Ash is a middle schooler who loves music, is a synesthete who can see sounds, and is figuring out their gender identity after being bullied at their last school for being a “flip flop freak.” It doesn’t help that Ash’s dad is putting more and more pressure on them to just choose a gender and “stick with it.” Then Ash meets Daniel at their new school. Daniel is a photography fan, kind, in-tune with his emotions, scared his parents are going to get a divorce, and mourning the loss of his dog.
Damien hasn't had many positive experiences in his past. His mother was killed when he was just a baby, his brother and aunts and uncles don't understand his hobbies and passions, and he's not even sure he understands himself. So he's starting over in a new school after being bullied harshly at his last. This time around, Damien vows to stay silent and give the kids at his new school absolutely nothing to go on if they want to bully him. Yet it's lonely talking to no one and bottling up all his feelings.
Donte and his brother Trey go to a private middle school where most of their classmates are white. They are biracial; their mother is black and their father is white. Trey is very light-skinned and can pass as white whereas Donte has darker skin and is known as “Black Brother.” Because of Donte’s skin color, he is bullied at his middle school by a white kid named Alan. Alan sets Donte up and gets him in trouble involving the police.
Eleven year old Lekha is the only Indian American girl in her school and definitely feels like an outcast in the mostly-white Detroit neighborhood she calls home. Her classmates make ignorant remarks about her family’s culture, language, and tease her about her birthmark (that just so happens to be on her forehead, just like a Bindi).
Author and Illustrator Patricia Polacco has a knack for creating picture books for older readers. Her thoughtful, sensitive stories have addressed a range of issues including cancer, cultural differences, race relations and slavery. Her most recent book, Bully, takes on a topic she has written about previously in both Thank You, Mr. Falker and Mr. Lincoln's Way, but this story depicts how bullying can take place via social media, as well as through direct interactions with peers.
Bully describes how Lyla attempts to make friends and fit in at her new school. A new friend encourages her to get a cell phone, a laptop computer, and a Facebook account so that she can "stay connected with the world!" Her parents relent, and her new friend Jamie, who is a computer wiz, helps her set everything up. The cool "celebrity" girls invite Lyla to join their clique -- not for her newfound electronic communication skills, but for her tumbling and cheerleading abilities.
When I picked up Shusterman's Bruiser, I expected to read a book about an angry kid who taunts and punches away his insecurities. While this book does deal with bullies, Brewster, the character of the title, is almost the opposite of a bully and a bit magical to boot. A hulking and shabbily dressed 16-year-old, Brewster is an outsider who people vote to be the Most Likely to Go to Jail, and generally treat as if he's not there. Which suits him fine, even if he's never stepped on an ant, because he takes on the physical and emotional pain of anyone he gets close to.