As teens are going back to school in the coming days after winter break, many are looking forward to the classes they will be taking, the new opportunities for extra-curricular activities as they get older; however, a contingent of teens is desperately looking at the beginning of the new year with both trepidation and faint hope. These are the teens who have been bullied, been called names and have been ridiculed with sarcasm and an overall disregard for their feelings or souls.
These teenagers are fervently hoping that somehow 2014 will be different. Maybe if they wear their hair in a different way or if they are able to obtain more stylish clothes, regardless of what the financial situation is in their household, MAYBE they can at least ‘fly under the radar’ of the bullies and not get teased and called names. They are not looking to be Mr. or Ms. Popular; they simply want the verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse that they endure to stop. They want to be called by their own names, their authentic names, instead of the insulting, derogatory names teenagers come up with for one another.
A young-adult novel addresses this very issue: Name calling. James Howe wrote, The Misfits, about four 7th grade students who have been the target of bullies (each for different reasons) throughout most of their school careers. Bobby, Addie, Skeezie and Joe have all been teased relentlessly and have heard themselves called a ton of different insulting names (over 60 when they count them up off of the tops of their heads), so they decide to create a third Party for the school’s student council election--besides the Republicans and the Democrats: They decide to become the No-Name Party. The whole idea is to spread the concept that all teens have been called names at one point or another, and it is not appropriate nor can it be justified (Howe 139). Their Party’s Slogan is: “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our spirit” (Howe 142).
Do not let the copyright date of the novel fool you. This book is as relevant now as it was in 2001, and Howe has written two sequels to, The Misfits, one released in 2005 and another released in 2011. You will get the opportunity to read more about those in the future.
Most importantly, Howe’s novel inspired a National No-Name-Calling Week (www.nonamecallingweek.org). In 2014, that week is Jan. 20-Jan 24. If your teenagers want to lead their peers in No-Name-Calling Week, the beginning of the year is the time to get them together to start brainstorming ideas, concepts, strategies, and it would also give them a chance to read, The Misfits, because that novel is the inspiration for this national cause. This is certainly an opportunity to help ALL teenagers live with RUTHLESS AUTHENTICITY!!
Howe, James. The Misfits. Aladdin Paperbacks: New York, 2001.