Edited by Rhoda Belleza
Foreword by Chris Crutcher
Stories by Jaime Adoff, Josh Berk, Jennifer Brown, Mayra Lazara Dole, Zetta Elliott, Kate Ellison, Brendan Halpin, Sheba Karim, James Lecesne, Lish McBride, Elizabeth Miles, Kirsten Miller, Matthue Roth, and David Yoo
Available now from Running Press
I recommend reading CORNERED: 14 Stories of Bullying and Defiance in small doses, one or two stories at a time. This anthology is an intense, brutal experience. Bullying is covered from every angle, from the eyes of the bully to the follower to the bullied. There are many differences between the characters and their situations, but each story showcases some of humanity's worst behavior. I am sure those being bullied will find comfort in many of these stories, but I would like to warn in advance, for those with triggers, that many stories involved suicide, transphobia, and - despite there only being one protagonist who is a lesbian - a great deal of homophobia. (Because it is sadly easy to go from, "It is okay to hate and hurt people who are gay" to "It is okay to hate and hurt people who might be gay.")
Editor Rhoda Belleza wisely begins and ends CORNERED with the stories of Kirsten Miller and Lish McBride respectively. I am a fan of both Miller and McBride, and both of them wrote two of the most hopeful stories in the collection. They ease you in and out of the experience. McBride's story features characters from her popular Necromancer series, so her fans might want to read CORNERED just for "We Should Get Jerseys 'Cause We Make a Good Team."
I suspect the stand-out stories will vary for each reader. I particularly liked Zetta Elliott's "Sweet Sixteen," in which the bullies don't make a personal appearance in the story. But their actions still affect the two girls who meet in the custody of social services. Another good one is "The Shift Sticks" by Josh Berk, in which a boy runs into a girl he used to bully in elementary and is attracted to her. The only story I didn't really like was "Inside the Inside" by Mayra Lazara Dole. It had one of my favorite characters and some of my favorite scenes - the story always lit up when it focused on Alyssa. But it didn't really work. The magical realist elements (possibly imagined due to the guilt of the protagonist, rather than actually happening) were incoherent.
CORNERED is a read that will get you thinking. It might be a good book to read with other people and discuss how you felt about each story. And it's a great anthology to read in October, since this is Anti-Bullying Month. Hopefully these stories can inspire at least one person to end the cycle of violence. It's a tough thing to do, but these authors show the cost of perpetuating the status quo.
And a change in our culture regarding bullying is needed. Between when I wrote this review and when it will be posted, fifteen-year-old Felicia Garcia killed herself. During the time period that I read the stories, fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd killed herself.