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November 7, 2008 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | November 7, 2008 |

Publisher’s Note: Now that I’ve caught up with Prisco and AlabamaPink’s current Cannonball Read output, I’m going to begin randomly selecting reviews from the other Cannonballers, which I will publish periodically, as needed. If you’re a Cannonballer and would prefer I didn’t publish your reviews, let me know. — DR

When you were growing up, where did you fit into the social hierarchy? Were you one of the cool kids, the nerds, the jocks, the stoners? Were you a misfit, either by choice or by fate? Did the thought of interacting with your peers fill you with dread and self-loathing? I remember where I existed; do you?

Jodee Blanco was a misfit, a freak, and an outcast. Please Stop Laughing at Me… is her account of the pain, longing, desperation and humiliation that she endured for the greater part of her school years, beginning around the fifth grade and extending until her last day of high school. Part of Jodee’s problem was her upbringing — the only child of two intelligent and well-meaning parents, Jodee was raised to think and act as a sort of miniature adult and taught to act and react in the way that you or I, adults ourselves, would. Jodee was a popular girl until she befriended a mentally challenged student in her Catholic grade school; once word got out that she was hanging out with a “retard,” she herself became labeled a freak. At first Jodee attempted to distance herself from her new friend, but internal guilt and external parental pressure led her back into the friendship and down the road she would travel, painfully, for the rest of her school life.

Things became so bad for Jodee that she had to switch schools, more than once, and endure hideous treatment — after a particular disastrous party incident, Jodee found herself relegated to an outcast status so brutal that the class loser refused to talk to her. Her shoes were tossed into unflushed toilets; her clothes were stolen from her locker and destroyed; and she was beaten after school. Jodee’s parents were convinced that the problem was hers and forced her into psychiatric treatment while teachers told her that she needed to work the problems out for herself.

As Jodee passed into high school, her life remained a living hell. A genetic deformity made her an even greater target for the cruellest of predators: the popular girls. Don’t think for a moment that they were tossing out generic “freak” and “loser” comments; Jodee’s classmates would threaten to kill her and refused to even allow her in the cafeteria at lunch. One day they pushed her into traffic when she got off the school bus. The threats, taunts, and physical and mental abuse continued until Jodee’s last day of senior year, when she took a leap of faith and asked a classmate and former friend to sign her yearbook. Smiling, he scribbled with a black marker and handed it back for her to read: “YOU’LL HAVE TO FUCK YOURSELF, WE HATE YOU, BITCH.”

It’s interesting how easy it is to forget what it was like to be young and so unsure of yourself; Blanco has the ability to suck you right back into a time in our lives that most of us would rather forget. Growing up, I cared a lot about what people thought about me. Self-esteem wasn’t something I had in spades. It’s easy to look back, as a fulfilled, functional adult, and think “It turns out okay.” It’s easy for two reasons: one, it’s true, for the most part; two, we have that sort of misty haze separating our adult selves from our adolescent selves — that cushion that time gives us. Blanco kicks that cushion out from under us and tears away the haze and forces us to look and to remember. Please Stop Laughing at Me… is brave, raw, and 100 percent worth reading.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here. And check here for more of Nicole’s reviews.

Cannonball Read / Nicole

Books | November 7, 2008 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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