“You were my tempest, my thunder cloud, my tree in the downpour. I loved all of those things, and I loved you. But now? You’re a fucking drought. I thought that all the assholes drove German cars, but it turns out that pricks in Mustangs can still leave scars.”
Bully was a wonderfully addictive read that kept my heart racing from start to finish. It was a unique twist on the bad boy meets good girl tale. I could not put it down! 5 stars!!
He loves me… He loves me not… He loves me… He loves me not…
Jared and Tate grew up next door to each other. Jared was sweet, generous and friendly and they were the best and closest of friends. But not anymore. The kid who had held her hand through the pain of losing her mother, who had climbed trees with her, and who had snuck over for sleepovers was gone and now he seemed to live solely to torment her.
“Every party we go to, or every time I relax at school, there’s some prank or embarrassment to ruin it.”
The title of this book did not lie! The hero genuinely was a bully in the first part of the book and to be honest, I wasn’t sure how I was ever going to fall for him. He was mean. Not like violent or abusive or anything, but the things he said and did were genuinely hurtful and unkind.
“Even after everything he’d done, part of me still missed that boy who was my waking thought and constant companion as a kid. But that Jared was gone now. In his place was a sour, hateful douchbag that had no regard for me.”
But the real question that I kept asking myself was… why? As a general rule, behavior like his is a result of some sort of extreme hurt but for the life of her, Tate couldn’t figure out what she did to wrong him and she was hurting deeply both for their lost friendship and for the pain he was causing in her life.
Now, because the story was told entirely from Tate’s perspective, it was a while before I got to discover what had made Jared turn into a bully which left me plenty of time to wonder at the possibilities…
Everything about him was just so contradictory. He blared music late at night so she couldn’t sleep but covered for her at school when she was in trouble. He made sure none of the guys at school ever touched yet and yet clearly didn’t want her for himself. I kept trying to figure him out. Maybe it was his messed up way of trying to protect her? Maybe he didn’t feel good enough for her and was trying, in the only way he knew how, to look out for her?
A part of me couldn’t help but try to rationalize or at least understand what was going on inside his head because the more I read, the more it was clear that his actions were not just straight up meanness. There was something more behind it. Misguided and wrong perhaps but I could sense something… ‘good’ in him maybe? Although at first I wondered if maybe that was just my natural desire to redeem the hero of my book… needless to say, it stirred up a lot of questions and kept me totally hooked and curious to see where the story would go next.
I also really want to point out how much I loved the heroine. She was smart, sassy and certainly no pushover. Given the ‘bullying’ theme of the book and how she was the victim of it, I was curious how she’s react to it all and was pleasantly surprised to see how much she fought back and stood her ground. She even had several badass moments and certainly earned my respect as a character. In her own words: “I wasn’t a whiner and I didn’t want to be rescued.” <— yup! I loved her!
This book will make you see where bullies come from and show you how a perfectly sweet and loving person can be shaped into a tormentor.
“This is how bullies are made.”
The author did a phenomenal job of portraying Jared. She managed to capture his conflict in subtle ways that were just strong enough to keep you guessing at his real motivations behind his actions. He was clearly being a bully but at the same time, it was also clear that he wasn’t a bad guy.
“There was a time when I had all his attention and I loved it. And as much I wanted him to leave me alone, I also liked..the way he was looking at me right now. And then I remembered that I hated him.”
I will say though that despite everything going on between them – Jared and Tate had some seriously chemistry!! Talk about unresolved sexual tension! I mean really! But I loved that despite everything he did while he was being mean, that he never crossed the line into touching her… that again was more proof to me of him feeling something deeper for her.
“Don’t touch me.” I’d meant to yell, but it came out as a whisper.
Jared moved his head from side to side trying to catch my eyes, his lips inches from my face. “If I ever lay my hands on you,” he said low and husky, “you’ll want it.”
I really hated myself for admitting it, but despite the bullying, he made my heart flutter. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I know. But still… *flutter*
I loved the way the author subtly included little elements and details that made me fall for him while he was being a bully but yet that also didn’t excusing his actions. She made it clear to the readers that there was something deeper beneath the surface… something that the heroine couldn’t quite see at first.
Parts of the book just had me grinning like crazy – almost in a way that was a little reminiscent of the Neighbor from Hell books but.. in high school. Gah! It felt wrong but I just couldn’t stop smiling in certain places. But then something would happen that would sober me right up.
“I hate you!” I screamed at his face and meant every word…
“Good!” he shouted in my face, boring down on me. “Finally. Because it’s been a long time since I could stand the sight of you… I promise you will be in tears by next week.”
Little by little, Tate began to piece together bits of his life… a life she hadn’t been a part of since his ‘change’ at fourteen. She begins to notice things… scars on his back, subtle ways that he protected her… and yet none of it quite added up.
“When Jared was fourteen, his father called and asked if Jared could come and visit him for the summer. Happily, Jared agreed and left for eight weeks. After that visit, though, he returned cold and cruel.”
But I still just couldn’t figure Jared out. Did he like her (somewhere deep down inside)? Did he hate her (unlikely, based on his actions and words)? What made him so angry with her? Why did he want to hurt her? Why did he want to protect her? … Questions. Questions. Never-ending questions. I needed to know WHY!
This book also had a lot of deeper issues going on as well. When someone is bullied, how far do they get pushed before they retaliate? And, by doing so, are they not themselves just perpetuating the cycle by becoming a bully themselves? Or is it self-defense? Is it justified? Understandable? Necessary? Completely wrong? Where were the lines drawn?
I was nervous going into this book… could I fall for a bully? Did I even want to? I hate bullying. It makes me sick. But I could sense from early on that Jared was a little different. He certainly wasn’t all bad and his actions weren’t random… and something about him made me desperate to find out what had happened to him to make him the way he was. It had to have been bad…
When his backstory came out, it broke my heart. Completely. It explained everything. It of course didn’t excuse it, but knowing what had happened in his life, you could at least understand where he was coming from.
But at the same time I absolutely adored how, despite the tragedy of it, Tate didn’t just fall into a weepy heap and accept him back. He had seriously wronged her (regardless of his reasons) and she made him work to earn her forgiveness.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I know I can make this up to you. Don’t hate me.”
The book took me through a range of emotion and even left me teary in places seeing the friendship they’d once had, the hurt that was left over, the anger that was thrown around and the hearts that were left bruised.
This was one of those books that made me want to slow down and pace myself so that I didn’t finish it too soon. The story sucked me in, made me care, and totally absorbed me in these characters’ lives and journeys. It made my heart race, break and heal. I loved every word.
“Are you mine?” I asked as I wiped me tears.
He kissed the corners of my mouth softly… “Always have been,” he whispered.
This is a New Adult book. There is steam and sex. The scenes are not fade-to-black, but yet also are not overly graphic. They’re more emotional than anything.
There is definitely a happy ending here. No cliffhanger! But, this is the first of a series so it does leave room to explore their story further after this book so there is no epilogue. But still, I was left completely happy, satisfied and overflowing with warm, fuzzy emotions.
From start to finish, Bully grabbed a hold of my heart. I could not put it down. I could not stop turning the pages. I honestly can’t believe that this a debut novel! The writing was effortless and just allowed you to flow seemlessly through the story. I was very impressed and will certainly be looking out for more from Penelope Douglas.
Rating: 5 stars! Can be read as a standalone.
Series listed in order. Click covers to purchase.