News / USA

'Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials' Explores Teen Bullying

Young adult book deals with high school, loyalty and doing the right thing

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

Rosalind Wiseman explores teenage bullying in her young adult novel, 'Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials.'
Rosalind Wiseman explores teenage bullying in her young adult novel, 'Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials.'

Bullies - especially aggressively hostile girls - are a topic of major interest to Rosalind Wiseman.

In her non-fiction best-sellers, "Queen Bees & Wannabes," and "Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads," the educator explored the way adolescent girls relate to the world and how parents relate to their teenagers.

Wiseman continues the conversation about teenage bullying in the form of a young adult novel, "Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials," which deals with best friends, high school, loyalty and doing the right thing.

"Ironically I discovered, which many authors do, that you can really speak about the truth much more easily in fiction than you do in non-fiction," says Wiseman, explaining why she decided to write fiction this time around. "I was also curious about how to share the stories that kids have told me for the last several years that I’ve never been able to share in non-fiction because it would reveal who they were or where they come from."

The story opens as Charlie, 13,  leaves middle school - and some bad experiences - behind her. Charlie’s friends bully another girl during a school trip and Charlie tries to stay out of it.

"They get roomed together and Charlie’s two other friends start to become incredibly mean to Nidhi because they wanted to invite boys to the room and Nidhi says you know, ‘No way.’ It gets really bad and Charlie does nothing," says Wiseman. "Her neutral stance doesn’t really look neutral. It looks like she is siding with the girls who were being mean and racist."

High school gives Charlie a chance to redeem herself.

In her earlier non-fiction books, author Rosalind Wiseman explored the way adolescent girls relate to the world and how parents relate to their teenagers.
In her earlier non-fiction books, author Rosalind Wiseman explored the way adolescent girls relate to the world and how parents relate to their teenagers.

"She meets Nidhi again," says Wiseman. "But that actually is a way for her to truly reconcile and figure out and take responsibility for her behavior from before."

Although she's previously focused on girls, Wiseman notes that boys have never been strangers to bullying or being targeted by bullies. That’s a part of her novel as well.

On the first day of high school, Charlie meets Will, her former best friend, who had moved away. Now he’s back, looking a lot cuter. And even though he’s only in ninth grade, he’s a member of the school’s Varsity Lacrosse team, playing with older boys. When some of his teammates start bullying him, Charlie tries to get him to report it, but he refuses. Wiseman says that’s not unusual. The fear of embarrassment and pressure from peers and even parents, often prevent boys from admitting they’re being bullied.

"When you have a freshman who is really good at some kind of sport, lacrosse, soccer, football, whatever, the parents are just totally excited. But putting a 9th grade boy with a group of 11th, 12th grade boys has a lot of pressure, I’m not only talking about athletic pressure, but also social pressure," says Wiseman. "That’s a ripe situation for abusive power. But the 9th grade boys don’t want to tell their parents. They wouldn’t come forward and talk about it. That’s the other thing I wanted to talk about in this book."

Will’s behavior, and Charlie’s reluctance to get involved when her friends were making fun of Nidhi, are two of many situations in "Girls, Boys & Other Hazardous Materials," which reflect the reality about bullying.

"I didn’t want it to be too preachy, but bullying - if you take away that word, bullying - it’s really about the way that people are bigoted toward each other, discriminatory against each other, for the countries that they come from, the religion that they are, the color of their skin," says Wiseman. "I wanted to talk about that in real ways."  

Wiseman believes that, although bullying is unfortunately often part of the high school and middle school experience, it can be stopped. One way to do that is to teach kids what she calls 'social competency’.

"We have children who are growing up who need to be taught how to handle when they are in a social situation that makes them uncomfortable, holding yourself accountable for what you’ve done to take advantage of someone else. I believe parents not only have to teach their kids their values, they have also to teach them how to speak and what to do when you see social injustice. And schools have to do this as well as parents, because if they don’t, it literally does impact the academic performance of the kids."

Wiseman hopes young readers will find "Girls, Boys & Other Hazardous Materials," interesting, funny and useful in that it prompts discussion about bullying, how to stand up to it and how to stop it.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More