There are those books that challenge the reader to engage with them and give them a chance even though everything in the reader tells them that they shouldn’t like it or can’t like it. But when all is said and done, the reader ends up in love and desperate for more. This is one of those books.
From the moment I read the title and cringed, then had my heart squeezed tight to the point of breaking over the painful and emotional connection with an older teen girl who is cruelly bullied by the boy who was once her best friend, and finally to that big moment when Tate, the heroine, and I, the reader, finally discover ‘WHY, Jared!!! Why do you hate me? What did I ever do?’ I couldn’t put this book down and only breathed because it was critical that I do so. I wanted to see if the author could take a bully and make me like him.
The book opens with a prologue scene of Tate reluctantly going to an end of the year party with her best friend RC. Tate doesn’t want to go because there is the chance that she will encounter the bane of her existence, her ex-boy next door best friend, Jared. Up until a point in middle school years when they were each other’s everything, Jarred went for a three week stay with his dad and came back different. From then on, he hated her and made her life miserable any chance he got and in between pranks and smear campaigns he refused to look at her or speak to her. Tate was shattered by this and can’t get past the burning question of why- whatever happened to make him hate her so much. She never said or did anything to him to hurt him or bring this on. Now, it is her last chance to be with their school group for a year since she is going to France for foreign exchange student before coming back to finish her senior year.
The next scene picks up the year later. Tate is determined not to let Jarred get to her and she will fight back as she never did before. This is her senior year and she won’t let him destroy it for her. But oh does he try. With a stomach full of nerves, she matches him and his ring of supporters insult or insult and action for action. Tate is now in danger of becoming the very monster she hates and underneath it all, she still misses and longs for that boy who was her everything, but she can tell that her friend is gone for good and he would rather see her emotionally bleed than look at her. Or can she take her grandmother’s advice that instead of tit for tat and instead of hiding how it hurts, that she show Jarred every bruise, cut, and pain that he has given her- show him what he has done? And give him a chance. Can she open herself so wide open with all defenses down and give him the chance to completely finish her?
Yes, this was a gutwrenching story. The author took a gamble with her ultimate teenage anti-hero- a cruel bully. There were many times that I didn’t think the gamble was going to pay off. Jarred was an enigma- and purposefully drawn this way. The book is entirely from Tate’s point of view. There isn’t much to like with this guy. Oh, he’s good looking, cool, bad boy image stuff, but there is not evidence of something beyond that. He does whatever can to annihilate Tate even to stealing her bestfriend from her when the girl is vulnerable. It was ugly stuff.
But- yes…sigh. There is a but. There were glimmers of something when he stared so hard at Tate and seemed to always be there when others were giving her real trouble. And the foreshadowing that kept the reader’s mind on that lost three weeks in his life when something happened that changed his whole personality. And then there is the fact that he isn’t cruel to anyone other than Tate. Yeah, there was just enough, to keep me in the game and needing to know what was under that thick layer of hate.
The setting is a senior high school year. The story follows along with events in the lives of a handful of teens with Tate and Jared at the forefront, but there are some other secondary characters that make this story come alive, too. Drag racing and muscle cars, music, parties, football games, keg parties in the woods, shopping, Homecoming and Prom, movies, crushes, cheating, homework, school life. Along with the usual teen social strata. All there. It was nothing unusual, but I didn’t mind.
Though this is YA, I would recommend it for older teens to adults with all the language, sex, and mild violence.
In summary, I engaged and fell hard for this book about a bully and the girl he picked on. I can’t wait to read the next book that goes back and tells the story from Jared’s point of view. I would recommend this for those who enjoy hot, passionate, hard-themed contemporary YA romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #19 YA
Literary Pickers #19 high school sweetheart
New to Me #10 author/series
Bad Boys of Romance #5
Books N Tunes #4 Nikki Flores ‘Let It Slide’
Bully by Penelope Douglas
My name is Tate. He doesn’t call me that, though. He would never refer to me so informally, if he referred to me at all. No, he’ll barely even speak to me.
But he still won’t leave me alone.
We were best friends once. Then he turned on me and made it his mission to ruin my life. I’ve been humiliated, shut out, and gossiped about all through high school. His pranks and rumors got more sadistic as time wore on, and I made myself sick trying to stay out of his way. I even went to France for a year, just to avoid him.
But I’m done hiding from him now, and there’s no way in hell I’ll allow him to ruin my senior year. He might not have changed, but I have. It’s time to fight back.
I’m not going to let him bully me anymore.
***This novel contains adult/mature young adult situations. It is only suitable for ages 18+ due to language, violence, and sexual situations.
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