Jeni Bell's Reviews > Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories

Dear Bully by Megan Kelley Hall
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's review
Nov 01, 2011

it was amazing
Read in October, 2011

'Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Story’ was written by young adult and children’s authors who were bullied, watched as classmates were picked on or humiliated, or were the bullies themselves. It’s a book that teens can relate to and learn from, no matter their social status—and a book that educators could use as a resource, as a writing prompt in English classes, and more.

The idea for ‘Dear Bully’ came about when young adult author Carrie Jones (‘Need,’ ‘Girl, Hero,’ ‘Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape’), who was bullied as a child, learned what Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who killed herself in 2010 after being tormented by girls in her high school, had gone through in the weeks before her death. Jones used her blog to encourage other young adult authors to take a stand against bullying. She and young adult author Megan Kelley Hall started a Facebook group, “Young Adult Authors Against Bullying.” Soon, the group came up with the idea for an anthology—and hundreds of authors submitted essays. ‘Dear Bully’ was published in September 2011; the essays that were not included in the book will be featured online.

“There are truths in every single story that resonate,” Jones writes on her blog about ‘Dear Bully.' “Those truths are that pain is real, that actions and words can shatter us, that it's hard to remember how awesome you are when people are telling you that you aren't.”

The book has generated national buzz. Interviews with authors for the book recently were featured on NPR (listen to the interviews), and stories about the anthology have been featured in Glamour, USA Today, PBS Kids, and more.

What makes ‘Dear Bully’ such an important book for teens, parents, and educators are the deeply personal and painful accounts its authors share about what it’s like to be bullied, to be the bully, or to be witness to the cruel attacks—verbal and physical—suffered by their classmates.

Hall recalls the girls in high school—her friends among them—who “could cut you down so fast, you didn’t even see it coming,” and fears for her daughter in a world where rumors and mean remarks spread even more quickly through social media and texting. Hall thought she’d left the world of “backstabbing among friends” behind when she graduated from high school and entered college. Instead, her college roommate turned against her.

Amy Goldman Koss remembers the power she wielded in sixth grade and how she used it to torment a girl named Carol: “If I got right up in her face and accused her of terrible things, and said mean, horrible things about her, every part of her froze, except for her eyes,” Koss writes. She knew that what she was doing to Carol was wrong—and that was part of the thrill. “After a few minutes of tormenting Carol, I felt a sort of peace as my heart calmed back down and the sweat on my hands tickled and evaporated.”

Aprilynne Pike, best-selling author of the YA series ‘Wings,' writes that she sees a boldness in her daughter that Pike never had as a child, when she was picked on for the clothes her mother made her, for her Coke-bottle glasses and long, thick braids, for all the times she would rather have spent curled up with a book or talking with a teacher than socializing with her classmates. “I wanat to teach her to care and be tolerant. Because if you don’t learn that as a kid, you have a whole lifetime for that bullying streak to come to the surface,” she writes.

And in “Objects in Mirror Are More Complex Than They Appear,” Lauren Oliver (‘Before I Fall’) writes that in high school, there were two Laurens: “There was the me as it was created by others, the me who could be comprehended in, and thus reduced to, a sum of facts and stories (Lauren: smart, slutty, mean). Then there was the me as I understood—or, more accurately, didn’t understand—myself. And that me was far blurrier, far less easy to categorize.”

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