Seth Moore takes a fist to the face from one of his classmates on a regular basis. He is spit on daily, called a barrage of inappropriate names, and hides in his locker during lunchtime to avoid having to deal with bullies. What’s worse is that it’s not one or two teenagers giving Seth a hard time, it’s nearly all of his peers and even some of the teachers.
It’s all familiar territory for Seth, the high school outcast in Christopher Smith’s new novella “Bullied,” the first in what is set to be a trilogy. What readers might not know, however, is that Seth’s experiences are not too far from the author’s own adolescent life growing up in the Brewer school system.
“Everything that happens in the book where Seth is bullied happened to me. All of those things are true,” Smith said in a recent interview. “I could have rose up against it if it had just been one person. But it was so many people, there’s no way to rise up against it.”
Smith didn’t write “Bullied” to be a pity party for himself. Instead, he aims to inform readers and to raise awareness of an ever-present problem in schools while conveying the lonely and ostracizing feeling of being the victim of bullying.
“You read it in the papers all the time. If you’re in tune to what’s happening, there seems to be a new bullying story every day,” Smith said, citing the recent suicide pact between two eighth-grade girls in Lynd, Minn., over bullying. “It was horrible.”
As text messaging and Facebook has grown more prevalent in teenagers’ lives, it has become easier to target individuals instantly and often anonymously, with modern communication and social networking serving as a forum to circulate rumors and gossip.
While “Bullied” has a strong and relevant message, Smith also hopes that the novella will entertain readers.
Seth, who lives in rural Maine, gets his opportunity to retaliate against those who torment him when his alcoholic father’s friend, nicknamed creepy Jim, sees the trouble that Seth is in and gives him a mysterious amulet that brings Seth powers. He becomes a full-fledged superhero (minus the cape and tights) who also has the ability to physically transform himself from a pimply-faced teenager into an Abercrombie model lookalike.
In the amulet’s strength, Seth finds the confidence that he needs to stand up to the perpetrators who have made his life miserable and to call out those teachers who have stood back and idly watched him get harassed day after day.
The rising up that Seth experiences in “Bullied” is something that Smith admits he wishes he would have done when he was in school. The author said if he could go back, he would stand up to the bullies and question the teachers who chose to ignore the problem.
“That’s an easy thing for me to say; it’s not an easy thing for me to do.”
There’s a sense of empowerment that radiates from intense scenes of dialogue as Seth confronts those who have made him feel ostracized. The words jump off the page as though Smith is directing these heated passages toward very specific individuals from his past.
“Bullied,” which was released on April 11 and hit Amazon’s best-seller list within a couple of days, also has found success quickly in the United Kingdom and is sold worldwide, thanks to the magic of Kindle. Smith credits much of the novella’s popularity to the subject matter, which is resonating with many readers and crossing cultures.
“Which says to me that this is such a worldwide problem. And that’s what’s so discouraging. But how do we stop it? I don’t know. I think there needs to be almost a rising up. Putting your foot down [and saying] ‘This is not gonna happen.’”
After the novella’s publishing, Smith has received an incredible amount of email from people who are dealing with bullying or have dealt with it in the past. The author’s advice to anyone going through that is to find someone reliable who will be an advocate for you, go to school officials and speak out. As news stories of bullying continue to crop up and awareness rises, he says that the schools will be on alert.
While many of his classmates seemingly have forgotten about how they treated Smith in school, the author’s success after the release of best-selling thriller “Fifth Avenue” on Amazon didn’t go unnoticed by them. In fact, Smith said that many of the bullies from his past tried to add him as a friend on Facebook after reading about the book’s sales.
“I wrote back to every single one of them, and I said, ‘Don’t you remember what you did to me? And now you want to be friends?’ No thanks.”
Joel Crabtree is a Bangor Daily News copy editor and guest blogger for WeekinRewind.