Literature Involving Bullying

Suggestions for Middle School Readers

The Misfits by James Howe – What do a 12-year-old student who moonlights as a tie salesman, a tall, outspoken girl, a gay middle school student, and a kid branded as a hooligan have in common? Best friends for years, they’ve all been the target of cruel name-calling and now that they’re in seventh grade, they’re not about to take it any more.

Define Normal by Julie Peters – In this middle-school drama, two girls who seem totally opposite become friends and discover they are not such opposites after all.

Drowning Anna by Sue Mayfield – Anna Goldsmith finds herself in a serious situation when she suddenly becomes the butt of another girl’s diabolical behavior. The stress forces fifteen-year-old Anna to sink into a mind/body disconnect that leads to acts of self-mutilation and, eventually, to attempted suicide.

Hidden Talents by David Lubar – When thirteen-year-old Martin arrives at an alternative school for misfits and problem students, he falls in with a group of boys with psychic powers and discovers something surprising about himself.

Inventing Elliot by Graham Gardner – Elliot, a victim of bullying, invents a calmer, cooler self when he changes schools in the middle of freshman year, but soon attracts the wrong kind of attention from the Guardians who “maintain order” at the new school.

Lucy the Giant by Sherri L. Smith – At fifteen, Lucy Oswego is six feet tall and stocky of build. She lives in Sitka, Alaska, with her drunken father and daily contends with the taunts of her classmates. She runs away and discovers both hardship and friendship posing as an adult aboard a commercial fishing boat.

More Than a Label by Alicia Muharrar – Based on a survey that the teenaged author created and sent out across America while she was a member of Teen People’s News Team, this book examines the role of labels and cliques in teen lives.

On the Fringe edited by Donald R. Gallo – This powerful anthology explores the teen outsider experience in electrifying, never-before-published stories by eleven of today’s most acclaimed YA authors.

Perfect Snow by Nora Martin – Martin’s novel provides a remarkably revealing and disturbing view of just how easily vulnerable kids are lured to and indoctrinated by hate groups.

The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm – Three bullied seventh graders at Parkland Middle School use their smarts to get the better of their tormentors by starting an unofficial e-mail forum in which they publicize their experiences.

Shadow Place by Carol Tanzman – Lissa’s neighbor and best friend, Rodney, has always been strange, but now he’s buying guns over the Internet. If Rodney acts on his threats of violence, who will be the victim; his abusive father or one of his taunting classmates?

Stargirl – by Jerry Spinelli–Leo Borlock follows the unspoken rule at Mica Area High School: don’t stand out-under any circumstances! Then Stargirl arrives at Mica High and everything changes-for Leo and for the entire school.

Starting School With an Enemy by Elisa Carbone – – It’s bad enough that Sarah has to start fifth grade in a new school in Maryland, far away from her old life and friends in Maine. To make things worse, she makes an accidental enemy of Eric, a sixth-grade boy who immediately sets about making her life miserable.

Stitches by Glen Huser – This novel follows Travis and Chantelle, the weird kids in their rural Canadian town, through junior high. They initially join together because no one else will befriend them, but they grow inseparable and their oddball families also become connected.

Who the Man? By Chris Lynch – Thirteen-year-old Earl Pryor is much too big for his age, and much too powerful for the anger that rages within him when classmates tease him, the girl he likes disappoints him, or his parents’ problems get too real.

Other suggestions:

  • The Girls (by Catherine Cookson)
  • Staying Fat for Sarah Byrne(by Chris Crutcher)
  • Joshua T. Bates in Trouble Again (Susan Shreve, 1997)
  • The Outsiders (by S.E. Hinton)
  • Freak the Mighty (by Rodman Philbrook)
  • Chernowitz! (by Fran Arrick)
  • The Skin I’m In (by Sharon Flake)
  • Tangerine (by Edward Bloor)
  • Maniac Magee (by Jerry Spinelli)
  • Feather Boy (by Nicky Singer)
  • The Chocolate War (by Robert Cormier)

(*) Note: Bullying Prevention expert Stan Davis advises against choosing books in which the target of the bullying has to do all or most of the work in changing the situation, or ones in which the books just show how bad bullying is with no resolution. However, such books may also serve as catalysts for discussion about a different approach