Today on Blogcritics
Home » Books » Book Reviews » Book Review: Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco

Book Review: Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook6Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Cyberbullying. School shootings. Bullying causing teen suicides. These topics have merited recent news headlines, but parents, students, teachers, administrators, and former victims of school bullying still experience discomfort in discussing these issues. In 2003, bullying survivor Jodee Blanco told her harrowing story in Please Stop Laughing at Me, laying bare how she endured physical and emotional abuse, and how she eventually recovered. Since technology, particularly social media, has increased the incidents of bullying, Blanco has updated her book to include information on cyberbullying and provide additional resources for parents and teachers. While Please Stop Laughing at Me does not thoroughly address every bullying issue — and the reader may not agree with all of Blanco’s conclusions — it does provide valuable information on an often ignored subject.

Blanco devotes the majority of the book to describing how students — and in some cases, even teachers — bullied her from elementary school through high school. Reading her accounts of being cruelly taunted and physically assaulted makes for a horrifying read, and she holds back no details. While her well-intentioned parents try to help by taking her to psychiatrists and contacting the schools, they seem powerless to stop the constant abuse. When her mother and father tell her to simply ignore her taunters, Blanco concretely summarizes why this advice almost never applies. “Why must Mom continue pushing her grown-up logic on me?” Blanco asks. “Kids simply don’t think that way. Adults perceive the act of ignoring someone as a sign of power. Teenagers think it spells weakness with a capital W” (p. 194).

Jodee Blanco

As the story progresses, Blanco narrates in aching prose her desperate attempts to fit in. She describes how she wanted to strike a “Faustian bargain” to let her have friends, even for one day. “All the cool people will race to share their secrets with me, and I’ll be the first person to be invited to the big party on Saturday night,” she writes. “In exchange, after my twenty-four hours are up, I let them do anything they want to me: beat me, spit at me, call me names . . . I would pay that price just to know the ecstasy of being liked and accepted for a single day” (p. 192).

Virtually everyone can relate to those feelings, but her pain and anger exceed a teenager’s typical insecurity. One can sense her rage, even now, when she describes undergoing psychotherapy: “It seems that if you are mean or cruel to another kid, that was ‘okay’ because it was just a normal part of growing up. If you are on the receiving end and allow it to bother you, you were the one who needs help. What kind of logic was that?” (p. 87) 

Once Blanco graduated from high school, she experienced success in college and later established her own public relations firm. After deciding to go public with her story, she started a program, It’s NOT Just Joking Around, which involves speaking at schools throughout the country and leading seminars for students, teachers, and parents; even what she terms “Adult Survivors of Peer Abuse” attend these sessions, often telling their own stories.

Perhaps the most controversial points in the book occur at the beginning and end, where she describes how she attended her high school reunion. Her former tormentors suddenly become good friends, although she offers few details as to how this suddenly happened. She recommends “facing your fears” by attending such events, although it is doubtful that this advice would benefit all readers. Can former victims really become friends with someone who once relentlessly verbally and physically assaulted them? Blanco neglects to answer this question.

About Kit O'Toole

  • cdym

    Thank you for introducing this book to me…I plan to read it and recommend it to
    parents and grandparents and educators…
    Civility….that is what is missing more and more from our society…

  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    Thanks for commenting, and you’re right–this is an issue that needs to be discussed among as many people as possible.

  • Susan

    I read the 2003 edition of this book, and it really struck a chord. As someone who endured bullying all the way through elementary and junior high (fortunately, high school was less hellish…but only by a fraction), I could relate…but I also have to admit to being thankful that nothing I experienced even came close to some of the physical abuse Blanco suffered.

    Even so, too many of today’s school administrators do not know what to do about bullying, and teachers are often at a loss, if not outright clueless, about how to aid victims of bullying. This is a serious issue that needs to be taken seriously. We are fortunate that our son’s middle school absolutely takes this kind of thing very seriously and nips the (luckily, few) instances of bullying in the bud, but how many schools do nothing, or worse, blame the victims for bringing this on themselves? Blanco’s book should be required reading for kids and administrators alike — kids, so they can recognize themselves as either the bullies or the bullied, and administrators so they recognize the signs and can put a stop to the torment, particularly before it leads to far more serious consequences for the victims.

  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    Absolutely right, Susan, and thanks for commenting. If the book does nothing else but spark productive conversations among parents, kids, teachers, and administrators, it has done an important job.

  • http://royalflamingoworks.com/index.htm?music=1 fcetier

    I see attempts to intimidate every Friday night on the football field.
    And I feel it from customers every day at work.
    When they threaten to call my boss I tell them to be sure and spell my name correctly!

  • Terionna barlow

    I read Ur book in 6th grade now I’m in 7th this book inspired me so much i actually wrote a report on Ur books when I read it to the class they were like why are they doing that to her just because she’s different it changed my class a lot cause they don’t be bullying and take it really serious so thank you so much for the book