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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs