Review: Dear Bully edited by Carrie Jones and Megan Kelley Hall

Title:  Dear Bully

Editors:  Carrie Jones and Megan Kelley Hall

Contributors:  70 Authors such as Ellen Hopkins, Sandra Mitchell, and Nancy Garden

Publisher:  Harper Teen

Series:  None

I've never graded an anthology like Dear Bully, and I don't think it's partial to a grading system in the same sense that other YA anthologies have been.  These aren't stories meant to entertain.  These aren't stories meant to go on and expand with characters and go beyond a very specific type of situation.  These are small stories that reflect a deep personal experience with each contributor, and their purpose is to be a grandiose symphony of voices in a world that so easily drowns them out.  I cannot talk about characters.  I cannot provide a litany of summaries for these 70 stories.  This anthology is meant to blend as a whole, not as individual authors tying together a particular theme or notion into their very individualized stories.

Bullying is something that our society doesn't understand.  It's psychological and physical and completely and utterly incomprehensible in its long-term effects.  Like any other milestone in one's life, it can be small and shrugged off.  It can be large and haunt you for decades.  There is no such thing as bullying that doesn't affect the bullied.  Bullying is the reason why we have the It Gets Better campaign.  Bullying is one of the main reasons that teens today go into their emotional darkness-es and consider suicide.  Act on suicide.  Bullying is a subject that strikes such a core with me as an LGBTQ teen who has been through a period of depression before - who knows all too well what can happen to people in the emotional tumult of life.

Dear Bully aims to be a counter-agent to these feelings.  Some of the biggest reasons that bullying effects kids so strongly is that their lives don't provide a situation that would allow for easily obtaining help and/or support.  It's far too easy for kids to live in homes that would simply say "Man up" or ignore what was going on with their children.  These 70 or so authors have written these stories to show teenagers that they are not alone.  That bullying is something that is far too common, and that they are not the only ones to have ever felt helpless.  It tries to provide a future voice to say that it can get better, a voice that can help prevent so many people from taking their lives.

If there's one thing I dislike about this anthology, it's just that it's hard to get the full effect of it in one or two stories.  I read it straight through and felt that the power relied on the reader getting most of the experiences.  It's the repeated theme among so many unique individuals that strikes a chord.  You always hear stories about one or two people who get bullied and then talk about it afterwords, but what about 70?  There is power in the number, and I think that is both a help to the anthology format, but a hurt in terms of the individual accounts.  The accounts are also shorter than one would expect, and sometimes it feels like the stories could have been expanded on to include more reasoning, more feeling.  There's also a similarity in the types of bullying stories offered.  A lot of it is high-school type bullying, and I would have liked to see more bullying that dealt with race, sexuality, ect.  It was often included, true, but I felt like that more types of bullying could have been addressed and thus show just how intense and all-encompassing the problem is.

What makes me want to suggest this anthology to every reader is just how powerful it remains.  Despite those qualms, there's nothing bad about this anthology technically.  This kind of message works well with the anthology formatting, and I think teen readers especially will find themselves devouring it.  It's dark and has the edgy flair while being a collection of honest accounts from authors that many people read.  It was hard for me to pick it up and read a few stories in between activities.  I'd end up reading twenty or so of them instead of getting any work done.  There's something compelling about what these authors do.  There is a lot of soul baring and emotion in these pages, and it's plain to the reader that, for some, telling these stories is an endeavor that took more bravery than we could ever imagine.  There are some that feel raw, and you can't emulate that kind of feeling in a fictional work completely - else it is very, very difficult.

There's really nothing more I can say about this collection.  Some stories I was "meh" about.  Others struck my heart to the point where I wanted to give the author a giant hug.   This anthology is powerful.  It's one that should be in every library collection in every school, every city, every state.  This is the kind of book you want to hand to teens if you are unsure of how to tell them it will be okay.  Dear Bully is a voice.  It is a collective of so many smaller voices attempting to speak to people in a way that they have never been spoken to before.  This book is not about characters or plot, but about working towards a greater goal in society and keeping teens healthy.  Please.  Buy it, read it, and share it.  Make this book the stunning and powerful voice it has the potential to be in the world.

Cover:  I'm not a fan of the face cover.  It's dark but very on-trend and meh.  Still, I like all of the author's names on it.  I think that presents some idea of how packed the anthology is.

Rating:  5.0  Stars  (If one could even rate it)

Copy:  Received from publisher/publicist for review  (Thank you so much, Heather and Harper Teen!)

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The Golden Eagle said...

It sounds like a great book--and those are a lot of authors!