Tuesday, December 11, 2012

G15 Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy

Title of the book: Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy

Author: Emily Bazelon

Publisher: Random House

Publishing Date: 2013

ISBN:  978-0-8129-9280-9


Being a teenager has never been easy, but in recent years, with the rise of the Internet and social media, it has become exponentially more challenging. Bullying, once thought of as the province of queen bees and goons, has taken on new, complex, and insidious forms, as parents and educators know all too well.

No writer is better poised to explore this territory than Emily Bazelon, who has established herself as a leading voice on the social and legal aspects of teenage drama. In Sticks and Stones, she brings readers on a deeply researched, clear-eyed journey into the ever-shifting landscape of teenage meanness and its sometimes devastating consequences. The result is an indispensable book that takes us from school cafeterias to courtrooms to the offices of Facebook, the website where so much teenage life, good and bad, now unfolds.

Along the way, Bazelon defines what bullying is and, just as important, what it is not. She explores when intervention is essential and when kids should be given the freedom to fend for themselves. She also dispels persistent myths: that girls bully more than boys, that online and in-person bullying are entirely distinct, that bullying is a common cause of suicide, and that harsh criminal penalties are an effective deterrent. Above all, she believes that to deal with the problem, we must first understand it.

 Blending keen journalistic and narrative skills, Bazelon explores different facets of bullying through the stories of three young people who found themselves caught in the thick of it. Thirteen-year-old Monique endured months of harassment and exclusion before her mother finally pulled her out of school. Jacob was threatened and physically attacked over his sexuality in eighth grade—and then sued to protect himself and change the culture of his school. Flannery was one of six teens who faced criminal charges after a fellow student’s suicide was blamed on bullying and made international headlines. With grace and authority, Bazelon chronicles how these kids’ predicaments escalated, to no one’s benefit, into community-wide wars. Cutting through the noise, misinformation, and sensationalism, she takes us into schools that have succeeded in reducing bullying and examines their successful strategies. The result is a groundbreaking book that will help parents, educators, and teens themselves better understand what kids are going through today and what can be done to help them through it.

Other Works:

This is the author's first book, but according to goodreads she has participated in Happy Campers: A Slate Anthology of Tales From Summer Camp and Best of Slate: A 10th Anniversary Anthology

Author Background:

Emily Bazelon is a senior editor at Slate, a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine, and the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School. Before joining SLate, she worked as a law clerk on the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. She is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, and lives in New Haven with her husband and two sons. This is her first book.


"As we look to schools to help solve our kids' problems, we also have to reckon with the burden this imposes. If we want schools to raise our kids along with us- refereeing their disputes on teh Internet as well as on campus, teaching them the skills of conflict resolution, and enhancing their capacity for kindness- then it's on us to make sure they have the resource and the know-how to do it well.

"This is easy to say and much harder to accomplish. For starters, there's the basic conundrum of teenagehood: it's the time of life when people care the most about what their peers think- but those peers can lead them in the wrong direction. Adults see this and exhort teenagers to come to them for counsel- but then often don't come through with good solutions. One of the most important markers of a successful school and community, I've found, is that kids learn how to help themselves and each other through the rough patches, and are also made to feel that if they bring a problem to an adult, things will get better for them, not worse. How do we- teenagers, parents, teachers, counselors, principals, police, lawmakers, Internet entrepreneurs and engineers- make that happen?

"That's what this book is about. Along the way, I'll try to sort through the question that resonates most from my own childhood: why does bullying have the power to shape us- for bad, but also- if what we learn is resilience- for good?" (17-18)

Problems addressed: 

Bullying. The author uses two narratives of a boy and a girl being bullied; one because of the hairstyle, another is because of homosexuality. The other is mostly a focus on the girl who killed her suicide and what drove her to do so. I thought the Flannery narrative would be about a bully's mind-point, but it wasn't. Although it was a fascinating read, I found the writing to be dry, and the author doesn't present solutions to the problems.

Summary of content:

It is divided into four parts and each part contains three chapters: the first two parts have chapters of Monique, Jacob and Flannery, while the third has freedom, old mill and delete day. The last part only has conclusion. The chapters were long and weren't divided into sections which made it difficulty to read and to find it entertaining.


Bullying can be over anything- from small details to large, and it's also very vital to try to solve it. Also, no solution is fool-proof. In worst case scenarios, bullying has a power to tear everything apart and to place people on opposing sides instead of attempting to find a common solution to the problem.

Main Points:

How bullying tears everything apart, and that human beings have never outgrown their instincts. A few times the author's portrayal of adults, those in power, was just as a bad as portraying that of teenagers.

Interesting and Informative: 

While it is interesting and informative, I feel that the writing doesn't keep interest and the characters don't jump off the page, despite the author's attempts to do so. I also wonder how she has gotten to know Monique and Jacob. I wish to know some of her background when it comes to those two. It sounds like she was a social worker, but I might be wrong.

Supports thesis:

I think her thesis is supportive and nicely written. Also, I forgot to mention that no perfect solution exists is something she makes really clear. When she discusses the three schools that take on bullying, they are not completely eliminating it, but instead she points out some weaknesses as well.

Outside sources:

The only outside sources that might come close is Queen Bees and Wannabees which I've read. The Queen Bees book is similar to that, except it discusses hierarchy that was established in school by women, while this book simply focuses on bullying and what possibly to do about it. Facebook employees weren't portrayed positively in my opinion and seemed to reject the author's ideas and suggestions.

Time period:

It takes place in modern times, in 2000s rather than in distant past.

Special features:

None available because the version I have is an Advanced Reader's Copy/Edition.

Issues it raises:

What can people do about bullying and how to stop it from going out of control, also how not to over-mother the children. In my opinion the author presents more problems than solutions. This is a fine line to walk as well as uncertain and no one can see the future. There is also discussion of briefly of what causes some people to become bullies and how to try to minimize the impact-she emphasizes dedication and charisma as main components to why some programs succeed.


If I have been bullied in the past, I may not know about it. I wasn't physically bullied, although emotional is a different story. No one called me names, just lied to me all the time, so how would someone report that kind of bullying? I was shocked at how bullying tears everyone and everything apart, but I wasn't surprised that in some cases full story is never available to everyone.


The sources are credible and I believe they are primary and secondary sources. In all honesty I haven't checked them out.


Perhaps to gain more ideas and perspectives on bullying I would recommend for people to read this book. I am being honest in admitting that it's not entertaining read and it can be dry and slightly boring in some places.

Quick notes: I won this book on goodreads.com thus this review will appear in its entirety on goodreads as well as the blog

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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