Editor’s Note: In the wake of the tragedy of Amanda Todd’s death and in honor of National Anti-Bullying Awareness month, we’re reposting this blog entry about SPEECHLESS by Hannah Harrington, a young adult novel about bullying. Read on to find out Hannah’s experiences writing about bullying and her involvement with the Love is Louder movement.
by Hannah Harrington, author of SPEECHLESS (Harlequin TEEN)
When I initially wrote Speechless, I had no idea that one of the story’s main subjects–high school bullying–would within a year become such a hot-button issue in today’s media. It’s not that it’s a new problem in our culture, but it feels as though, for the first time in a long time, it’s one people are finally talking about–a conversation that is way, way overdue.
Some people like to talk about bullying as if it’s a rite of passage every kid is meant to go through. I don’t believe that, but it was a topic I wrote about because I think it’s something most of us can relate to on some level. Bullying and harassment come in all forms: name-calling, having someone spread nasty rumors behind your back, maybe having someone shove you around or steal your things to antagonize you. There’s even cyber-bullying now on top of everything else, and I am pretty sure Al Gore did not have that intention in mind when he invented the internet! (Side note: Don’t worry, I do know Al Gore did not, in fact, invent the internet.)
I’m sure we all have our stories, some worse than others; I know I have mine. I sincerely hope none of yours are as bad as what both Noah and Chelsea endure in my story.
I didn’t set out to write Speechless as a PSA on bullying, and I certainly am not someone who has all the answers. My main thought was: what about a story of a girl who chooses to take an oath of silence? Maybe for some of us taking an oath of silence might not be such a burden; I know I sometimes have days where I would love it if I didn’t have to talk to anybody. To up the stakes, this girl had to be someone who really valued using her voice, so giving it up would be a Very Big Deal. The obvious question after that was, why on earth would she do that voluntarily?
Because it got her into trouble somehow. Because she has a big mouth and runs it about things she knows better than to talk about and hurts people in the process. Because maybe one night at a party, she walks in on… Well, as you can see, the ball got rolling from there.
The good thing about starting a conversation is that it means more people become aware, and once more people are aware, sometimes it leads to people taking action. One of the organizations that is doing great work is Love Is Louder. In Speechless, Chelsea is lucky enough to get varying levels of support from friends, family and the school administration—but unfortunately that’s not true for everyone’s situation, which is why projects such as Love Is Louder are so important. Love Is Louder for everybody, whether you’re gay, straight, trans, or even dealing with issues beyond just bullying such as self-harm, discrimination, disordered eating and depression. If you’re in a position where you need someone to talk to, Love Is Louder can provide resources, and if you’re someone who just wants to help, they could use you, too! Check out their website, www.loveislouder.com, to see what they’re doing and what they can do for you.
The Love is Louder movement was started when the Jed Foundation, MTV and actress Brittany Snow decided to do something to help those feeling mistreated, misunderstood or alone. Now hundreds of thousands of people around the world have joined the Love is Louder movement and are using their actions to make their communities and schools better places for everyone. Come join the Love is Louder movement with us. Get started now at LoveisLouder.com/SPEECHLESS
Hannah Harrington’s on a blog tour to support National Anti-Bullying Awareness month and SPEECHLESS, her new novel from Harlequin TEEN.
Check out her tour schedule here: