon.
Do you have stories about bullying that you’d like to share? What progresses have you seen in your school or country regarding anti-bullying rules or laws?