A girl whose family has fallen on hard times.
A boy who has a reading disability, and doesn’t want anyone to know.
A girl who struggles with her weight.
A boy with a squeaky voice and a severe case of acne.
They all have one thing in common — they are bullied.
It may sound like a true life tale of four students, bonded by mistreatment.
For Gary native Adra Young, it is.
Though a work of fiction, “The Misfits” is inspired by everyday occurrences she witnessed as an educator for 20 years.
“I saw it all the time,” Young said. “Teachers are at the forefront, but unfortunately, we can’t be at every place at the same time.”
“The Misfits,” which was released this year, follows a group of middle school students on their journey to discover if life gets any better for them as seventh-graders.
“A lot of kids have been tormented due to things they can’t control,” Young said. “The four characters in my book, they have no control over what’s taking place with them because they’re kids.”
The book is based upon the ongoing bullying epidemic, written to address this global concern that also has expanded far beyond the walls of a classroom.
“Groups of people are hiding behind the computer,” Young said. “With traditional bullying, you can see or identify the person bullying. But with cyber bullying, that can be anybody.”
Prior to moving back to Indiana where she grew up, Young taught with the Detroit Public Schools District. She is also the owner of a business called Ardannyl, which helps young people redirect their focus and make better life choices.
The Roosevelt High School graduate works with school systems and youth-affiliate organizations to help reduce school suspensions through encouraging empathy and communication, and helping students deal with their circumstances and emotions.
“They’re kids and they’re dealing with too many things that youngsters aren’t meant to deal with,” Young said. “They’re angry.”
She teaches students how to redirect their thought processes to make better decisions, and uses activities like role playing and even meditation. Each time Young works with a new group of students, she has to earn their trust, she said.
“It takes a couple of weeks for the youngsters to understand what we do here stays with us,” she said.
Young notes that often the bullies are modeling poor choices and behavior they see in adults, and are experiencing their own levels of frustration.
“This is where the antagonizer needs to be helped,” she said. “A lot of kids are modeling exactly what they see at home.”
In January, Young will speak at the National Mentors Conference in Washington, D.C. She also is one of the participating authors at the 2017 Local Author Book Fair, held from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Merrillville branch of the Lake County Public Library.