Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.
Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris
We are the outcasts, the nerds, the Eugenes from Grease, the Carries from the Stephen King novel, the kindred spirits of the Elephant Man.
- from Please Stop Laughing at Me . . . by Jodee Blanco
Don't be fooled by the title. Please Stop Laughing at Me . . . is not a book of guidelines for loners to learn how to become popular. Nor is it a book complaining about, and outlining, the negative effects bullying has on kids. It is one child's inspirational story.
The author, Jodee Blanco, recalls the painful moments from her childhood and the struggles she went through to make and keep friends. It is an honest look at elementary, middle and high school through the eyes of an outcast.
But you don't have to be an outsider like Blanco was to read this. It is important that ALL kids readPlease Stop Laughing at Me . . . to realize the severe physical and emotional damage students receive at school. It's an important read for parents and teachers as well. Maybe by walking in the shoes of another person, we'll realize how much we take for granted and better understand the meaning of the Golden Rule.
Reading this book also made me realize how lucky I was, not having to go through all that Blanco did. You know on television, when a cartoon character has had a rough day and he thinks aloud, "It can't get any worse than this," and then a cloud forms over his head and rain pours down? Well, this was exactly what Blanco lived through, and it always seemed to get worse.
As if it's not bad enough she's a social failure for her strong-willed beliefs, she develops a rare breast deformation that gives students more ammunition to use against her. And her volunteer work with mentally challenged students at her school doesn't score any points with peers either.
In an excerpt from the book, Blanco shows why it was "important" for kids to pick on her:
"I know cruelty is currency in high school. It can buy power and popularity. My classmates sense my desperation and amuse themselves by taking advantage of it. They need me . . . They have to prove to the in-crowd that they've got what it takes. I'm their best hope. All they have to do is make everyone see me as an outcast. Then they can say to the popular group, "We have a mutual interest. None of us likes Jodee.' It confirms their social status."
Although she started out as a popular kid in fifth grade, her integrity and good nature were qualities not all students possessed. From then on, all of her caring and brave actions backfired on her, lowering her more and more on the "Cool List."
Readers will not be left laughing at the pranks and jokes played on Jodee, but wondering how human beings could treat each other this way. It leaves a long-lasting impression that will change the way you look at the loners and popular kids in your school or community.
It's amazing how Jodee's social suicides led to a real physical suicide attempt. It's amazing how Blanco's parents, as loving and supportive as they were, couldn't truly understand or know how to help her. It's amazing how this girl continued to go on. What's even more amazing is that there are more kids like this, who might not be surviving as well as Jodee.
This book is addicting even though it may seem cruel that the reader is being entertained by the character's misfortunes because you want to see what happens next.
This is a fast-paced book that you would not be able to put down, not so much because it's adventurous, but because you just have to find out how all of the terrible events in Blanco's life turn out.
Please Stop Laughing at Me . . . will be a book quickly read, but not quickly forgotten.