Author: Jeff Erno
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
POV: 3rd Person
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.
Bullying has been around forever, and it is a relief that it has been brought to the forefront of today’s issues, so it can finally be addressed. Jeff’s book brings a new perspective of how these things can happen.
Blending In is my favorite of all of the stories. It is the story of Christian and Bryan. Bullies, Darren and Troy, harass Christian on a daily basis calling him faggot and leaving pictures of sex acts on his locker because he is flamboyant. Bryan doesn’t understand why he cannot blend in with the rest of the kids as he does. One day Bryan sees Christian crying and reaches out to help not realizing that he is also helping himself. Together Bryan and Christian will face the bullies and win.
In Chuckie we meet Charles and David. David is a jock and a bully. His favorite target is a kid in his gym class named Charles. Charles loves cake decorating and acting in school plays, and these activities seem to fuel David’s taunts. David will help overcome his homophobia by seeing an act of kindness as well as the help of his girlfriend Jen .
Kirby would be my next favorite as stories go. Kirby is a fat teenage who is destined to be a fat adult if something does not change. He is harassed and called names by his friend Tony and the skateboarders that he hangs out with in the park. Dusty is the new kid in school and one day he sits with Kirby at lunch and soon friendship follows. When Kirby asks Dusty why his weight does not bother him Dusty just says that he likes him just the way he is but if he wants to change Dusty would help. The next day Dusty has an exercise plan that he introduces to Kirby. Dusty also helps Kirby make subtle changes in his diet and before long Kirby has lost 40 pounds. On day Kirby walks in to the workout room and he meets Howie. They will become workout partners and friends. Soon he will face a challenge with protecting his friend from a bully and his life will never been the same.
I adore Jeff Erno’s writing and I was not disappointed in Bullied. As a fat kid in high school, I can relate to the taunting and teasing these kids might have felt. I cried a few times while reading these stories of triumph. I was so afraid that these stories would leave me feeling depressed but instead they left me with hope. Thanks Jeff for such an enjoyable read.
Reviewed By: Vonda