Nancy Rue has done it again. So Not Okay, a book targeted to the ‘tween crowd, made my husband and I laugh out loud. I read it to him on our road trip, and there were several times we said “oh, that’s so good”. Yes, I know we are not in the 8-12 year old crowd, but there is something in this book for everybody. And everyone is needed if we want to make an impact on bullying.
So Not Okay introduces us to Tori Taylor, a sixth grader who has a pretty good life until she becomes targeted by the school bully. That doesn’t last long though because a better target comes along–the new girl, named Ginger. At one point, Tori says
“One part wanted to pretend I didn’t see her and bolt out the door. The other part felt like I should at least ask her if she was okay.”
Ah, I’ve felt like that, and I’m not always happy about which ‘part’ won out.
Tori and Ginger are put into the same group for a project, and with the help of mentor Lydia, Tori learns that
“There’s no such thing as neutral.”
Nancy doesn’t gloss over the pain or the power of bullying. There’s a lot in the story that is heartbreaking. I found myself choking up as I read out loud. Friendship remains a tricky business our entire lives, in part because of what we learn at this age. Some of us get it. Some of us don’t. Friendship is worth it–but maintaining relationships is hard work.
My own niece is experiencing some bullying these days, and my nephew did as well. It happens more often than we adults like to admit, and it doesn’t necessarily help that we have tied teachers hands somewhat in trying to deal with it. Nancy hints at that as well. There is a great line in the book that puts it in perspective for us. Tori’s dad is facing a difficult decision at work:
Something smacked me right in the face, and I stared at Dad in the halfway light. “So it’s like you’re being bullied!”
“That’s exactly what it’s like. Only in the grown-up world, it’s called ‘business.”
So Not Okay is a book that should be on every kid’s to-be-read pile. But it should be on every grown-up’s too. There ARE things that can be done and Nancy has outlined them very well. Best of all, she is developing workshops and seminars for kids. The wise organization is the one that brings her in to share her wisdom with the kids in the engaging and entertaining way Nancy presents her stuff. This is a problem we can do something about.
There will be two more books in the series–one from the viewpoint of the bullied, and another from the viewpoint of the bully. I have so much to learn about this issue, and I for one am looking forward to their release.