Saturday, October 3, 2015

Penelope Douglas - Bully

My name is Tate. He doesn't call me that, though. He would never refer to me so informally, if he referred to me at all.
We're neighbors, and once, we were best friends. But then, one summer, he turned on me and has made it his mission to screw up my life at every opportunity. I've been humiliated, shut out, and gossiped about all through high school. His pranks and rumors got more sadistic as time wore on, and I made myself sick trying to hide from him. I worried about what was around every corner and behind every door.
So I left.
I spent a year studying abroad and bathed in the freedom of life without Jared. Now I'm back to finish up high school and get the hell out of here forever. I'm hoping that after a year of breathing room, he's moved on and forgotten all about me.
But even if he hasn't changed, I have. I'm not interested in avoiding him or turning the other cheek anymore. We're going to go head to head, because neither of us wants to back down.

Comment: I got this book because of the captivating blurb and the possibilities. I totally imagined a serious story where the protagonists would deal with bullying somehow but then would overcome that and find a HEA because love can help mend many wounds. I had this vision the author would deliver a wonderful and unique story and focus on the emotional side of things which, I'm sure, is a lot when people are bullied. Sadly, the story didn't look like that to me.

This is Tate and Jared's story. They used to be friends, actually are neighbours but suddenly their relationship changed and Jared started to be mean to Tate and to mock her and even bullying her. The book starts with Tate going one year abroad to study and then she comes back to her senior year before college. She returns more confident and decided to fight for herself ad that impresses many people. She and Jared go head to head in some situations and we soon find out why they stopped being friends. But can they get over the past and live happier lives?
Well, I keep pushing and pushing, thinking the next YA book or NA or whatever they want to call it can be better but I think I'll have to resign myself to the fact all YAs are the same in a way and I'm not the best reader for them nor do I feel I can be fair in judging a YA story because they always annoy me somehow.
This book was disappointing. I keep hoping the authors can give an emotionally mature story but I guess that goes against the YA purpose, maybe. So many situations made me want to say "really?" out loud and to not read anymore. Not that the book is badly written, because it isn't, it's actually easy to go through, the author's writing talent shows and even the amount of effort she surely put in. Obviously she likes to write about these characters, that shows as well. But the way things happen, I couldn't enjoy that and several scenes I thought to myself, why is he/she doing this, this is not believable. Maybe it's cultural and people the author knows act like when they're 17, but more than an age thing, is a bullied person issue.
This story focus on bullying, it has to if the title is what it is. I fully expected to see a story where the heroine suffers bullying and sure, gets better, learns to be stronger, but the bullying is part of her. I thought we would see the effects of that for a while before she changed. I guess that part would be annoying so we see some scenes but the focus is clearly about the love/hate relationship and how cool Tate is after being away and not the bully itself or how that made Tate feel.
After finishing the book, I don't think the title is correct and it's actually misleading because Tate never really acts like a bullied person. Those people don't act bravely like she does all the time, they don't go to popular people's parties, even with friends, and then jump into pools like she did, they don't act like that, or if they do it takes a long time and I never saw Tate "suffer" to change. What was done to her in terms of bullying was something we knew about and what we saw seemed mild.
Maybe the idea is to present things in a way where teenagers being bullied can more easily overcome their issues and see it's possible to not be a victim. If so, kudos for the author. But then I'm not the right target audience for this story because everything felt unlikely and then the sex part was unnecessary, even if realistic.
But if Tate suffered so much, if she didn't understand Jared why bother, why wouldn't she heal that part of herself too? No bullied person would want to be that close to the person that hurt her the most.
Sure I can't speak about every bullied person in the world, but I was bullied in high school and the last thing I'd want is to have sex with the guy next door that called me names and mocked me every time. I mean, maybe it's just me.
Ok, so this is fiction, so Jared and Tate are imaginary people that can have the freedom to act miracously different from any possible real people. Despite that, I feel their behavior wasn't up to what I imagined they would be like. Maybe it's me, maybe it's cultural but I thought the story would focus on different issues based on the blurb and title. I was expecting something different.
Like I said, Tate didn't always act like I imagine a bullied girl would. It just felt weird that for someone as smart, she acted a lot more braver than what I think people who have been put down all the time, who would have been afraid of facing their peers, would.
Then the hook ups that happen romantically through the book seemed so immature and pointless. Thank God I'm not a teenager anymore nor do I have to face their dramas.
All in all, this was an average read for me, I recognize the writing, the goal, the tactics, but I still can't say I enjoyed this much. It was read fast and with the author's efforts that shouldn't reflect my prejudices, I'd grade this positively, but here's to hope the next YA that falls on my lap won't be as misleading. This is a sure winner for many readers but for me it just didn't feel right.
Grade: 5/10

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