Bullying Prevention Month

Vicious: True Stories by Teens About Bullying, edited by Hope Vanderberg. 2012. 9781575424132. Gr 7-12.

Continuing our theme of highlighting titles about bullying to emphasize National Bullying Prevention Month, I would like to feature Vicious: True Stories by Teens About Bullying.  This is one title in the Real Teen Voices series, which delves into the issues of Rage, Pressure, and Bullying, and features stories written by teens themselves.

In Vicious, we hear about different forms of bullying in a variety of settings.  We hear about the emotional and physical side of bullying, as well as the modern phenomenon of cyberbullying.  Teens recount stories in their own words about how they have harmed and been harmed, and the results are often heartbreaking.  There is a sense of hope that shines through as well, as you get the feeling that most of the authors are in the process of working through the psychological damage that they have experienced or inflicted.  There are also tips for adults about how they can help, as it is all too common that the bullying is ignored or minimized by adults that could be of great help if they would only intervene.

The book’s summary states that “the reactions of the writers are sometimes cringe-worthy, often admirable, and always believable.” This is definitely true; as I read the book, I cringed at some of the decisions that teens made while trying to handle their bullying.  But, for me, that only added to the book’s authenticity, and let’s face it, we often can learn a lot from what we do wrong in situations.

It is obvious that Vicious is written by teens and for teens.  At times the writing is uneven, but it is admirable that the editor and people who coaxed and guided these tales along the way put such an emphasis on authenticity and didn’t refine the stories until they were overly polished.  That would have devalued the whole project.  And there are stories that are full of imagery, symbolism, and astounding insight.  Take this passage from the story “Feeling Different”, by Isiah Van Brackle, where he discusses how writing poetry has been therapeutic for him:

I’ve found that writing poetry is the only way to truly express myself without any barriers. The moon is a focal point in many of my poems. Whenever it’s mentioned, I’m talking about myself. I compare myself to the moon because it’s separate from the world, floating in a void of nothingness.

And while the moon may sometimes seem insignificant, it has the power to affect the nature of the world. That’s the way I’ve always felt I was viewed—a child worth nothing, deemed emotionless, yet capable of so much more.

Vicious would be a great book to discuss in a small group. I can see it generating good discussions between students during National Bullying Prevention Month, or any time of the year.

Blogger: Ryan H.