When Lea Nolan invited me to guest post here and told me that the topic was “high school hells,” my first thought was, “Wow…I can definitely talk about that.”
Not that I want to. I don’t think anyone should have to go through hell, in high school or otherwise. Unfortunately, it happens. When I was in high school, I was the kid who was bullied by the kids who were bullied. Lowest in the pecking order. Beginning in kindergarten, every day that I went to school I was teased, picked on, or bullied in one way or another. I was what you might call an easy target.
Most days that I went to school, I didn’t want to be there. I perfected the art of playing sick so I could either stay home or be sent home. When all else failed, I hid in the school library. I did have a handful of friends, but they were far outnumbered by the bullies. Added to that, I was very shy and afraid to talk to most people, and I think that contributed to my being bullied. After graduation, a few people told me that they had wanted to be my friend but thought I was “stuck up” because I didn’t talk to anyone.
One of my clearest memories of high school is wanting to slam a cheerleader against her locker—preferably many times—after she shouted at me, “Hey, elephant girl, why don’t you learn how to walk?” I’m not normally a violent person, and I didn’t actually touch her, or even respond, but that day I really, really wanted to do something. I was a senior then, and after twelve years I’d had it. I was sick and tired of being treated like crap.
|Come on, you know you want to punch them too.|
Nothing changed after that day. No one knew how close I’d come to actual physical violence. But I did start forcing myself not to care what people said about me. I was almost finished high school, and I would go on to do things that the kids who put me down wouldn’t be able to believe. I didn’t have to live my life based on their snippy little comments and insults. After all, they were only putting me down to make themselves feel better, and that was kind of sad for them.
Of course, I’m far from the only one who’s ever been through hell in high school. Pretty much every teen movie ever made deals with one kind of hell or another, from Emilio Estevez’s character in The Breakfast Club bragging about duct-taping a kid’s buttocks together to the over-the-top but not completely unrealistic sniping and bullying in Mean Girls.
|Lets see if he likes having his butt taped together.|
There are so many books that deal with kids being teased or bullied, or having friends turn on them or stab them in the back, that I can’t even think of any to name (too many titles rushing through my brain). High school, with hundreds or even a couple thousand kids crammed into one building, is a fertile ground for conflicts of all kinds to occur.
|The Plastics...ruling the school one insult at a time.|
When my editor at Featherweight Press started working on my new novel Cluing In, one of the comments he made to me was, “All this happens to one person? I don’t remember this much drama at my high school.” My response was, “You’re lucky, then.”
The “drama” that Jamey Mandel, the main character in Cluing In, experiences is little compared to what some of my high school friends, and some of the high school students I’ve worked with, have dealt with in real life. Jamey has things pretty good for the most part. There are a few students at his high school that he doesn’t get along with, but most of the time he avoids them and they avoid him. The biggest problem in his life at the beginning of the book is that his girlfriend Tina is pressuring him to have sex. Jamey’s parents were only eighteen when he was born, and his father had moved out of state by the time Jamey’s mother learned she was pregnant, so she raised him alone for the first five years of his life. He has good reasons to want to wait for having sex.
After he breaks up with Tina, things get worse. She starts dating one of the guys Jamey doesn’t get along with. Then the rumors start. Rumors, unfortunately, are a big part of high school life (at least in the high schools I’ve been in), and Jamey’s school is no exception. Rumors go around about him being a virgin, which isn’t so bad since it’s true, but that isn’t something he wanted everyone to know about.
Rumors also go around that Tina’s pregnant by her new boyfriend, and that he’s dumped her because of it. And that’s also true.
Not being able to take the entire school knowing about her pregnancy, and not wanting to risk them finding out that she’s terminated it, Tina takes her own life. Some of the school blames Jamey, who entirely blames himself since Tina had come to him for help and he’d turned her away. Other students blame Tina’s new boyfriend, to the point of calling him a murderer, and the only thing that keeps him from taking the same way out as Tina is some quick thinking by Jamey.
High school can definitely be hell. Especially if you’re the target of bullying or rumors. Fortunately, it can also be a support system, as Jamey finds out.
Cluing In is available from Featherweight Press and from third-party retailers. To find out more about Jo Ramsey and her books, please visit www.joramsey.com.
Great post, Jo! Thanks so much for stopping by Honestly YA. CLUING IN looks like a fantastic book. So how about you, gentle readers? Did you weather any bullying in high school? Evil rumors? Ever land a punch in retaliation, or just wish you had? Unload in the comments section below.