I was offered an ARC of this book for review months ago, but I declined because of the subject matter. I wasn’t sure I could read the story objectively, and I was afraid it was going to be unrealistic. Having finally read it, I discovered I was right about one thing and wrong about the other: I *did* have a hard time reading it objectively, but that’s because the story is so very realistic. I was emotionally sucked in, and sympathized with Piddy in a visceral way.
Bullies don’t always have a reason for picking on someone. Piddy had never seen or spoken to Yaqui before another girl announces that Yaqui wants to kick her ass. We do find out that it has to do with Yaqui’s boyfriend in a roundabout way, but, really, Yaqui has simply decided that she doesn’t like Piddy, and therefore will make Piddy’s life miserable. This is done in a realistic way that doesn’t come close to over-the-top. Piddy’s fear and stress are palpable, so the bad choices she makes feel natural and sympathetic. The ending is also realistic, because it is nowhere near perfectly happy. It’s just the best situation that Piddy could find, given the circumstances.
I’ve read other stories that contain bullying, and most of them invoke eye-rolling or disbelief, but that’s not the case with this story. It’s very powerful, and will resonate with those who have experienced it first-hand. It will also give insight to those who haven’t experienced it, and help them understand what someone who is being bullied is going through.
For parents who might be concerned that this isn’t appropriate for teens, I disagree. This is something teens deal with all the time, and a book like this might help them. Instead of eliminating that source, I recommend reading it with them, and then discuss it. Perhaps let them lead the discussion to see what they have gotten from it. I wish I’d had access to a book like this when I was younger.