Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
By Barbara Schultz,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Kids', teens' authors share personal bullying experiences.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
School is a very troubled and sometimes dangerous place for the young people depicted in this collection of personal memories and stories by authors of young-adult books. However, many of the authors -- particularly in the "Write It" section -- emphasize the ways books and writing have provided a cathartic escape from torment. The book also includes lists of online resources and national groups that can aid bullied teens and teach parents how to support their teen children.
The overwhelming message of Dear Bully is, "You are not alone." That 70 popular writers (male and female, gay and straight) have all experienced bullying in some fashion and gone on to successful personal and professional lives will certainly be reassuring to teenagers. And amid these heart-rending, true memoirs, there are also plenty of moments --particularly in the "Thank You, Friends" section -- when true friendship and kindness make a world of difference to a bullied kid. The section of the book titled "It Gets Better" (like the well-known anti-bullying Internet campaign that supports LGBT teens), assures teens that after they graduate, the wider world will offer more safety, love, and opportunity than the insular world of middle school or high school.
Positive Role Models
Adults depicted in Dear Bully range from understanding, helpful parents and school administrators to thoughtless principals and faculty who blame the bullied victims. The real role models in the book are the writers themselves, who open-heartedly reveal their most painful memories to reach their teen audience, and offer the benefit of their adult perspective. Readers will find specific examples of the ways their favorite writers grew emotionally and creatively from their experience.
Violence & Scariness
Numerous victims in Dear Bully are physically assaulted. Teens and younger children push, kick, chase, pull hair, and otherwise physically intimidate other children in the book. Recent events, involving suicides committed by victims of cyberbullying and school bullying, are also mentioned. One high school graduate in Dear Bully takes her own life, though that happens "off-screen."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few troubling sexual incidents occur. In A.S. King's entry, "The Boy Who Won't Leave Me Alone," a boy touches a girl's breast, slaps her buttocks, and makes lewd remarks to intimidate her. Some bullies lie and spread rumors about other kids' sexual activity; others harass their victims mercilessly about their (real or imagined) sexual orientation.
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There are loads of name-calling, including labeling girls "bitch" and "slut." The cruelty behind the language is much more disturbing than any actual cursing.
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Products & Purchases
Many of the bullying victims in this book mention being ostracized because they don't wear fashionable clothing or live in an impressive home.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One writer recalls her brother's descent into drug use after bullies persistently taunt him for being gay. Drug use is mentioned in a negative context, as the sad result of cruelty and suffering.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dear Bully was conceived by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones; the two author/editors started a Facebook page in response to the suicide of bullied high school student Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, Mass. Hall and Jones invited other young-adult and children's authors to write and post their own childhood memories of bullying. Seventy of the writers who responded appear in the Dear Bully book, ranging from picture book writer/illustrator Mo Willems to Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine to Generation Dead author Daniel Waters. This group of writers grew up before cyberbullying was invented, so their experiences involve bullying in general -- especially at school. However, the writers often touch briefly on the topic of online bullying, and Waters in particular explains how characters in his Generation Dead series were inspired by cruel behavior he observed on YouTube, where a bully would let others know about a violent act that he or she planned to commit -- such as knocking down a child coming off of a school bus -- then record the event and post it online. The real experiences described in Dear Bully are often violent and always upsetting, but they offer the reassuring message that so many people understand how bullied teens feel.
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What's the Story?
In DEAR BULLY, 70 children's and young-adult authors recall their own childhood memories and stories about bullying. The many short pieces in the book are divided thematically into sections, beginning with "Dear Bully," in which several writers address remarks directly to the person(s) who bullied them. "Just Kidding" looks at humor as a mask for bullying and as a method of self-preservation. Other sections include "Survival," "Regret," "Thank You, Friends," "Insight," "Speak," "Write It," and last, "It Gets Better." Dear Bully acknowledges the common experience of bullying victims, reassuring teens that they are not alone.
Is It Any Good?
There are so many heartbreaking, real stories in Dear Bully that almost any teen will find something relatable in the book. Interwoven among the many short prose writings are occasional poems and graphic pieces. The individual stories, and the book as a whole, are generally well crafted and compelling, and there's a surprising amount of variety. Dear Bully is a very readable book about an important, upsetting topic.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the fact that everyone has a role to play if a child is being bullied. (Get tips on how to stand up to cyberbullies.)
Ask your kids if they have ever been bullied at school or online. Let them know that bullying is not acceptable in any form, and children don't have to endure it. Make sure they know that they can talk to you about bullying, and you will protect them from harm.
If your children have never been bullied, find out if they have observed school bullying or cyberbullying. Ask how they would hope classmates and adults would act if they knew someone was being bullied. Let them know that they can ask for help negotiating a bullying problem, even if they are not the victims.
You might also suggest that your kids share Dear Bully with their friends to open lines of communication between students.
- Authors: Megan Kelley Hall, Carrie Jones
- Genre: Autobiography
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: September 6, 2011
- Number of pages: 384
- Last updated: October 11, 2015
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