Friday, October 15, 2010

Books and bullying

Bullying is a topic that is close to my heart. It is something that I feel a great number of people have either experienced, witnessed or taken part in. All three perhaps. It still feels as though there's a stigma surrounding being bullied and that victims of bullying are loathe to stand up and speak out, and ask for help. Instead they suffer, mostly in silence and carry with them a sense of utter helplessness.

And this prevalence of bullying is being seen more and more within literature. We all like a happy ending, and when the victim of a bully stands up to his or her perpetrator in books and films everyone gives a great 'hurrah' as it shows this wonderful strength of character. Unfortunately, a lot of bullying is done to such an extent that it causes enough damage and unhappiness that one big act of defiance might not be enough. What I think is important is that we are all aware that bullying exists, that we are understanding of the many types of bullying (whether it stem from peers, parents etc) and that we are trying to prevent such occurrences from happening.

Books about bullying should help promote respect, tolerance and understanding. I think books, when written with insight and compassion, can help a person who has experienced any form of bullying. Books such as the ones I've listed below could help victims of bullying feel less alone when reading the experiences of other, even fictional experiences. Would you agree?

Kissing the Rain by Kevin Brooks - Kevin Brooks writes really gritty, realistic fiction and Kissing the Rain sounds like a difficult book to read. Overweight Moo Nelson isn't treated very well at school. He's insulted, beaten and laughed at due to the size of him. In order to cope with this unhappy existence, he tries to take refuge outside of the school, under a bridge. When he witnesses a terrible car crash/murder he is under great pressure to tell the truth and to stand up to his bullies.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - Melinda is an outcast. She went to a party the summer before her freshman year and called the police which led to several popular students being arrested. Now no one will speak to her, she is avoided and shunned. Her friends turn from her and Melinda is left absolutely alone, struck mute by the horrific ordeal she suffered and continues to suffer through the treatment of the other students. With the help of a sympathetic teacher and through art, is Melinda able to come to terms with what has happened and have the strength to finally speak out.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli - Stargirl is one of those books that a lot of people have heard about and read, and this makes me happy. Stargirl is very different in many ways and at first this eccentricity led her to popularity and happiness. But when Stargirl refuses to comform with the other girls in her class, her popularity plummets and she becomes an outcast. Instead of viewing these experiences from Stargirl's perspective, we see her through the eyes of Leo, a boy in her class who is finding it difficult to balance his feelings for Stargirl and his need to fit in with his classmates.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown - Sick of all the bullying and taunts by other students at their high school, Valerie and her boyfriend Nick compile a 'Hate List' - then one day Nick goes into the school with a gun and uses that list of people as his targets. Valerie had no idea and is accidentally shot trying to stop Nick. Now she's back in school and must bear the responsibility of what her boyfriend has done.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - This book is most often described as 'Groundhoug Day Meets Mean Girls.' Sam, our main character, and her group of friends aren't the nicest girls in the world. They're the popular girls, girls who feel superior to everyone else due to their status and money. But when Sam dies but then she is able to repeat every day, Groundhog-style, she must dig a little deeper and get to the bottom of their bullying ways.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers- Regina used to be part of the 'Fearsome Five' - a group of Mean Girls who ruled the school. Until rumours surface of Regina and one of her friends' boyfriends. Now she's cast out of the circle and her old friends are out for revenge. The other four girls have no limits as to how far they will go to get back at Regina. Regina turns to Michael, school outcast, and former victim of bullying from Regina herself.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga- Fanboy's biggest dream is to write comic books and show them to his biggest inspiration. He doesn't have any friends at school except for Cal, a jock jerk who treats him differently in front of his friends. Fanboy even creates a list of people that 'piss him off' and wonders what it'd be like to take one of his dad's guns to school. After a classmate witnesses Fanboy being bullied, he teams up with Goth Girl and things begin to change..

Are there any books that you can think of that deal with bullying that you could recommend? What're your experiences with bullying?


  1. The Bailey Game by Celia Rees also deals with bullying.

    I didn't realise Before I Fall had bullying in. I must get around to reading that soon.

  2. The only one I've read of these is Speak...I need to get busy.

  3. What a wonderful list of recommendations. I've just recently received a copy of Before I Fall, so will be reading that one soon. I haven't actually heard of Stargirl, but will definitely be on the lookout for it right now.

    P.S. So enjoyed reading Asamum's interview with you :)

  4. Vivienne - Thanks, I hadn't heard of The Bailey Game, but I've read other books by Celia Rees before. Will look into it.

    And yes, Before I Fall is very much a book about bullies, I recommend it. Hard to get into at first because the MC is fairly unlikeable, but the structure of the novel and everything makes it very interesting to read!

    Zara - I haven't read them all either, only Before I Fall, Speak and Stargirl! I have quite a bit to read as well :(

    thebookfairyhaven - Yes, I do recommend Before I Fall! And really? Maybe it was just really popular in America when I was growing up, but everyone I know read Stargirl. And loved it. Heard the sequel isn't as magical though!

    Also, thank you :) I loved the interview with Emma as well, such fun!


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