Review: Bully by Penelope Douglas

bullyReviewed by Joanna

If you’re a sensitive soul who doesn’t like people being mean to other people by way of foreplay, then don’t read this book. If you like a tortured anti-hero who is too cool for school, sexy as hell and twisted by a terrible experience, then you really oughta read this book.

Tate has just returned from a year in France and is back in her original high school for her last year. Before she left, she was the victim of a campaign of petty bullying by her former best friend – Jared.

From the age of about 11 they were inseparable. They’d creep across the branches of the tree between their bedrooms and have sleepovers. He helped her come to terms with her mother’s death; she helped him see what a happy family life was all about. They were everything to one another. Then something happened to him when he was 14. Something very bad. And he turned on Tate.

As we’re reading this from her POV, we have no idea at first what’s going on. All we see is Jared behaving like an asshole to Tate for no good reason. It’s not too bad – he doesn’t hurt her or steal her money – but it’s little things that make her life a misery nonetheless. He’s mean to her and as he’s the most popular guy in school, so she becomes a pariah.

When she returns from France, she’s a different girl. Tougher and not about to put up with his crap.

He throws late-night parties to piss her off; she ruins them. He says mean things to her; she breaks him with her own words. Tate becomes just as much the bully and Jared changes from cool and controlled to wild and desperate. The sexual tension is palpable.

This is a romance, and it’s a pretty tense and edgy one. When they first kiss, it’s surrounded by destruction and they come together in a clash. By the time they first have sex, it’s both beautiful and ON FIRE. It might be worth pointing out these aren’t closed-door sex scenes. It’s not crazy graphic, but it is a focal point of the book and it’s pretty hot.

I loved the balance this book struck between the build-up of hate and anxiety (I really wanted to punch him) and the poignancy and the love (I really wanted to hug him). Also the slow reveal of why the hell Jared turned.

When I got to the truth, I felt so bad for him. I thought he had a loooong way to go to make it up to Tate, but what was between them felt worth it. If she can forgive her mid-teen years being a mess in exchange for a be-all relationship, then that’s cool with me.

I also really liked how clever the author was in making a bully into someone you want to care about. This is not one-dimensional and neither are bullies in real life. People are horrible often for reasons you’d forgive in a heartbeat if only you knew them.

Jared was horrible, but the author was clever enough to seed the meanness with good things, so it was never possible to truly hate him. If anything, I just wanted Tate to bump into him again just so they could spat some more.

Tate is a great character, but she isn’t perfect. She’s judgmental and a bit sneering, but I liked her all the same. She has bite and layers. She races cars too. That’s pretty cool.

There’s a HEA if you need this, plus it’s part of a series, so you get to see the continuation of this. It’s NA (or maybe YA as they are 17 but then there’s a whole lot of sex so maybe not) but it’s pretty cool and not that angsty, more tense than anything. The couple’s racing scene is awesome. I will re-read this book.

Rating: A

Click to purchase: Amazon

Bully
by Penelope Douglas
Release Date: February 18, 2014
Publisher: InterMix

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