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.
You are not alone. God, I would have loved to hear those words as an outcast seventh grader whose best friend just ditched her for the popular crowd. I sure as hell felt alone. Sure, the teachers knew what was happening: a boy in band would blow his spit through his trumpet and into my hair, a boy in gym class constantly called me gendered insults before I really even knew what those words meant, a certain gym teacher loved to call on me to demonstrate because I had no athletic ability. He would laugh when I failed. He also called me weird nearly every day. And that was a teacher. The fact that the teachers knew did nothing to help. In high school, girls who knew nothing about me called me a slut and a whore and wrote things about me on the wall in the second floor girls’ bathroom. People started rumors that I was pregnant, that I’d gotten an abortion, that I slept with two-thirds of the swim team. My friends did not defend me, and to this day I don’t know why. So, this book hit a lot of my buttons. It evoked intense emotion, which can be embarrassing when you’re reading a book at your desk at work.
Some of the stories stuck out for me more than others, like Lisa McMann’s, Courtney Sheinmel’s, Melissa Schorr’s, Holly Cupala’s. Their stories led me to checking out their books, even adding a few to my wishlist. I’m not sure how to be funny about this, you know? I can’t imagine what it would be like to be bullied in the era of Facebook, where everything you’ve ever done or said can be put on permanent display. Remember, once something is on the internet, you’ll never get rid of it. The internet is forever. What would I have done if, instead of using the bathroom wall, those girls used their keyboards, hid behind computer screens? What would I have done? Would I kill myself like Phoebe Prince? I don’t know, honestly. I may very well have.
And then comes the part where the former bullies apologize or try to rationalize why they were the way they were. I found I did not care about these now-contrite former bullies*. It’s not that I think they’re bad people on the inside, but I was that victim. They did those things to me. How can I want to buy your book when I relived those years through your story? I can’t, not really. They talk about feeling a rush of power; I never once knew what that was like, so I resent that. What I took away from this, though, was a question. What if I did have that power? What if, after a lifetime of teasing in elementary and middle schools, I was popular in high school? Would I have stepped on all the “little people,” the people I didn’t think were worthy? You know I want to say no, but do I really have any idea? No. I don’t, and it’s highly possible that I would have used that power to abuse, because I was abused. To take out my anger at being a victim on victims of my own. That makes me sick and scared. Could I have been like them? I feel like I have to thank those girls and boys–Marjorie, Cheryl, Kristen, Kelly, Samantha, Brandon, Matt, Kyle–for making me what I am today, and that’s a fighter. I like to fight for the underdog, because I was one. I like to try and help those girls who sit alone at lunch, because I was that girl once, too.
So thanks, you jerks. You did a world of good for me when all you ever wanted to do was make me feel bad.
*Have you ever noticed that those who were bullied never forget that abuse and many times, carry it around with them for years, but bullies never seem to remember what they did?