18090508A couple of years ago I read a book by Colleen Hoover entitled Hopeless.  It was the first title I’d ever read in the new category dubbed as “New Adult.”  It was a cross between Young Adult Fiction, with characters in their late teens, and Adult Fiction because it included themes that were a bit too intense for the under-18 crowd.  I fell in love with the characters and the story, and it opened up a whole new world of writing style for me that I didn’t know existed.  Since then, I’ve read scores of “New Adult” novels but Hoover’s Hopeless has remained at the top of my list of favorites.  Privately, I’ve dubbed Hoover “The Queen of New Adult Fiction.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was surfing around Facebook and came upon a fan voting site which pitted Hoover’s Hopeless against a title I’d never encountered:  Bully by Penelope Douglas.  I was intrigued when I realized the vote was close, so I knew I’d have to give this book a try.  What I discovered was a beautiful story that gave Hoover a run for her money.

Tate and Jared were best friends for years — inseparable until the summer before they began high school when Jared spent those months at his dad’s house.  When he returns, he is no longer the boy she once knew.  He’s distant and mean, and begins a campaign to make Tate’s life miserable until she takes a year away from her high school to study abroad in Europe.  Returning for her senior year, she hopes that Jared will have returned to the loving best friend she once knew…or at least have forgotten about her enough to stop the bullying.

Bully is heart-wrenching.  I was immediately pulled into Tate’s world and, from the first few pages, felt the hurt and embarrassment of a young girl wanting nothing more than to fit in.  It was impossible not to despise Jared; and yet, it was also impossible not to wonder what motivated his actions.

As the story unfolds we discover what happened that summer that Jared spent with his dad and, along with Tate, have to decide whether we can forgive him for his actions.  I admit I found it difficult.  I wasn’t sure until the last few pages whether I could forgive him for the merciless treatment of Tate, regardless of what motivated him.  Honestly, I’m still not sure I forgive him; and that’s the beauty of Douglas’ writing.  Like the main character, we’re left feeling empathy for Jared’s motivations, yet needing to decide whether we can forgive his treatment of Tate.  Can Tate — or the reader, for that matter — forgive Jared for his transgressions so that the two can have a happily ever after?

I definitely enjoyed this book more than I imagined and would read more by this author.  This is a great read for those who enjoy young adult fiction, but who need a little more “adult” in the content.  I’d recommend it to my college-age daughter and her friends, but probably not to high school students as there are a couple of intimate scenes that are a bit more graphic than I’d be comfortable suggesting to a high-school student.

Excellent read overall and I’d strongly recommend it.  Colleen Hoover fans will no-doubt love it.