Editorial Review: The Bully by Wiley K. March
A young girl named Carissa Locke reflects on the terrible events in her life that shaped her and how, against all odds, she continued to fight for survival.
The Bully opens with the protagonist Carissa, an honor student at school, being questioned by a police sergeant after brutally assaulting her childhood friend, Danielle. Carissa and Danielle have been best friends since they were kids, but after an altercation, Danielle left school in the back of an ambulance after being beaten senseless. However, Carissa doesn’t escape the fight unscathed either, and after leaving the police station, she passes out only to wake up in the hospital with an oxygen mask and IV.
The story then delves into Carissa’s childhood and the ordeals she has endured since birth. The odds were stacked against her right from the start after being born with a faulty heart valve and spina bifida, and from there, things only got worse. The entire story is narrated from Carissa’s viewpoint, and to say that her life was harrowing would be an understatement. What makes it even more heartwrenching to read is that although The Bully is a work of fiction, it is based on true events. Just the fact that someone actually endured the events depicted in this story can make some chapters extremely hard to read without feeling a profound sadness. In fact, sensitive readers with a lot of empathy should probably have some tissues on hand, as there are plenty of tear-jerking moments in the story.
Carissa’s story is one of near-constant physical and mental abuse. Her mother, Lois, is an alcoholic and drug addict whose actions constantly put her children at risk. As a result, Carissa is moved continuously between homes, most of them worse than the last. She learns very early on that she can’t trust anyone, not even family, and she can’t rely on anyone for safety, least of all her mother. Before she was seven years old, Carissa already had to endure more pain and suffering than most people in their entire lifetime. From having to wait out her mother’s overdoses, hiding from her violent mental breakdowns, and fighting off abuse from a parade of strangers and even family, Carissa rarely has a moment of peace. After age seven, life becomes even harder for her as her baby brother Lawrence is born with deformities of his own, forcing Carissa to become his protector too.
Most of The Bully centers around the cruelty and injustice of Carissa’s life, which means it is not easy to read. Because it is based on true events, there’s also no happy ending or miraculous escape for Carissa. However, her courage and resilience in the face of extreme adversity are awe-inspiring, and it is impossible not to root for her, even if she is not always a saint.
The Bully shines a spotlight on a subject that few people are comfortable with, and the author did an amazing job showing a side of life that most would rather not think about. Stories involving the abuse of innocents are never easy to digest, but The Bully shows that hope and courage can survive even in the bleakest circumstances.