Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones have collected author stories, essays and poems with a common theme: bullying. The result is not just this book, but an online project, which you can find on their website Dear Bully and on Facebook. As a statement against bullying this book is a definite winner: respected YA writers (Alyson Noel, Lauren Kate, A.S. King, R.L. Stine, Lauren Oliver…) telling their own stories of being bullied, bullying others themselves, or just letting it happen, shows that bullying was and is a much bigger problem for growing teens than it may look for the adults in their lives. As such, this book can be a great help for teens who are being bullied, if only as a token that “no, you are not alone” and “yes, it gets better”.
On the other hand, you have to be honest and say that from a literary point of view, this collection of stories is flawed… despite the fact that that wasn’t the first intention of the editors and writers here. Though there is a common theme, the literary quality is only scattered throughout with only a handful of memorable texts (R.L. Stine, Carolyn Mackler, Lauren Oliver, Cecil Castellucci). At its worst, the stories definitely get repetitive, and maybe even too same-ish, which is not something the topic should allow for, but the book does manage to end on a high note: the letter Carolyn Mackler received from a girl after she had read her book The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things (which in itself is one of the greatest girl empowering books!), and Mackler’s reply to this letter.
There is safety and comfort in numbers, is what the overall message here seems to be: we too got through it, and so will you. Here is our statement and support to you. And though this may be true, for the many kids experiencing bullying on a daily basis right now, it’s a bit of a mute argument. But still, there is much to admire here and the fact that so many authors showed their more vulnerable side, either as bully or the one being bullied is the added bonus.