Last December I reviewed A.S. Kingâ€™s excellent young adult novel Everybody Sees the Ants for my local newspaper and interviewed the author on the novelâ€™s central theme of bullying. Since then, several more books have come out on the subject, including Holly Thompsonâ€™s Orchards, which I reviewed for The Pirate Tree last month. Dear Bully, edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones and published by HarperCollins in fall 2011, presents essays, poems, and stories by 70 leading YA authors about their experiences of being bullied, witnessing others being bullied and worrying if they would be next, or themselves acting as the bully.
While the pieces in Dear Bully are short, emphasizing breadth of contributors and experiences over depth, Cornered: 14 Stories of Bullying and Defiance, edited by Rhoda Belleza and published last month by Running Press Kids, takes the opposite tack. Again, most of the contributors are prominent YA authors, but there is greater diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. For instance, while 63 of the 70 contributors in Dear Bully are women, Cornered features six male authors out of the 14 total. The pieces are gritty and intense, pulling no punches. Kate Ellisonâ€™s â€śLike Kicking a Fenceâ€ť takes the perspective of bully Jean-Carlos, whose poverty and dysfunctional family make him an outsider at a middle school for gifted youngsters. Himself the victim of bullying at home and at school, Jean-Carlosâ€™s anger explodes in a brutal attack against one of his most privileged classmates. Zetta Elliott explores the bullying inherent in the gender roles and expectations of two different but equally marginalized communities in â€śSweet Sixteen,â€ť as a black teenage prostitute from New York City and a white teenage sex slave from an upstate New York religious cult meet in a holding cell. Brendan Halpinâ€™s â€śHow Auto-Tune Saved My Lifeâ€ť portrays the systemic bullying carried out by teachers and administrators at a Massachusetts high school; while they seek to divide students and turn them against each other in order to maintain their illegitimate authority, a group of enterprising and tech-savvy students fights back. In Jennifer Brownâ€™s â€śBut Not Forgotten,â€ť a bullied girl defies her tormentors and the school administration to honor her best friend who committed suicide after years of torment. Other contributors to this volume include Jamie Adoff, Josh Berk, Sheba Karim, James Lecesne, Lish McBride, Elizabeth Miles, Kirsten Miller, and Matthue Roth.
In addition to the diversity of contributors and characters, Cornered offers a message of hope in the acts of defiance that many of the characters carry out, and it shows that bullying isnâ€™t only something that kids do but is often perpetrated or abetted by the adults in positions of authority.