Mary Jo Belding
My novel Who Can I Tell? is finally finished after more than five years of thinking about it and tinkering with the idea. This novel brought together two related urges: the urge to tell about a certain situation, and the urge to explain and give details to the actions and behavior of the people in these situations.
My story is rooted in my own experience, credo and imagination. Every author I’ve known has put something of themselves into their characters or their character’s settings. This story is no different. It is part of my story. Hannah, an Army kid whose father is a career serviceman, has moved with her family to a new assignment. She’s been the new kid in a new school many times. This time being new is different, even dangerous. She unwittingly steps out into a deserted hallway and is molested by a boy unknown to her. She has been initiated into a boys’ club against her will. To make matters worse the boy is the brother of the girl who befriended her on her first day at school. Hannah’s tormentor wants her to keep her mouth shut. She attempts different ways to stop him, but it’s her word against his. She believes she cannot confide in her parents because her father has just been deployed to a war zone. She does not want to bring any more stress to her parents, especially when her father is so far away from his family.
Hannah becomes embroiled in a battle of her own at school. Her grandmother tells her that she comes from pioneer stock, and they are tough. She decides she must find a way to stop the club, and while she can’t strong arm them she must find a way to outsmart them.
A similar situation happened to me as a new student in a high school, and my antagonist’s name was Jerry, the same as the boy in my story. My experience was not as difficult as Hannah’s, but I have chosen to tell my story embedding it in hers. Hannah’s harassment escalates, and she finds herself being more and more threatened as she attempts to stop Jerry and his friends. I’ve purposely made Hannah’s experiences more threatening than my own.
Bullying in school is not a new topic for a young adult novel or a new phenomenon to schools. Most of us at one time or another have been bullied by either someone of the opposite sex or the same sex. Many times it goes unreported, and the child manages to get through it. While most adults tell themselves that childhood is carefree, it is far from that on the playground or in the halls of many schools. I’ve attempted to picture bullying and sexual harassment from a variety of perspectives, from Hannah’s and Jerry’s and from the school. The book is geared toward young adults, and its main appeal will be to girls and women. While the bully in this story is a young man, girls also are involved in Hannah’s harassment. I’ve attempted to give Hannah and myself the story that has been clamoring to get out of my head. Themes of family, friendship, loyalty and survival run through the story. I’ve found, and the reader might also that our surroundings, even our dreams are fertile sources for writing a story.