Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A-Z Challenge: U is for U-G-L-Y

U is for U-G-L-Y: Bullying

Today's topic is a serious one.  Bullying continues to be a powerful issue facing teens.  There are a variety of programs in place in schools across the country to attempt to combat the cruel nature of some children, but literature can provide strength and healing, as well.

Readers like to see themselves represented on the page almost as much as they like to escape into a good book, and there are a large number of books which have the potential to help teens overcome tough situations.

The first that springs to mind is Thirteen Reasons Why. When I was still teaching middle school, this book was making the rounds.  It was a hard story to read, but I think it is a vital tale: the narrator receives audio tapes recorded by a classmate who recently killed herself, in which she outlines some of the reasons she gave up.  This is a real issue faced by teens today, and one that's hard to talk about.  Literature can be the starting point for those tough conversations.

Another excellent title is Sharon Flake's The Skin I'm In.  I loved teaching this book because it deals with racial bullying in stark, honest terms.  Maleeka, the narrator, is considered too black by the popular girls in her school.  They torment her, but Maleeka gradually finds her strength and beauty and confronts them.  She's by no means perfect, and I think readers can really identify with her.

Luckily, YA authors are good at tapping into harsh reality, and there's a wide range of books that exist that deal with bullying.  I've pulled together a few booklists to help you in your search.

Pinterest Board: YA Bullying

A booklist compiled by a high school librarian

A list complied by Mitali Perkins, YA author

Do you think YA writing should deal with harsh realities?  The "problem novel" has always received a lot of negative publicity (remember the recent YASAVES campaign?): Should writers address the darkness, or is it up to them to provide imaginary escapism?

Make sure you support the other A-Z challenge participants as we near the end of the month!


  1. I think there's a place for both. And I see kids reading both. Just like adults, we take beach reads on vacation but dig into issues books when we need more.

    Kids often don't understand when they are bullying. They just think they're teasing or messing around. And for kids who have thicker skins I think it's even harder for them to understand the kids who feel bullied. As a teacher, I find it challenging to attend to bullying in the best way.

    1. Jaye, I agree that both are necessary. And bullying is so hard to address for exactly the reason you said: many kids don't really know what constitutes bullying! Others do, however, and this problem isn't going away any time soon, sadly.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for dropping by and chiming in on the discussion!

  3. After reading this, I instantly thought of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. I'm so happy that I read it early on.