Email Contact: James@JamesFJohnson.com
Life isn't simple for a lot of us
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
Paperbacks & Kindle books are available at Amazon.com
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 some of us 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.
We're Strong Together
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.
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.
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?
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.
Stand up to the bullies you can stand up to, and run from the ones you can't
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 simple or complicated. Some bullies can be stood up to. Others 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, which makes telling the victim to "just stand up to bullies" into some really, really bad advice.
What is a bully? Is it just the bigger kid that takes lunch money from a smaller kid? Someone who taunts you for being overweight or wearing glasses? Is “telling someone” really the answer? What if the bullies are more complicated than that? What if they're a stalker who the police say they can't arrest until he actually kills someone? What if the bullies are your own family? How do you stand up to your parents, children, siblings or spouse? Especially if you've been mentally and physically bullied by them from birth? Who do you tell? What if you’re nearing retirement and it’s your boss? Who do you tell without losing your job? What if you’re one of the many mob-bullied children, teens or adults who has been isolated, ostracized, and bullied for so long, and by so many people, that you don’t even know how to define the bullying well enough to tell someone? What if it's been proven to you that no one ever wants to hear about it, or would even care enough to believe you if they did?
In the series, Bullies & Allies, Kyle has found himself lost in that confusion. He can't discern his bullies from his allies. They seem to be the same people. Who is on his side? It's a known fact that people who are bullied at school or work, but are supported at home, have a foundation of strength and acceptance that helps them deal with the bullying. But those who are bullied at school or work, and are unsupported at home, experience total isolation, which is the greatest fear known to a human. They experience a much higher suicide rate. They live in the daily hopelessness of believing no one, anywhere, has ever been, or ever will be on their side.
In this series, Kyle has found himself Isolated for most of his childhood by a jealous friend who has turned his entire school against him, while simultaneously living with a jealous, mentally ill older sister at home, who has routinely, for sport, turned his own family against him. He has come to believe that he deserves the treatment he receives because it seems to be consistent everywhere, all the time. He grows up so traumatized by the complexity of his manipulated feelings that he doesn't realize he has PTSD. He just thinks of himself as a loser who can't handle life in general. His family and classmates have been telling him this for most of his life, so they must be on to something. Right?
The truth for Kyle is that he is anything but a loser. He struggles to know who to trust, but he does have some very true allies. Those who truly love him see him as kind, competent and strong. They're frustrated by the fact that he doesn't see himself how they see him. What Kyle must learn is that the strength and will it takes for him to survive his own untrustworthy friends and family turns him into a hero. In the real world, people who struggle with PTSD, have it because they once survived something that others didn't. This is no small thing. They appear weak, but they are actually incredibly resilient. Kyle survives having been treated in ways that often kill other boys his age with suicidal drug overdoses or self induced wounds. By his resiliency, and with a little help from the few people he can actually trust, Kyle learns the proper ways to help and treat other people for the rest of his life. The School Of Hard Knocks has given Kyle the skills he needs to become an amazing adult. A strong, empathetic and powerful superhero. But who just happens to carry around a little extra baggage that he and his family learn to manage while he's spending his long, productive life being awesome.