Combining personal essays, poems, and artwork, Bullying Under Attack delves into the causes of and reasons behind bullying, presenting the issues from the side of the bullies and the bullied.
I have read a few books about bullying, but none have ever made me so glad to have come of age in a time that preceded cyberbullying as Bullying Under Attack did. I was the token fat kid and teased mercilessly for it. I had few real friends and hated going to school, but at least I still had a sanctuary at home. The taunts and jabs couldn’t reach me there. There was no internet, no cellphone, no IMing or texting. While reading this book, I found myself wondering if I had come of age with today’s technology, would I have ended up like Ryan Halligan and so many other kids who simply couldn’t face another day of being ostracized and humiliated.
As I read, I found myself relating to so much of what was said.
“Even though he [the bully] affected my life in so many ways, I often wonder if I had any impact on his. It’s strange to think that I, who feared him every day, was probably a very miniscule part of his life. To him I was truly invisible.”
I’ve wondered this so many times about the bullies who teased me. I can still remember every word they said, but I doubt that they do. Katherine Dolgenos sums it up very truthfully:
“Bullying affects victims for years afterwards. I will remember these events for the rest of my life.”
And therein lies the greatest strength of this book – its writers. Teenagers who have been the victims and the bullies and the bystanders who did nothing because they were too afraid of becoming victims themselves. This book is effective because it is written by people who have experienced some aspect of bullying themselves, seen firsthand the damage it causes, the lives it destroys.
If I had to recommend only one contribution to this tremendous book, I think it would be I Want My Brother Back by Ellis Juhlin. This heartbreaking poem illustrates how bullies take something that is beautiful and alive and flourishing and smother until it wilts like a flower denied water and sunlight. The poem uses few words, but says so, so much. It’s terrible in its tragedy and devastating in its honesty.
Bullying Under Attack should be required reading in schools everywhere. And not just for the students. I was furious when I read the numerous accounts of bullying victims who reached out to teachers, principals, and even law enforcement only to be told to get over it. This should be the book discussed in English class, read during assemblies, carried in every backpack, and available on library shelves. We can’t learn from our mistakes if we don’t know what they are and how they affect others. Perhaps the more who read this book, the more they will take a stand against bullies, stop bullying others, or just reach out to a victim in need. This is an excellent book with the power to influence its readers and maybe, just maybe erase some of the hatred from this world.