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Customer Review

196 of 230 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Much of a Wallow, Not Enough Overcoming..., April 22, 2004
This review is from: Please Stop Laughing At Me...: One Woman's Inspirational Story (Paperback)
As a victim of bullying from grade school through high school, I wanted to like this book. In fact, I was annoyed when I read some of the negative reviews here. They seemed to be written by bullies themselves. Then I read the book.
Oh boy.
A great deal has been made of it being written in response to the Columbine shootings. Recent information, however, reveals the Columbine shooters weren't victims of bullying so much as they were contemptuous psychopaths who thought themselves superior to EVERYONE and planned to kill EVERYONE from the meanest jock to the lowliest nerd. I'm not sure "Please Stop" is going to help stop the creation of future Klebolds and Harrises.
Nor is it going to do much for victims of bullies beyond assuring them that lots of other people get bullied--some worse than others. I would ten times rather Jodee had expounded on the resources she had to draw upon to get through high school. I would like to have heard about the skills she developed to go from high school victim to real-world success story. (How DOES someone so hated and so downtrodden become a publicist for Muhammad Ali and Jim Carrey?) I would rather have read about what kinds of support she and her various outsider friends gave each other to buffer the cruelty they suffered.
Instead, we get 200 plus pages of graphic description of how mean everyone was, how clueless the world was, and (apparently) what a nice, saintly girl Jodee was. (I was bullied,too, but even I know that I wasn't Bernadette of Lourdes--I could be snarky and prissy and deliberately dorky. Does this excuse my tormentors? No. Does it explain their behavior? A little. Did I knock myself out trying to make them like me? Not on your life. I found my own strange little circle of buddies and together we got through it. Do I have days when I get mad on behalf of the teenager I was? Sure. Then I remember I am NOT the teenager I was and I get back to my real life.)
Would I recommend this to victims of bullies? Well, I'm a librarian and I know some kids who would likely eat this up with a spoon. Sure, I'd recommend it. I would caution them that it won't help them with their troubles beyond the "you're not alone out there" speech.
Would I recommend this to people who might be bullies? Chances are they are the ones reading it. I know waaaay too many kids who viciously pick at their classmates, peers and friends, yet read all of David Pelzer's books and comment on how much they wish they could save the child he was from being abused. They attend popular films in which underdogs overcome tremendous obstacles tossed in their paths by bullies--and they will root for that underdog. But even though their often do and say to their peers things much worse than Jodee suffered, they will not recognize themselves in the bullies at her schools. (Heck, almost none of Jodee's tormentors saw themselves as bullies, either. They remain clueless and, I suspect, some of them suck up to her because of who she is now and who she knows.)
I wish I could recommend it for the detailed descriptions of the inner resources Jodee discovered and the phenomenal skills she developed to become the person she is today. Sadly, I can only recommend it as a kind of "printed pity party" that will leave victims wondering how to heal themselves and move on.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 27, 2006 8:17:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2011 8:17:59 PM PST
Sarah says:
I agree that this book is not a survival handbook for victims of schoolage bullying; it is, however, an honest account of how bullying can negatively affect a person's self-perception and self-confidence well into her adult years. A person need not be permanently affected by schoolage bullying, but Jodee is being honest with her readers that it's taken her awhile to get over it (or at least learn to put it in perspective).

I appreciate that your review is written from the perspective of a survivor of bullying. I too survived schoolage bullying and can vouch that yes, this type of abuse does negatively impact your self-perception (you seem to internalize the negative attitude of your bullies against yourself) and can dog you into your adult years. But you can get over it or at least really minimize its affect on your life---maybe this isn't the book to help you get over it, but as you wrote, knowing you're not alone is a big deal and worth the price of the book in and of itself.

Jodee also remarks in so many words that it's sad that she needs/wants her former bullies' approval at her high school reunion. She is still afraid that somehow they will (within the course of an evening) sabotage her hard-won adult confidence. I think she's critiquing her own need for validation from these people, and I appreciate that she's being honest with us. She's not saying she's come so far and is so successful that she no longer cares. Quite the contrary, she's saying, "What's wrong with me that I still need these people's approval after all these years and after all that they have done to me?" That shows you how deep that treatment affected her. She didn't use authorial revisionism to show us how together she's always been (or is now) or how her "inner resources and phenomenal skills" buffered her through the worst of these experiences. No, she's vulnerable and doesn't have all the answers, and she's sharing her vulnerablity and insights with her readers. This is an open-ended account of how bullying can affect someone, not a definitive treatise or a 12-step program to eliminate bullying and any personal residue from bullying.

Kids don't have the farsightedness to understand how they can negatively impact other kids, and much of their behavior is at the unconscious level.

However, none of us needs some naysayer trying to talk us down, and that's basically what bullies do---project their own self-doubts onto "easy" targets, while throwing out the Golden Rule and convincing themselves that their victims "deserve" to be treated this way. And you are definitely right that many people who'd fall into the category of bullies by their actions would never categorize themselves as bullies and are blind in relation to themselves. I also think that people bully people whom they are jealous of (even if the jealousy is unconscious). For example, Christina Aguliera (who has the most beautiful voice of the "pop princesses") was bullied b/c the other kids were jealous of her natural talent.

Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons is a great book on this issue, and spells out systematic ways to treat and possibly prevent bullying. The author was surprised when a former classmate remembered that Rachel had bullied her (this chapter is called something like, "The Bully in the Mirror").

Schoolage bullying is a real problem and needs to be appropriately addressed and if possible, prevented through schoolwide anti-bullying policies (that are actually enforced). No one benefits from this type of behavior---not the bully (one day remorse and self-awareness may hit them), the victim, nor the bystander.

Posted on Jun 8, 2009 5:46:08 PM PDT
Hear hear, Jesse! You took the words right out of my mouth!

Posted on Jun 14, 2009 4:59:20 PM PDT
Pasiphae says:
You really spelled it out. Excellent and truthful review.

Posted on Feb 5, 2010 4:32:11 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 5, 2010 4:34:41 PM PST
Rachel says:
Very good review, and articulates the problems that I had with this book. I bought it because I went through similar experiences at school - between grade three and year eleven, my school days were mostly hideous - and I was interested to read someone else's experiences and how she moved beyond it.

Unfortunately, it's not that well written, and it reads as if Jodee Blanco is retrospectively casting herself as persecuted martyr and epitome of moral rectitude. I don't buy it. No one is THAT consistently saintly. This is not to downplay or minimise her experiences - what was done to her was inexcusable. But the book would have appealed to be more had she shown a bit more insight and portrayed herself and the people around her as 3-D human beings, rather than caricatures of high school heroes and villains. I didn't deserve what I copped either, but I know full well but I could be snarky and often downright obnoxious right back. I became so paranoid that I began to attack as a form of defence, which naturally made matters worse.

The whole thing gives off really strong Mary Sue vibes - our downtrodden, put-upon but totally perfect heroine ends up transforming herself - and the reunion scene where the former popular kids were all over her comes across as fantasy, rather than an accurate recounting of what happened. I'm sorry to say that if I'd gone to school with the St Jodee Blanco depicted here, I wouldn't have liked her at all. I hope I wouldn't have joined in the bullying (I'd like to think not) but I wouldn't have wanted her as a friend. Shame, because the real, flawed person may be much more interesting and likeable in real life.

As you point out, most bullies do it without realising it. I got a real shock at the age of 12 when another kid confronted me about picking on her - you'd think having been a target myself, I would have realised what I was doing but, like most kids at that age, I was a self-absorbed little so and so, and was taking my anger out on someone else. More recently, one of my chief tormentors in Year 9 contacted me on Facebook, reasoning that because I'd been friends with someone in her group at the time and was now in touch with that person, she and I must have been good mates as well. She was literally horrified when I said that was not so much the case.

While I believe that what Ms Blanco recounts, while extreme, actually happened, I think it would be more helpful for a book to explore the more insidious forms of bullying, that girls in particular are so good at - the backhanded "compliments," helpful advice that isn't ("you're not beyond controlling your weight ... yet"; "I like that top, it's much nicer than your other one"), ostracism and exclusion, undermining and spreading rumours etc. This behaviour is extremely destructive, but very hard to recognise, especially when it occurs within friendship groups. It's not always the outsider who is targeted - usually within the so-called "popular crowd" (a misnomer, because those on the outside usually can't stand them, even as they want to be on their good side because it makes life easier), there is a pecking order, and the Queen Bee type is just as vicious to her own "friends". Moreover, it is this sort of behaviour that's more likely to carry over into adulthood - I've had the misfortune of being friends with or working with people who behave like that.

Posted on Mar 31, 2010 11:53:30 AM PDT
I think what bothers me most about this book and this author is that the author seems to be popping up every time there is a high-profile "bullying" incident (first Columbine, now Phoebe Prince) and using that moment to promote her book and her position as an anti-bullying expert. I am suspicious when an author appears to be using other people's tragedies to draw attention to themself. I agree that bullying is a problem and I went through some of it when I was in elementary and high school - fortunately, I was one of the people whose personality was the type to just stand up to bullies and not need or want their approval. I am just not sure how and why this particular author qualifies as an "expert" on bullying. If anyone is qualified to speak on bullying at Columbine or in Phoebe Prince's school, I would think that would be the other kids who were there and experienced it.

Posted on Oct 1, 2010 3:39:59 PM PDT
D.L. Bennett says:
I agree wholeheartedly with this frank review. Izzy Kalman's Bullies to Buddies manuals (available free, full text, online) and his school programs are the real nuts and bolts of what to do -- and what NOT to do. Jodee was the poster child for what not to do, and she did it with relish, over and over and over. I cringed reading how she responded in all the wrong ways, which many children do, and which many parents and teachers encourage and even instruct them to do! The lack of effective strategies to avoid being a victim were glaringly missing here, and I believe it does a disservice to students, and the parents, teachers and schools that must figure out what approach to take, to read about victimization that goes on so long with essentially no solution but to let time pass and get away from unpleasant people in adulthood.

Posted on Jun 26, 2011 5:23:03 PM PDT
Not everyone gets over it. Like me. I have grudges from the 1st grade because that's who I am.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2011 6:19:29 AM PDT
Yeah, it seems to me that the author has simply had a lifetime struggle with an over-developed sense of justice.

Posted on Jul 16, 2012 2:54:52 PM PDT
Thank you for this review. I am a veteran teacher and someone--I have yet to find out who--made this required reading to enlighten our school staff on bullying. You note the same feelings I have--she dredges up all these issues to display how her tormentors were wrong and she was right. She notes in the introduction that no one wanted to print her book because there wasn't a market--so she "bullied" someone to get it in print. After reading the work, I have a greater respect for so many book editors. They were right about this one--there's no market for meaningless drivel. As an educator, I have found Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees & Wannabes as well as Barbara Coloroso's The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander to be better resources in understanding and working with cases of bullying.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2014 1:13:25 PM PST
JR Corry says:
Sadly, a lot of the people there were painfully ignorant.
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