In the second half of the prologue of So You Want to Be Wizard, Nita deals with the ramifications of being bullied: BECOMING A WIZARD. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of bullying
Look, I’m going to love practically anything to do with examinations of bullying, their causes, their effects… you get the idea. I was bullied extensively by MANY PEOPLE, and thus, I’m drawn to narratives like this one because I can (unfortunately) relate to them, and I can often view them as power fantasies. And I’ll touch on that second part later, since this is absolutely a fantasy I will lovingly entertain. But Duane’s depiction of Nita’s bullying is INCREDIBLE because it’s raw, painful, and hopelessly complicated.
Whether she provoked these situations or not, they just kept happening. Joanne and her hangers-on had found out that Nita really didn’t like to fight, wouldn’t try until her rage broke loose – and then it was too late to fight well: the pain of getting beat up pushed all the self-defense lessons out of her head.
A lot of the bullying I was on the receiving end of was focused. It was because of certain reasons, and I think I covered a number of them in the last review. But once you’ve been singled out as a victim, bullying can become cyclical if a bully knows how to continue to victimize you. And that’s something I have almost never seen discussed in fiction. I would get tormented for no discernible reason at all because my bullies knew how I’d react. I was such a cowardly, passive kid growing up, and I know I didn’t gain any courage to stand up for myself until I got to high school. So they knew they could pound on me or call me names or throw shit at me or… well, so much worse, but I don’t feel the need to go super in depth on some of it. Maybe another time.
And the few times I did stand up for myself or fight back? It never made things better. So, like Nita’s father, my own parents would repeatedly tell me to fight back, and if I did that, the bullying would stop. I came home with even more bruises that day, and they all came at me even harder the day after that. So, I just learned to hide! (Hello, library! You were my best friend.) Honestly my smart ass mouth never really helped, and by god, I was absolutely not going to tell my mother who was bullying me. Now, here’s where my experience deviates a bit from Nita’s. Her father wants to do everything he can to help her, and he offers multiple times to talk to Joanne Virella’s father about his daughter’s behavior. Not a bad idea, but I knew deeply why this would only make matters worse. YOU DO NOT BRING PARENTS INTO SCHOOL BATTLES. EVER.
But I had a different reason for not wanting my mother to come to school. She was one of those parents who was a HUGE fan of extremely public meltdowns, and she did not care if her behavior embarrassed her children and contributed to their bullying. I was in elementary school – fifth grade, actually – when my mother burst into my classroom to scold me loudly for leaving my glasses at home. She did this in front of everyone, and it only got worse when she found out I left them at home because they were broken. (My bully that year purposely threw a dodgeball in my face. Fun!) She tried to get me to name my bully out loud.
Suffice to say, I learned that I had to prevent my mother from intervening at all costs. (Unfortunately, it only got worse over time, and LORD, she got really bad about it in high school. NO ONE SHOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I RAN AWAY FROM HOME.) So what was my solution? Hiding, most of the time, and then I devised much more complicated means of doing so in high school. Befriending supervillain bullies, doing people’s homework… it was very complicated. (I’M GOING TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT THIS, I JUST DECIDED, holy shit, just came up with the best idea for one. MARK THIS OCCASION.) But you sometimes have to be creative about this, even when you’ve got parents as supportive as Nita. Look, Nita’s stuck in an unfair world. She’s bullied for being poor, amongst other reasons I imagine, and her parents cannot provide her with material things to offset this phenomenon.
And look, I don’t think that Duane is saying that this is the answer to ALL BULLYING EVER. No, she’s making a very specific reference to the way that kids can sometimes latch onto markers of class. The same goes for race, gender, sexuality, etc. Despite that we like to imagine that people become prejudiced only when they’re adults, the truth is that kids will often reflect the world around them. Joanne believes that her class status justifies her behavior to those “beneath” her, and she’s offended that Nita won’t bow to her and worship the ground she walks on.
At least Nita has a pretty awesome family. I liked all three characters introduced here, especially Dairine, who was a surprise as the confident and supportive younger sister of Nita. But I’d rather focus on the long exchange between Nita and her father. I made mention of this in the video for this part, but I’m used to much of the YA I read sticking to a very specific trope: the world of kids and the world of adults is absolutely separate. There’s little crossover, parents are icky and just don’t understand, and much of the drama is drawn from hiding something – a world, a secret, etc – from the parents. Here, Duane does almost nothing of the sort. (Well, Nita hasn’t told her mom or dad about the book she found at the library, but this book is JUST starting.) Nita and her father are very open and honest with one another, and I found it refreshing.
She sighed. “Some day they’ll find somebody they like even less and get bored with me…”
His father shook his head sadly. “Some day? I’m tired of seeing you hurt right now.” He looked at her again. “Sweetheart, I don’t know… if you could just, I don’t know, pretend to be a little more like them…” Then he trailed off, running one hand through his silver hair. “What am I saying?” he muttered. “Look. We’re going to have to stop this, one way or another. We’ll sit down and make a plan when you’re feeling better. But for the moment, if you do think of anything I can do to help, you’ll tell me?”
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Her father is shown to be flawed in his approach (yet still caring), he can even admit that his idea is unfair and terrible, and he ultimately leaves it up to Nita to approach him if she comes up with a way to combat Joanne and her gang of bullies. This scene tells me so much about their relationship without Duane having to state it out loud for me. This family has problems, but they love and care for each other.
SO!!! Nita took the Oath. (Which was beautifully written, for the record.) She was visited by something??? Or someone? And she traveled to a place called Timeheart??? AND HER NAME MAGICALLY APPEARED IN THE BOOK SHE FOUND UNDER WIZARDS IN NEW YORK?!?!?!?!?!?
I’M NOT READY, I LIED.
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