We hear about kids being bullied all the time; about them taking their lives because they just can’t go on. It’s heartbreaking…but more so for the people in their lives who didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. I know I’ve often wondered if the tormentors feel any guilt or remorse for their actions. Mostly I hope they do, and that they never even think about putting another living soul through the same thing.
Send by Patty Blount is the story of Dan, a teen who’s been on the tormenting side and went to juvie for it. I imagine it’s not easy writing a story from his point of view, but in a way, it’s necessary because I now realize that some things are just mistakes, and that intent may count for everything.
I was completely engrossed by this book. For the reader, there’s no big mystery or plot twist, but that kind of adds to the suspense of what will happen if Dan’s truth is revealed. All the secrets he’s working hard to keep buried only leave us wondering if the next chapter is it. If it will happen then. It was the honesty and genuineness that really captured my heart though, as well as all of the characters in this book, but most especially Dan. I wanted so badly to reach into the pages and get him to understand so many things he couldn’t see because of his guilt.
I really enjoyed the writing as well. It was easy and I felt its voice rang true. I found it was completely believable of an 18-year-old guy. There were a couple of repeat phrases I could have seen less of, but it didn’t take away from my experience.
The romance was another aspect of this book I really loved. It was a total Romeo and Juliet type of love story! And though the ending is not quite wrapped in a little bow like we sometimes like to see, it’s probably the most realistic situation I can imagine for these characters. It leaves me to imagine their future, one where things aren’t so tragic.
Send is a book you MUST read. All of my YA Contemporary and Issue book fanatics will devour it. Don’t let it slip through your radar.
It’s been five years since I clicked Send.
Four years since I got out of juvie.
Three months since I changed my name.
Two minutes since I met Julie.
A second to change my life.
All Dan wants for his senior year is to be invisible. This is his last chance at a semi-normal life. Nobody here knows who he is. Or what he’s done. But on his first day at school, instead of turning away like everyone else, Dan breaks up a fight. Because Dan knows what it’s like to be terrorized by a bully—he used to be one.
Now the whole school thinks he’s some kind of hero—except Julie. She looks at him like she knows he has a secret. Like she knows his name isn’t really Daniel…
This is probably one of my favorite guest posts ever. I actually hadn’t read it until AFTER I read Send and had written my review, so I was surprised that it was so relevant to my thoughts and feelings toward the story. So without further ado, here’s Patty…
BEHIND THE BULLY
People often wonder how I got the idea for SEND and why I wrote it from the bully’s perspective. The answer to this question is a complicated one – actually, it is an answer with several parts that converged into what would ultimately become Dan Ellison’s story.
First, let me tell you about my son. When my oldest boy, Rob, was in sixth grade, he broke down in tears one gloomy night in April and told me he no longer wanted to live. To say I was surprised would be the biggest understatement in history. Turns out, he’d been the victim of bullies since the term began the previous September. I had no clue he was being tormented. I had no idea he was even unhappy. He was twelve years old and suffering through an early puberty. His classmates tormented him over his body hair, his acne, his deep voice and made him feel so freakish, he actually believed he was not normal. We got him help and spoke to his teachers and principal and my son finished out the year with no further incidents. He’s now in college but his scars are deep.
The second contributing factor occurred the following year, when Rob was in seventh grade. I’d left the house early one Saturday morning to run errands with my youngest son in tow. Rob was still sleeping when I left. When I returned to my house, I saw some guy hanging by his fingertips from my living room window. This guy turned out to be the older and very muscular brother of a classmate who claimed Rob was now bullying him. He came over to ‘talk some sense into him,’ which – judging by his confrontational demeanor – was code for ‘see how he likes it.’
I’ve been a parent for a long time now and I KNOW most of us are oblivious to our kids’ shortcomings and faults. I have seen so much denial in my life but trust me on this – the word ‘disbelief’ doesn’t even come close to describing my reaction. How could the same boy in so much pain barely a year earlier turn around and cause that same pain in someone else? Near as I was able to determine, since the child would not directly address us, Rob intimidated this child without meaning to. Rob is large: by sixth grade, he was shaving, had reached five foot nine inches tall, which put him about a foot and a half higher than most of his classmates. What he thought was fooling around or playing was perceived as something entirely different by this boy. Judging by the depth of Rob’s guilt after hearing the accusations from this boy’s family, I have to believe he never meant to intimidate or threaten anybody. His despair over this runs nearly as deep as his scars from sixth grade.
I’d been writing all my life and after Rob’s sixth and seventh grade ordeals, put all that on hold for a while. I picked it up again to write a contemporary romantic trilogy that had been burning in my brain for a few years. I’d finished book 1 and had books 2 and 3 outlined. That brings me to the next significant event – my day job. I write software instruction guides and several years ago, a new executive directed us to start using social media in our work. I didn’t even know what sites like Twitter were. So I started doing the research. I learned not only how people use these sites, but also how they abuse them. And somewhere in the back of my brain, a little voice whispered, “I did that.”
I became obsessed with the idea of guilt – or more specifically, living with that degree of guilt and wondered how a kid who’d done something without understanding the permanence or the reach of his action could endure such guilt. And that little voice replied, “I’ll let you know when I figure it out.”
This voice would not shut up. I’ll be honest, he really pissed me off. I wanted to write book 2 in my trilogy, not turn a bully into a tragic hero. It felt wrong – distasteful – disrespectful – even disloyal to my son. I wasn’t ready to forgive Rob’s bullies. I wasn’t sure I could especially since I knew forgiveness would be an important theme in this novel. The idea of torturing this character in effigy did hold a certain amount of appeal. I gave it a shot and found that the deeper I dove into Dan’s story, the more I actually liked him. The duality of Dan/Kenny was a nod to that persistent voice in my own head that compelled me to write this story – sort of an inside joke.
Would you be able to forgive your or your child’s bully? After reading SEND, do you think most bullies are like Dan and my son, and unaware that they’re causing any pain?