BULLY by Penelope Douglas
Author: Penelope Douglas
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Genre: Mature YA
Release Date: June 17, 2013
Recommended Reading: AGE+ 18
Contains No Spoilers
OVERALL THOUGHTS: This debut novel from indie author Penelope Douglas has New Adult’s warnings all over it, but besides a couple of sex scenes, this book is definitely upper YA. The writing is good, the characters are awesome and the story is jam-packed with high school drama. Another night of lost sleep because of a book I just couldn’t put down. If you are in the mood for some angsty romance, high school treachery, sexy boys who drive fast cars and a book with heart, definitely read Bully.
[note color=”#e7d0d2″]SYNOPSIS: 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.[/note]
THE LOWDOWN: I have been rather gun-shy of indie published books as of late. Most go to print unedited and contain sub par writing that definitely lowered the standards for the publishing industry. But I am happy I went against that niggling in my tummy that told me to skip Bully. This book was pretty darn good. The writing was tight, edited well, with fully fleshed out characters that touched me. I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading Bully and this story resonated long after the tale ended. Besides the tastefully graphic sex scenes, this was classic YA.
The protagonist, Tate, starts off a beaten dog. A girl tormented by a popular but cruel boy who once considered her a friend, who also happens to be her neighbor. Then she returns from a year-long trip to France and decides to take back her life. Fight back for the missed time in school spent crying over her humiliation at the hands of her tormentor. This sets off a string of actions that are fun to read, exciting and often hilarious, but they also open the door to a healing process that both characters struggle with. Finding a way back to a friendship and love with the barriers of past pain, all written with tremendous heart. Each character background was touching and the author painted the picture without being overly corny, never once making me feel uncomfortable. Now, I did feel like some parts dragged (just a little), but only because it was clear from the beginning where this story was going. Truthfully I just wanted them to get there. I was anxious and that’s a good thing. In fact, it felt good to desperately want to see if two characters would survive the turmoil. To find out if this damaged relationship was irreparable.
Another interesting and important aspect of this was the story’s overall message. This book clearly states how deplorable bullying is, which is so relevant to today’s hot button issues, but what I loved more than that was the idea that fighting back to those who are cruel can often turn the victim into a bully. Mean is mean regardless of who the target might be. I also loved the lead protagonist. Although she is stubborn at times, she is real. A girl who doesn’t trust words, because they don’t prove anything. A young woman who takes advice to heart and tries to right her wrongs, yet using necessary caution. She loves fast cars and even when she is down, she finds a way to get back up on her feet. That is uncommon in Young and New Adult stories. Most of the time the reader is forced to suffer through inconsistent decisions, poor choices and inner monologues of self-pity. Not here and let me tell you it was like a breath of fresh air.
I think the only things knocking this story down a little peg were the amount of perfect characters. Everyone in town was pretty or handsome and no one, not one person, had a physical flaw. Okay, maybe there was a character off in the far peripheral that may have been it a little worse off than the rest, but this town clearly fed Milan its supermodel supply post high school. Overall, this was just a minor flaw that I could live with because the story was strong.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This is a gem people; a book with heart, humor and a lot of hot boys doing things all wrong. If I didn’t make myself clear before… read this book.