I have known Jim Johnson for twenty years, and during the last five of those years I have had the privilege of watching these terrific novels take shape and find their way onto the page. Jim’s dedication to using his art to reach others who may be suffering the trauma of shame and abandonment, or the anguish that is the legacy of trauma, has been a process of great humility and courage. Nonetheless, you don’t need a personal history of bullying to be deeply drawn into the world Jim has created.
These are novels that are enormously compelling. Not only does Jim know how to tell a powerful story full of sympathetic characters, who struggle bravely to find love and the essence of who they are, but he is clearly an author with a deep and sophisticated understanding of the legacy of trauma.
One of the things I admire so much about Jim’s work is the humanity that is evidenced on every page, by which I mean a deep compassion for his characters and a sophisticated awareness of the myriad challenges that come with trauma. There is, as well, a powerful generosity and sensitivity to how much life asks from us.
First and foremost, however, these novels are great reads and difficult to put down. They offer a world that leaves us changed and somehow more human.
I hope you will find them as enticing and eye-opening as I have.
Kyle Rickett is young, attractive, energetic, intelligent and funny. So why is life so difficult for him? Why is he suddenly withdrawn, lonely and even suicidal?
We're Strong Together
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Bullies & Allies Book 3: The Puzzled
The third book in the series, Fourteen year old Kyle returns home to Washington State at the end of a summer visit with his grandfather in Duluth. But with even more secrets now, he must navigate high school with a complex case of PTSD. He still doesn’t feel safe reporting the family friend, Dr. Krieg, who has been abusing him for years, but Kyle does have a mysterious new mentor, Tuck, who is quietly teaching him to stand up to bullies—including those within his own family.
Tuck, a strong ally, meddles from the shadows. His anonymous phone tips put an end to Krieg’s assaults. When the abuse stops, Kyle’s life improves quickly. At fifteen, high school is a clean slate where Kyle makes friends hand-over-fist and flourishes as the comedic, kind person he was born as. But damage from the abuse is done. Just as life should be easing up for Kyle, it crashes. Shadows from his PTSD puzzle turn Kyle into his own worst enemy. Anxiety, depression, and distrust haunt him like ghosts, making him a nervous wreck. His dysfunctional family’s poor support pulls the clan into turmoil. At seventeen, Kyle experiences the unthinkable when his past publicly explodes. That’s when he is forced to decide which bullies to stand up to and which to run from. No longer a boy, traumatized or not, the time has come for Kyle to make the most painful adult decision of his life.
Bullies & Allies is a beautiful and realistic story of the destructive power of Bullying & the healing power of Friendship. It brings light to lifelong Trauma & to lifelong Healing
Bullies & Allies Book 1: Disaster Island
Kyle Rickett is a beautiful teen with a complicated life. He has friends and enemies. The problem is he can’t tell which is which. His close-knit family and his charming neighborhood maintain their illusion of a perfect and safe world while Kyle is left alone to face the stark realities of unseen bullying, debilitating trauma, suicidal isolation, and disgusting, hidden abuse. He's such a nice guy he "couldn't have an enemy in the world" right?
Nothing could be more wrong. His bright smile and big heart attract both kinds of people; bullies and allies.
During the summer of his fourteenth birthday, Kyle finally realizes that his trust has almost always been given to the wrong people.
His fate is sealed when a bicycle crash bursts through his denial, and gives his dad’s friend, Dr. Krieg, a chance alone with Kyle, exposing forgotten memories of abuse that push him over the edge. Was it real or a dream? Disillusioned and now afraid of everyone, he withdraws. His dysfunctional family’s help becomes his biggest problem. Despite their efforts, they can’t seem to stop Kyle from fading away and becoming quiet, isolated, unfocused, and finally suicidal. There is a person who can save him, one who needs a friend as bad as he does. But that person is two thousand miles away and a stranger. What kind of miracle would have to happen to bond these two isolated souls together in time?
Life isn't simple for a lot of us
What do you do when you are told to “just stand up to your bullies” but you know you can’t? Do you give up? Do you feel ashamed of yourself because you can't stand up to them? Do you isolate? Withdraw? Hide?
Bullying can be complicated. Some bullies are too strong or too numerous to stand up to. Domestic violence is often all about people who can't stand up to their bullies. Some people, (battered wives for example), are often murdered by their bullies if they stand up to them.
What is a bully? Is it just the bigger kid that takes lunch money from a smaller kid? Is “telling someone” really the answer? What if the bullies are your own family? How do you stand up to your parents, children, siblings or spouse? What if you’re over forty and it’s your boss? Who do you tell--without losing your job and then your home? What if you’re one of the many mob-bullied children, teens or adults, who has been isolated, ostracized, and bullied for so long, by so many people that you don’t even know how to define the bullying well enough to tell someone, (even if you did believe there was someone who would even care enough to believe you)?
In the series, Bullies & Allies, Kyle has found himself lost in confusion. He can't discern his bullies from his allies. They seem to be the same people. Who is on his side? Isolated for most of his childhood by a 1) jealous friend who has turned his entire school against him, and 2) a jealous, mentally ill older sister at home, who routinely turns his own family against him, he has come to believe he deserves the treatment he receives. He grows up so traumatized that he doesn't even realize he has PTSD. He just thinks of himself as a loser who can't handle life in general.
But Kyle is anything but a loser. The strength and will it takes for him to survive his own untrustworthy allies turns him into a hero. As with most PTSD survivors who have survived something that others didn't survive, Kyle's survival turns him into an empathetic, and powerful superhero--who just happens to carry around a little extra baggage.
Email Contact: James@JamesFJohnson.com
Bullies & Allies Book 2: The Goat Driver
The second book in a series, the Goat Driver is a story of the enduring power of trust. Now distant from the family dysfunction in Washington State, fourteen-year-old Kyle arrives alone in Minnesota to spend the summer with his grandfather, Papa Louie.
But Louie sees withdrawn vacancy in Kyle’s eyes, and after having lost a friend named Maurey to suicide, Louie believes his grandson is following the same path. When Kyle won’t talk to him, Louie rallies the support of his young neighbor, Tuck Taylor, to intervene.
Tuck, a trustworthy but somewhat lost soul, quickly takes a liking to the boy and then makes a well-meaning, but difficult promise to Louie that he’ll never let Kyle jump like Maurey did. The difficult promise then becomes an obsession that changes Tuck’s life forever.
Through Tuck, Kyle is able to learn for the first time how to discern a bully from an ally and how finally to trust a true friend, but at what cost? By drawing Kyle into his life, Tuck has drawn himself into Kyle’s, and by the end of the summer, he discovers that by saving Kyle, he becomes the one who needs saving.
They say "people don't change" but that's not true in the case of trauma. Trauma does change people.
You, or someone you love, may be of the many people who's path was altered by PTSD from early life traumas, such as; severe bullying; isolation by mob-bullying; child abuse; loss of parents; loss of siblings; near death illness; a serious accident; or any other life-threatening series of events that changed how you perceived the world.
We put on a brave smile and make our lives as good as we can. But then we suffer with moodiness, trust issues, intimacy problems, sleep disorders, rage, digestive struggles, weight battles, addiction or addictive personalities, depression, withdrawal, etc, not realizing how much of our inner turmoil is actually due to real, undiagnosed PTSD.
PTSD is not a military word. It happens to anyone who experiences traumas that threaten our lives, no matter how subtly.
The Bullies You Can't "Just Stand Up To"