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Posts Tagged ‘bullying’

 reason to breathe    Reason to Breathe, by Rebecca Donovan

I was talking to another teacher at Chaffey High, Mrs. Vanderbeck (who used to work at Colony as well), about the bullying books I was reading this year. She told me about one she thought was great, so I asked her to write a guest blog post and share the book with you. Here it is!

I just finished a book, Reason to Breathe, by Rebecca Donovan.  It’s about bullying and physical abuse, but from the adults that are supposed to look out for you.  Emily, “Emma” has worked really hard to create a facade of indifference to all the students around her.  She is counting the days to her “liberation”. The day when she graduates from high school and is able to go to college. 

Emma is a straight A student, editor of the school newspaper, is a star soccer and basketball player, all the while hiding a terrible secret.  Her best friend, Sara, knows that things are not perfect at Emma’s home, but she doesn’t know the lengths Emma has gone to protect her little cousins.  In spite of her best efforts, she falls in love with Evan Matthews, a new student to her school, who won’t take “No” for an answer. The book is graphic, sad, and yet allows the reader to feel Emma’s annoyance, curiosity, interest and finally the love she thought was not meant for her, at least not in her current situation. I really enjoyed it. It’s a fast read. I am going to put it out for my students so they might read it during SSR. –Mrs. Vanderbeck

High school housekeeping: I looked and I have one copy at Chaffey, none at Colony. So I’m adding it to my ‘purchase ASAP’ list. I also see that it is the first book in a series, so if you also enjoy it, I’ll get the sequels. –Ms. W.

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 Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers   some girls

 

Regina has bullied other girls all through high school. She’s popular. She’s Anna’s best friend. And Anna is the queen bee of the Hallowell High, calling all the shots, deciding who’s in and who’s out. What separates Anna from the typical queen bee is her sheer pleasure in hurting other people. She wants other students to be afraid of her.  She wants to see them suffer the humiliations she doles out. But she also doesn’t want to get her hands soiled. So she lets others do the dirty work, with the reward that they can continue to be her friend. Regina has done a lot to stay Anna’s best friend, and for three years, she thinks it’s been worth it. But all that changes one night at Josh’s party when everyone except Regina is drunk.

Regina is the designated driver, a role she hates because she’s so bored watching everyone making fools of themselves. But when she tries to rouse the drunken Anna from the den floor to take her home, Anna can’t be moved. Instead, Anna’s wasted boyfriend, Donnie, tries to rape Regina.

And here Regina makes her big mistake. She runs to Kara’s house. Kara who had been too sick to go to the party. Kara, whom Regina has always disrespected. The Kara that Regina was always putting in her place. So although Kara promises to help—and tells Regina she should stay quiet about the whole thing so that she doesn’t awaken Anna’s anger—she does just the opposite.

When Regina gets to school on Monday, she finds out about the rumors. There is nothing for her to do. Anna has frozen her out of the popular group, ruined her reputation and replaced her with Kara. Having the word ‘whore’ written on her locker is just the beginning of a series of more and more vicious ‘pranks’ that turn violent. The whole school is invited to an “IH8RA” website.

There’s no one that Regina can turn to, as she has alienated and hurt so many people by doing Anna’s bidding. She’s treated other people almost as badly as she is being treated now. That makes it hard to sympathize with her. What has she done to Liz to make her have a breakdown?

Yet one of the people Regina hurt is willing to give her another chance. That’s Michael, a loner who spends a lot of time writing in a journal. How does Regina endanger him just by hanging out with him?

“Do something.” Regina always thinks to herself. She wants to fix things. She wants to learn not to care what the popular group thinks. But her solutions often backfire because Anna is so good at being so bad. And because Regina doesn’t trust any adult enough to confine in them. It looks like she’s not going to be able to save Michael anymore than she can save herself.

High school housekeeping: It’s my goal to read many ‘bullying books’ this year. Although all the titles I read over the summer are good, they seem to appeal to a specific audience or have a supernatural element to them. Some Girls Are is the first that deals with real problems and allows them to have the worse possible outcomes.  It has broad appeal—I think this is the one that everybody will be telling friends to read. I hope that none of you have ever had to deal with anyone as vicious as Anna or Kara, but I bet a lot of readers will recognize their type. Mean girls to the nth degree.

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Fanboy The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

Fanboy puts up with the bullying he receives throughout his sophomore year of high school by hanging on to a few things he regards as good: his friend Cal—a popular jock, but also secretly a comic book fanatic; his late-night writing and illustrating of an original comic book which he hopes to have published; the knowledge that he’s the smartest kid in his school and can leave all his tormentors behind in two years; and a bullet he carries every day, one he uses as a sort of worry stone.

It seems that Fanboy will just continue his miserable existence with his pregnant and self-involved mom and his stepfather, whom he calls the ‘step-fascist.’ To ease his suffering, he keeps a list of all the people who have done him wrong and sometime fantasizes about school shootings in which they are hurt. But one day he receives an email from Kyra—Goth Girl—questioning why he puts up with the school bullying. She has images of him being repeatedly slugged in PE class while the teachers all stand in a corner and talk. Suddenly, Fanboy has a second friend, one he can claim in public.

But Kyra is one messed-up girl. She lies out of habit and has dark secrets. She is volatile and often irrational, getting into arguments with Fanboy that result in wildly inappropriate behaviors, cutting him off, and then reappearing in his life without explanation. Yet she understands Fanboy’s creative drive and his insights about the hollow experience of his education. She both helps and hinders Fanboy.

What Fanboy learns about coping and about standing up for himself against his tormentors makes The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl a worthwhile read. That said, I do worry that if you aren’t a comic book fan yourself, or at least someone who has seen several superhero movies (and there are so many that are popular right now), you might get lost in the discussion of comics and comic book creators. If you happen to be a comic book fan, I think you’ll love this novel and the richness of Fanboy’s obsession with his artistic pursuit. Goth Girl remains an enigma to the end. The novel doesn’t have the tidy closing that most YA novels do, and that might be a problem for some readers. But if you think about friendships and romances in real teen lives, you’ll find that Fanboy and Goth Girl is often spot on.

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Bruiser by Neal Shusterman  bruiser

 

 

If you loved someone, how much would you be willing to do for him or her? If someone loved you, would you allow him to suffer so that you could succeed?

 

 

There are a lot questions to ponder in Bruiser. I picked it because I thought it was a book about bullying—and that’s one of my current themes—but, though it does deal with bullying, it is a more complicated look at relationships and what it means to take advantage of others. What it means to be responsible for ourselves.

 

 

Brewster Rawlins is called ‘Bruiser’ at school and is voted the ‘Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty.’ He’s a loner and kids at his high school tell tales of his strange home life with his uncle and his brother Cody. No one is sure what happened to his parents.

 

 

When Bronte sees the Bruiser in the library looking for a book of Alan Ginsberg poetry, she is intrigued. She decides to go out with him although her twin brother, Tennyson, objects. When Tennyson later sees Brewster in the locker room without his shirt, sees the incredible mess of his battered back, he starts to understand that Brewster is the abused, not the abuser. 

 

 

Both Tennyson and Bronte come to know Brewster. There’s a strange ‘reveal’ to his situation, and it’s not far into the book. Telling you what it is would help me talk about the book, but it’s something that I think shouldn’t be given away in a review.

 

 

I’ve been book-talking Shusterman’s Unwind for a while, and it’s a quick-paced adventure through a dystopian future. This one is different—it slows down a bit, gives you the chance to think about individuals and their situations, about friendship and sacrifice. Not only about what we’re willing to sacrifice for others, but what is appropriate in asking others to sacrifice for us.

 

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 rotters 

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Such a weird story! The combination of bullying and horror story compelled me to finish the book, and I think it will appeal to anyone who likes really quirky stuff.

Joey Crouch has lived with his mother all of his life in Chicago. They don’t go out much and he’s never been over the Illinois state line. But when his mother is hit by a bus and killed, Joey is removed to a small town in Iowa to live with a father he’s never known.

Things are very bad from the start. Ken Harnett, Joey’s dad, doesn’t bother to pick him up at the depot. He immediately leaves the house upon Joey’s arrival and doesn’t return for three days. Meanwhile, Joey sleeps on the floor, has nothing to eat and notices a strange, nasty odor in the shack that he can’t identify.

Dressed poorly, hungry and stinking, Joey immediately becomes a target of bullying in his new high school—not only by jocks but by a sadistic biology teacher as well, one who daily makes Joey stand in front of the class and then uses him to point out body parts and their functions. (Just a note here from the teacher in me: I had a hard time believing that any teacher anywhere could get away with treating a student the way Joey was treated—but if one tried, I would hope that someone in the class would speak up and tell outsiders.)

The situation only gets worse when we discover what that terrific stink is: Ken is a modern-day grave robber. With nothing to lose at school, Joey decides to learn the trade, and we enter the bizarre brotherhood of this underworld. They are criminals with a strange code of honor, and the one of them who has broken the code is terrorizing all the others. He may have the power to use Joey to get at the whole group.

Rotters are people—because all people will die and then they will rot if they are not cremated. The descriptions of grave robbing, of disintegrating corpses, are the stuff of nightmares.  (So beware.) Yet the story is oddly original and well-written. There are a lot of interesting facts about the history of grave robbing and the ‘resurrection men’ who dug up corpses for scientists and professors to use in study. (Remember Jerry Cruncher in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities?) When Joey has been bullied beyond endurance and he seeks revenge—well, imagine what a grave robber could do.

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Summer Reading

One of my reading goals this summer is to read and select some books about bullying—both the cyber sort and the in-person attacks. I hope to recommend two bully-themed books per month in the 2013-14 school year.

This is going to be my “Ontario Teens Read” for 2013-14.

If you want to read some of the bullying books this summer before we start the “Ontario Teens Read 2013-14,” below are titles I’m considering.

We’ll begin the school year with a few that we’ve already been talking up for a while—they have become popular on my campuses, but if you haven’t read them, you might start here:

Want to Go Private

(Mature teens only—read the review!—cyberbullying by a sexual predator—the horrible, lasting effects of having the wrong things posted online!)

Thirteen Reasons Why

A new book I want to pair with Thirteen Reasons is:

I Swear by Lane Davis

It’s similar, but the students who pushed the girl too far are trying to cover up their responsibility.

Other bullying books we’ve talked up in the past:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci

The Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Others I’m considering–some new, some tested and loved, some intense reads, some for reluctant readers–all got good reviews.

There are more than I can feature in a year. If you want to read a few and let me know what you think, I’d appreciate it very much!

The List by Siobhan Vivian

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Shooter by Walter Dean Myers

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

Promises to Keep by Paul Langan

Playground by 50 Cent

The Beckoners by Carri Mac

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn

Brutal by Michael B. Harmon, Michael B.

Burn : A Novel  by Suzanne Phillips

By the Time You Read This, I’ll be Dead by Julie Ann Peters

Cracked by K. M. Walton

Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi

Dough Boy by Peter Marino

Dumped by Meredith Costain

Egghead: A Novel by Caroline Pignat

Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

Letters to a Bullied Girl by Olivia Gardner

Names will Never Hurt Me by Jaime Adoff

Poison Ivy by Amy Goldman Koss

Teen Queens and Has-beens by Cathy Hopkins

What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles

Who I Am by M. L. Rice

Send by Patty Blount

Playground by 50 Cent

Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King

Beaten by Suzanne Weyn

I’ll decide on titles as the school year progresses, but I’m still in the selection stage. Any of these would make a great summer read.

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The List by Siobhan Vivian

Every year at Mount Washington High School somebody posts a list of the prettiest and ugliest girls from each grade–this is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, and how they are affected by the list.

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando

Mary, Patrick, Winter, and Dez are determined to win the unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt, but throughout the afternoon and evening Mary encounters the demons she and her friends have faced as high school “also-rans,” and ponders what her college and future will bring. (Bullying connections)

37 Things I Love (in No Particular Order) by Kekla Magoon (quick read)

Fifteen-year-old Ellis recalls her favorite things as her mother’s desire to turn off the machines that have kept Ellis’s father alive for two years fill the last four days of her sophomore year with major changes in herself and her relationships.
 
Girl, Stolen by April Henry (quick read)

When an impulsive carjacking turns into a kidnapping, Griffin, a high school dropout, finds himself more in sympathy with his wealthy, blind victim, sixteen-year-old Cheyenne, than with his greedy father.

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