SEND tackles the serious issue of bullying and gives insight to how all parties are impacted – the bully, the bullied, and their families. It only takes an instant, one thought-less decision to wreak so many lives. The story is told from Dan’s perspective, a former bully that’s had to suffer the circumstances. The perspective is eye opening, and I appreciated being able to see how life goes on after a horrible incident, from all angles.
Dan moves to a new town for his senior year of high school for a fresh start for himself, and his family. He did something horrible five years beforehand… he had been a bully and served time in juvenile detention. The judge made an example out of him, the story was in the media, and his family was constantly threatened, which forced them to move again and again. They finally decided to change their names in an effort to move on from the past.
Moving on is easier said than done. Dan is full of self-hatred. He must lie to everyone he meets to keep his identity secret, and his family safe. He needs to stay under the radar, but the first day of school he finds himself drawn into a new set of bullying dynamics. He stops a fight from occurring, and protects Brandon, the victim. There he meets Julie, a bystander that witnessed the bullying but didn’t speak up or try to stop it. Though their relationship runs hot and cold, they’re drawn to each other, and I couldn’t help but root for them.
It took me a while to get into this book, and to accept Kenny’s role in the story. Kenny is Dan’s real name, and when he was in Juvie his younger self broke off and become part of his psyche to help him deal. Kenny appears to Dan and they talk to each other. I didn’t feel like I was being preached to, but the story was heavy with bullying and I wished for moments where the characters could come up for air.
SEND is a heart-felt story with an important message that made me think. Is it possible to forgive and forget? Could our judgment system ever truly, rightly, serve punishment to fit a crime, with blanket type laws? SEND is about learning to forgive and love your self again. I feel this would be a great book for teens and parents to read together and discuss.