Author: Jeff Erno
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Release Date: November 29th 2012
Genre(s): M/M YA Contemporary
Page Count: 198 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: N/A
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Every day, all over the country, teenagers struggle with the realities of bullying. Tormented, ridiculed, and beaten—simply for being who they are—these teens face alienation, humiliation, and even the explicit assertion that they have somehow brought this upon themselves, that they should just blend in. Bullied is a series of short stories exploring the world of these teens from several different viewpoints: the victim, the bully, the gay bystander, the straight friend, the concerned parent.
Closeted Bryan wonders why Christian Michaelson doesn’t just try to blend in if he hates being bullied so much. Star athlete David isn’t a homophobe—after all, he’s not afraid of anything. Jonathan, a Christian fundamentalist, must weigh the Bible against peer pressure and what he knows is right when he discovers his childhood friend is gay. Bully victim Chase Devereaux finds an unexpected ally in a brave fellow student. A single mom struggles to accept the reality that her only son is gay. Two tough gay teens are forced to confront their own inner demons when tragedy befalls a classmate they failed to help. And overweight Kirby finds the strength of character to make a friend, which leads to a lifestyle change and a chance at love. Each character grows as an individual as he or she comes to terms with what it means to be a gay teenager in America.
This anthology contains a collection of seven different short stories about gay-related bullying. Some are more poignant than others (Different, Invisible), some stand out more to me from the crowd (Blending In, Different, Invisible), some were hard to believe they could end the way they did by being a little too rainbows and kittens in the end. POVs range from the bullied, the bully, and even a couple from the parents.
Every story has a stirring of emotion in common. Whether it’s rage at the injustice of it all, hope that maybe it can get better, pity, compassion, or empathy…I felt all of those emotions while reading this.
My largest complaint is while the intention is brilliant and I cheer wholeheartedly for it – STOP BULLYING NOW – the execution was lacking. I mean I believe in the message. So much. I cannot express how much I despise bullying. But these stories are either heavy handed or completely implausible to the point where I’m losing the message and paying more attention to how improbable they all are.
Almost all of the stories I wish would have more character growth or for the plot or flow to work better. I wish some were less inconceivable or seem so flat out impossible. I would have preferred maybe two or three stories only and for them to have been really fleshed out and given a chance to rise to the top. With that said though I never once lacked emotion when reading these stories. It made me want to go out and get involved in some way.
Ultimately that is my takeaway here. We cannot stand by and allow bullying to happen. All of us are responsible for saying NO and not just standing by – but to stand together to put a stop to it.