Bully (Fall Away #1) Review

10 Sep

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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.

“This is how bullies are made.”

Typically, it’s very hard to make a book stand out with a subject as popular as bullying. I am a particularly hard critic to books with popular themes, because if it’s been done before, rewritting it is not a way to make your name in the world of endless stories.

Penelope Douglas brought a fresh and relate-able perspective to bullying. This entire book deals with topics like isolation, physical abuse, drug abuse, foster systems, alcohol abuse, bullying (no, duh), gossip, and the list goes on. These things  seem like they would make for a depressing read, but it wasn’t. With some books, you want your emotion to take over and be your guide to a book. For me, in this instance, I wanted to think. This book let me do that. I was able to easily make personal connections and relate to the characters and what I’ve seen or heard of in society. This allowed me to get closer to the characters and the plot, and I really enjoyed that.

The reason I found this book to be memorable was because it showed bullying from a new perspective we usually hear about, but don’t get to read about as often in the YA genre. You know how they say that bullies were bullied and that’s what made them bully? Yes. That is the perspective I’m talking about.

This girl, Tate, has been a victim for years. She’s been laughed at, hurt, embarrassed, teased, and ignored in her high school life for a long time. There are very few people who she can really trust, and she’s getting sick of it. So after two years of putting up with it all, she leaves for France to get away. After a year, she returns, and she decides that she is through with being the victim of her once-best-friend. She decides to fight back.

Which is where the quote I used comes from. Now that you understand the basic perspective of this book in terms of bullying, I’m hoping the rest of this quote will leave you as haunted as it left me:

“This is how bullies are made. I’d just purposely made him feel unloved and unwanted. I’d told him he was alone. Even with everything he’d pulled on me, I’d never felt abandoned or isolated. There was always someone that loved me, someone I could count on.”

Which is where we initially see that transition. At what point does standing up for yourself cross over into bullying? It’s easy. It’s very, very easy to say mean things. It’s hard to fix them, though. It’s also hard to catch yourself from getting lost in the bullied bully circle. Tate struggles with standing up for herself by playing Jared’s game of best bully while also trying to stay true to herself and her morals.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t like Tate too much. She seemed to make rash decisions easily and act very dramatically after she grew a backbone. It went from extreme isolation and taking the hits to extreme retaliation. When talking with my friend, though, she said that Tate reacted how she would react if she were in her situation. I didn’t connect to Tate personally, but my friend did. People sometimes tell me I’m too judgmental. So I’m going to let this one go. Just this once.

Jared, on the other hand, I liked. He may have been the original bully, but as the book progresses you see that he doesn’t typically have a mean nature (which is why I didn’t like the protagonist for her actions). You could tell there were issues that he was trying to resolve and he couldn’t figure out how to do so. As well, the book hints throughout the entirety of it that something did set him off against Tate, even though Tate herself doesn’t know what she’s done to deserve his sudden hatred when, before, they used to be so close that people thought one day they’d get married.

This book deserves 4 stars from me. Even though it’s not my favorite book (there are very few books that get to be my favorites), it was an amazing read with a fresh perspective and an intriguing voice to YA literature. The storyline flowed well, and I was able to get lost in this book easily. Completely worth reading, especially for all you high school kids still writing essays about bullying. Because this is a new perspective to bullying, your teachers will have a field day. Just, you know, analyze it well. :p

Adios!

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