BFF: A Story About Bullycide
by Lindsey G. P. Bell
GENRE: Young Adult
Thirteen-year-old Abby and her father have just moved from a leaky old sailboat in California to an inherited mansion in South Carolina, and Abby does not fit in. This is the story of the summer adventures she shares with new best friend, Hollis, and two boys from their class rescuing an injured heron. But when school begins, Abby is shocked to learn that Hollis is a bullied outcast…who, pushed to the limit, takes her own life—a phenomenon known as bullycide. BFF attempts to portray the loss felt by those left behind.
This book deals with suicide, which may be triggering for some readers.
When we closed the front door, Dad yelled from above, “How was it? Was it better today?” before he could see that Hollis was with me. When he appeared, I could tell he was sorry he’d asked.
After an awkward silence, I said, “Nope. Lexie Cross is a—” and I used the same ugly word Stick had used to describe my grandmother.
Hollis burst out laughing.
Dad didn’t. But he did play board games with us. And once we’d discussed everything that had happened, he said, “People can and will say all the garbage about you they want...doesn’t make it true. Definitely doesn’t make it kind or necessary.”
Hollis looked like she was deep in thought until finally she said, “It still hurts.”
Dad said, “Of course it does. But you can’t change anyone else. Your power in this situation comes from deciding how important to make Lexie’s opinion.”
Hollis smiled a little and moved her game piece.
Dad stared at the board until his eyes got huge. “You just won again, didn’t you?”
Hollis giggled and covered her mouth in embarrassment.
Dad slumped against the back of his chair and smiled. “Think of Lexie as your opponent in a game...and assume she’s going to continue saying these things. You’ve got to try to stay a step ahead of her. Don’t let her get away with it. Fight back!”
This is a well-written and unfortunately necessary book that shook me to my foundations.
I feel like this book should be required reading for teenagers with the caveat that it should be discussed while students are reading it. I think it absolutely should be read by adults, particularly those in school administrative positions and by parents. Too many adults take the attitude that being bullied is some sort of "rite of passage." As I am trying to keep this review PG I can't say what I really think about that attitude, but it sounds a bit like "flip that sausage." The words I want to use start with the same letters.
I was Hollis. I survived what happened to me, but certainly not unscathed. There was only one instance where the person bullying me was punished. The rest of the time I was told that I was being "too sensitive," that I needed to "toughen up," and that maybe if I didn't have such "weird mannerisms" people wouldn't pick on me. I had developed a tendency to talk with my hands when I had a severe case of laryngitis that left me silent for a month. After hearing the "weird mannerisms" advice, I became very wooden in my movements and have remained so.
The lifelong effects of bullying are seldom talked about because people like me tend to be pushed to the side and told not to complain. If bullying were simply called abuse, people might take it more seriously. The word "bullying" conjures up images of a pair of scrappy boys in a playground scuffle. There is always an implication that if the victim just stands up to their abusers all will be well and if they fail to stand up to said abusers, they deserve what they get.
There were cases where I stood up to my abusers. In one instance I kicked a boy in the knee--hard--while wearing hiking boots. I then warned everyone else that I would do the same to them if they continued mocking the way I talked. They believed me and that particular variety of bullying stopped. However, this was a drop of water in an ocean. During my time in school, I ended up on a psych ward for attempted suicide. I was psychologically abused by the staff during my stay. In this instance my response was outrage and I vowed that I would die before ever allowing myself to be placed in such a situation again. I have kept that promise.
I am now nearly 60 years old. I have low self-esteem and have not thrived in life. The counseling that I spent money on when I had the money to spend didn't help me because I don't trust mental health professionals. At this point, I live in a remote rural location, and making a weekly drive to a city for counseling is not something I'm willing to do.
Very little has changed in the way bullying is dealt with and in modern times the victim never gets any respite from the abuse thanks to parents freely allowing their children access to social media. This book packs a powerful punch and can be utilized as a tool. I had such a visceral reaction to reading it that I ended up spending the rest of the day binge-watching mindless entertainment. This isn't common for me. I've ended up being a pretty tough nut to crack after years of admonishing myself to never allow anyone to see my weaknesses.
I have only one complaint about the book. It may seem like a small thing given the larger problems addressed, but I think it bears mentioning. There is a moment where Abby's dad jokes that ice cream is good for everything "except diabetes."
When one is diabetic, this kind of "joke" really isn't funny. The author may not be aware, but such "jokes" embolden the sort of people who think that people who develop diabetes "brought it on themselves" by "eating too much junk food" and/or by "being too fat." The truth is the only people who develop diabetes are those with the genetic trigger for diabetes.
The other myth that gets perpetuated is that diabetes is reversible. Type I, otherwise known as juvenile diabetes, is caused by an autoimmune reaction that destroys the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin. It is 100% not reversible. Type II, or adult-onset diabetes, starts by causing the body to be unable to recognize its own insulin. Over time the beta cells of the pancreas die off. Most type II diabetics eventually end up needing insulin injections. In rare cases, type II diabetes can go into remission. Personally, I'm not holding my breath.
Nobody causes themselves to develop diabetes. A genetic trigger for the disease causes them to develop diabetes. Diabetes can occur in people of all sizes and even in people who were always careful with their diet. The idea that diabetics can never eat anything containing sugar is ridiculous as well. I can eat ice cream if I want to. I simply need to adjust the amount of insulin injected to compensate for the carbohydrates in said ice cream.
This was my only complaint about the book and I don't believe that it was meant as a dig at people who live with diabetes. However, I felt it necessary to point out that such jokes are unfunny and promote the shaming and bullying of people whose "crime" is literally having a crappy disease that they didn't ask for.
I rate this book five out of five stars (except for the dumb diabetes joke which I rate one star). I genuinely believe it needs to be integrated into secondary school educational curriculums and I absolutely believe that every adult involved with kids in any way, whether parents, teachers, or administrators must read it. Yes, it will upset you. Too bad. Yes, it will make you uncomfortable. Tough. This story is, unfortunately, the story of many young people's lives, and it needs to be taken seriously. We as a society cannot continue to ignore a phenomenon that destroys and sometimes ends lives.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Lindsey G. P. Bell wrote BFF: A Story About Bullycide after seeing numerous articles online about kids aged 9 - 14 who’d taken their lives in the face of bullying. Bell was also bullied in elementary school and wanted to pen the book she would have benefitted from. BFF: A Story About Bullycide is her thirteenth book but the first one she’s published.
Link to Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/BFF-Bullycide-Lindsey-G-Bell/dp/1733874801
BFF: A Story About Bullycide is available through wholesaler IngramSpark…so, should be findable through most large and small book sellers, including: Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bff-lindsey-g-p-bell/1137309506
There is a book trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPlDR3AQ4TM
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Lindsey G. P. Bell will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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