it DID come out last week with great reviews from the New York Times, Boston Globe, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, Romantic Times, School Library Journal and got some shout outs from USA Today, Seventeen.com, and Better Homes & Garden!), I feel that it's okay to do it here, because several Teen Fiction Cafe members are also contributors to DEAR BULLY: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperTeen, Sept. 2011). Essays included are Alyson Noel's Silent All These Years, Jessica Brody's End of the World, Linda Gerber's The Innocent Bully, Melissa Walker's When I Was a Bully Too, and Stephanie Kuehnert's The Soundtrack to My Survival. The contributors to DEAR BULLY (including the ones on this blog) were incredibly generous with their stories; wanting to share a deeply personal part of their lives in order to help teens deal with bullying today.
The sad fact is that it's a LOT harder for teens today than it was when we were roaming our schools' hallways. With Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, IMs, text messages, email (I am ashamed to admit for fear of scaring everyone off with my age, but I didn't even HAVE email or a cell phone until after college!), with all of these technological advancements, it's almost impossible to escape from bullies. Every time a new social networking site pops up or a new gadget like the iPhone becomes available, there's just one more way for kids to target each other through bullying, spreading rumors, sending hurtful messages or harassment.
This is why I became so concerned with their plight. There is virtually no escape, no safe haven. That is why I created a Facebook page called Young Adult Authors Against Bullying, which eventually morphed into Dear Bully. That was the goal -- a place online where teens could go to know that they were NOT alone. And that (hopefully) will be the result of the anthology DEAR BULLY. A way for us to share with our readers our own stories of being bullied. And to show that we made it through okay. Because that's the whole goal: to make it through.
Just to give you an example of how dire the bullying situation has gotten in schools across the country these days, consider this: The third leading cause of death for kids aged 15-24 is suicide. And a huge percentage of suicides involve some kind of bullying. That statistic alone is staggering. And when you add the other national statistics available, it gets worse:
- 1 in 3 kids is bullied. That's roughly 2.7 million students each year.
- 77% of children are bullied mentally, verbally and physically.
- Every 7 minutes an American child is bullied.
- 160,000 kids miss school each day for fear of being bullied.
- 1/3 of all teens have admitted to being involved in bullying at some point in their school career.
And if you think this doesn't affect you directly, consider this: Approximately 289,000 students (4.1 % of bullied kids aged 12-18) brought a gun, knife or other weapon to school. And that percentage jumps to 7.4% when cyberbullying is brought into the mix. 75% of all school shootings arise from some kind of school bullying or harassment.
On the upside, if bystanders get involved and no longer give bullies the audience they so desperately crave, the number of bullying incidents drop dramatically. It's okay to stand up against a bully when you see something that is not right going on. Not just okay, but necessary. Bullying is not and never has been acceptable. It's not a right of passage and it's not something that everyone has to go through to become a better, stronger person.
And, finally, most importantly, teens need to know that they aren't going through this alone. That's the most important message of our book. If teens don't have anywhere else to turn, at the very least, they have us. We are here. We believe in you. We know that it's hard and it sucks and sometimes you want to give up, but you can do it.
Just trust us.
We've been there.