Tag Archives: bullying

Some Books Are

Nothing rockets a book faster to the top of my TBR list than the news that it’s been banned or challenged by somebody somewhere. That’s how I found myself burning through Courtney Summers’s YA novel Some Girls Are, which was recently removed from a South Carolina honors English summer reading list at the request of a parent who found it objectionable. The school’s principal pulled the book from the list without subjecting it to the normal review process, which is exceptionally disturbing since Some Girls Are was just one of three books the students could choose from (ironically, Summers’s book was replaced with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, another YA novel that frequently turns up on banned and challenged lists for its frank discussion of uncomfortable topics).

Some Girls Are tells the story of a popular girl’s fall from grace and subsequent bullying at the hands of her former friends. Regina is one of the Fearsome Fivesome, the clique that rules her small town’s high school. But staying in a clique can be just as hard as getting into a clique, as Regina discovers after her BFF’s boyfriend tries to rape her one night at a party. When the friend she confides in proves untrustworthy, Regina finds her reputation smashed to pieces and her membership in the Fivesome revoked…possibly for life.

“An Abstract Exploration of Bullying,” student artwork from Beyond the Book. Click through to learn more.

One thing this book does exceptionally well is examine the relationship between being bullied and bullying, examining how a person can shift back and forth from one state to the other. It’s not an easy read: not content to explore one teenage challenge, Summers throws the entire kitchen sink of adolescent problems at her characters at once, including eating disorders and the death of a parent. Every child in this novel is a hot mess, and their teachers and parents are pretty much either oblivious to what’s going on with their kids, or deliberately turning a blind eye.

I could see where that might make a grownup reader feel uncomfortable.

Summers mounts an eloquent defense of the book on Tumblr that, I think, gets to the heart of the matter:

I have made a career out of writing young adult fiction about difficult topics. It’s my deepest hope teenagers living the harsh realities I write about–because they do live them–will read my books and feel less alone. It’s incredibly powerful to see yourself in a book when you’re struggling. Not only that, but gritty, realistic YA novels offer a safe space for teen readers to process what is happening in the world around them, even if they never directly experience what they’re reading about. This, in turn, creates a space for teens and the adults in their lives to discuss these topics. Fiction also helps us to consider lives outside of our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic toward others.

Including Some Girls Are on a summer reading list for students entering West Ashley High School could have been an opportunity to send a message about the types of shaming, language, and bullying that would not be tolerated as well as increase students’ awareness of the effects this type of behavior has and open up critical lines of communication about it.

Summers understands intuitively that the most offensive thing a teenager can experience in a classroom is silence.

Some books are hot potatoes nobody wants to touch. Some books push us out of our comfort zones. Some books remind you that some things never change, and never will change unless they’re brought out into the sunlight. Some books are the only means by which a teenager in trouble can reach out for a lifeline. Some books might be the only opportunity some children will have to develop compassion for others who are less fortunate. And every book is one somebody’s “some books are” list. Read them before somebody decides you shouldn’t be allowed to.

Truth-telling time: were you bullied in school, or were you a bully? Both? Neither? Do you think bullying has gotten worse in the digital age, or does it just seem that way because it’s more widely reported? What would you want your high school classmates to know about you now?

–Leigh Anne

If you are a teen being bullied, or in an otherwise violent or abusive situation, the Teen Services staff has put together a resource guide with information to help you cope. Parents who would like to talk about bullying with their kids and teens can consult the information available through the National Bullying Prevention Center. The American Academy of Child and Educational Psychiatry also maintains a resource page for parents and clinical professionals who work with bullies and their victims.


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It Gets Better

Today is National Coming Out Day.  In honor of that fact, I want to dedicate this post to Seth Walsh, Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown, and the countless other young people who have taken their own lives, because they saw no other escape from a lifetime of discrimination, harassment, and even violence.

Of course, the victims of bullying aren’t exclusively people who are not heterosexual, who are questioning their sexuality, or who are perceived as gay.  Sladjana Vidovic was apparently bullied because she was foreign.  Phoebe Prince “was reportedly harassed by older girls who resented her dating an older football player.” Because someone circulated embarrassing photos of Hope Witsell, she was even taunted after her death.

If you or anyone you know are facing a similar situation, this post is also dedicated to you.  Please know that you’re not alone, and there are people that very much want to help you get through it.

Below are just a few of the resources available to you, at the library and beyond.  The discussion also continues over at CLPTeensburgh, where Joseph Wilk has written an amazing post that captures this issue far better than I can.  And as always, readers are invited to contribute their suggestions and experiences in the comments.


Websites / Helplines

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK  (1-800-273-8255)

“Are you feeling desperate, alone or hopeless? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call will be routed to the nearest crisis center to you.”

Allegheny County’s re:solve crisis network
1-888-7-YOU-CAN (1-888-796-8226)

“A crisis can be anything from feeling lonely and needing to talk – to feeling overwhelmed with life. Our lives are full of stressors both large and small, but no matter the complexity, it helps to talk with someone.”

The Trevor Project

“The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.”

The It Gets Better Project

“ItGetsBetterProject.com is a place where young people who are gay, lesbian, bi, or trans can see with their own eyes how love and happiness can be a reality in their future.”

The Make It Better Project

“You have the power to change your school, community, and to influence school policies for the whole country right NOW!”

The Human Rights Campaign

“The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of over 750,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.”

PFLAG (Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians & Gays)

This organization offers local support groups, as well as working to create change at the national level.

Southern Poverty Law Center

“The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.”


Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


When Life Stinks: How To Deal With Your Bad Moods, Blues, and Depression by Michel Piquemal

What You Must Think of Me: A Firsthand Account of One Teenager’s Experience With Social Anxiety Disorder by Emily Ford

What To Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed: A Practical, Compassionate, and Helpful Guide by Mitch and Susan Golant

Healing Anger by the Dalai Lama

Please Stop Laughing at Us: One Survivor’s Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying (Featuring solutions for parents, teachers, students, and adult survivors) by Jodee Blanco

The Bully, The Bullied, and The Bystander: From Preschool to High School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence by Barbara Coloroso

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel.

Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating And Confronting Homophobia, edited by Frances Rooney

Everyday Activism: A Handbook for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual People and Their Allies (edited by Michael R. Stevenson & Jeanine C. Cogan)



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