Literature / Blubber
It's easy to laugh, but what happens when the joke's on you?
Blubber is a novel by Judy Blume, first published in 1974.

Linda Fischer, the pudgiest girl (though not the pudgiest student) in Mrs. Minish's fifth-grade class, is singled out for bullying (physical and emotional) by Wendy, the classroom's queen bee, and everyone, including the narrator, Jill Brenner, happily joins in. Then the tables turn on Jill and suddenly, it’s not funny any more.

Blubber was banned from many school libraries and reading lists because of violence and language.

This book provides examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Linda tries to solve the problem by dialogue. It fails.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • The teachers scold the kids occasionally for their antics, but never make a move to stop it. Jill's mother comforts her when the class turns on her, but doesn't step in to actually help her. When Jill and Tracy are forced to rake Mr. Machinist's yard as punishment for their prank, Jill's dad defends the girls when Machinist (rightly, at least in Jill's case) calls them "brats," and afterward doesn't disagree when Jill remarks that Machinist really did deserve the prank, thus ensuring that Jill hasn't learned a thing from this.
    • Even when Linda actually tells authority figures about the bullying, the adults either pay no attention to her, don't believe her, simply don't care, or all of the above. Even when the principal addresses the entire class after one incident, Wendy cooks up an outrageous lie of a story to "explain", and the principal and the teacher swallow it hook, line and sinker. Part of it could be Mrs. Minish's refusal to believe that her kids could be so cruel (that line of dialogue is even the title of one chapter in the book).
    • Worse yet, they blame the victim. Wendy trips Linda as she's walking down the aisle and Mrs. Minish tells Linda to "be more careful." When the class starts playing catch with Linda's apple at lunchtime and the apple ends up on the floor when the lunch monitor walks in, it's Linda who gets yelled at because it's her apple. And later, after Jill has become the victim of bullying and is attacked at her bus stop, scattering her books and papers all over, the bus driver yells at Jill for taking too long to get her things back together. Even Jill's mother suggests it's Jill's own fault she's getting bullied because she's "a pretty tough character".
    • Probably the only adult in the book with any bite at all is Mr. Machinist, and to a somewhat lesser extent Miss Rothbelle.
    • And probably the only adult in the book who isn't useless is the nanny, Mrs. Sandmeier, who seems to fill a role similar to Ole Golly in Harriet the Spy in that she does more parenting than both of Jill's parents put together. It's telling that when the tables turn on Jill, the first person she tells about it (in a letter) is Mrs. Sandmeier (although, being on vacation in Switzerland, Mrs. Sandmeier isn't in a position to help).
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Donna actually wants to marry a horse when she grows up. She even has one picked out, his name is San Salvadore.
  • Alpha Bitch: Wendy is the de facto leader of Jill's class. Almost everyone in the class obeys Wendy, and even teacher would believe her words over everyone else's.
  • Annoying Laugh: Caroline, whose laugh Jill compares to a hyena's (although she's never heard a hyena laugh, she's certain it would sound like Caroline).
  • Beta Bitch: Caroline mostly, although Donna and Jill herself also fill this role. Jill actually calls attention to this near the end, calling Caroline out on being Wendy's lapdog when they corner her in the bathroom.
  • Break the Haughty: Averted, because Jill doesn't really learn anything (or at least not the lesson she SHOULD have learned) from becoming the target of bullying herself.
  • The Bully: Wendy is the one who started bullying Linda, and, later, had the whole class turn on Jill when the latter defied her.
  • Cool Old Lady: Jill's first impression of her great-aunt Great Maudie, who moves in as temporary nanny while Mrs. Sandmeier is on vacation. She's a health-food, natural-living and yoga enthusiast. At first Jill thinks she'll enjoy having Great Maudie stay with them because she's gregarious and has a great laugh, but she changes her mind once Maudie (who either won't, or can't, cook "regular" foods) throws away her sugary breakfast cereals and makes her eat health foods like wheat germ mush.
  • Creepy Child: Wendy and her followers are a borderline example. They write lists of new ways to torment Linda, including forcibly undressing her on two separate occasions. Later, they torture Jill in the exact same ways, including attacking her at the bus stop and throwing her books on the ground.
  • Deceptively Silly Title: The title sounds silly, but it's actually the mean-spirited nickname given to an overweight girl by her bullying peers. The book is a harshly realistic look at bullying.
  • Double Standard: Touched on regarding overweight males versus overweight females. Jill notes that one of the boys gleefully tormenting Linda for her "blubber" is extremely overweight and is, in fact, fatter than her. Even better, he's jumping rope to a mocking chant directed towards the title character. Special attention is called to his undulating rolls of fat in the narration.
    • Averted regarding the gym teacher, Mr. Witneski, whom Jill likes because he treats the girls and boys as equals.
  • Fictional Country: Actually averted with Nagaland (Jill mentions her favorite stamps in her collection are from Nagaland), which is actually a real part of India.
  • Gasshole: Apparently Jill's brother Kenny is one whenever he eats sauerkraut, as when Linda farts during music class, Jill reflects that she must have had sauerkraut for breakfast.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Warren Winkler is a creepy (so Jill says) kid whose parents are good friends with Jill's parents. It's implied that the kids' parents believe the two of them will become friends (or more) when they get older. Wendy later seizes on this as one of Jill's sore spots and uses it to torment her.
  • Informed Deformity: Linda is apparently the fattest girl in the class, but on the cover art she doesn't look any heavier than the rest of the girls. Lampshaded in the book. Jill admits that she doesn't know why they all go after Linda to torment, as Linda really isn't all that big.
  • Karma Houdini: Wendy never received any punishments despite being the ring leader of two massive bullying.
  • Keep Away: Played first with Linda's notebook, then later Jill's math book.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Even the main character partakes in the bullying of an overweight loner. When she gets bullied herself, it's no longer a laughing manner. Parents have been known to complain that no one gets punished at the end.
  • Moral Guardians: The book was banned in a lot of places for its complete lack of sugarcoating, Karma Houdini ending, and the use of curse words by young kids. Another, darker reason is that some claim it to be fuel for future bullies.
    • More recent editions of the book feature commentary from Judy Blume herself urging readers who are being bullied or witness bullying taking place to tell someone they trust, but on the other hand, the authority figures in the book are all inept and/or uncaring, which implies that telling an authority figure won't always help.
  • Morality Pet: Tracy seems to be this for Jill, as she's the only one Jill has a consistent good relationship with. Even after Jill becomes her class's Butt-Monkey, Tracy continues to stand by her.
    • Tracy is an interesting case: She doesn't seem to like Linda any more than Jill or anyone else and in fact participates with Jill in vandalizing Linda's house on Halloween. However, she seems to grow and mature in ways Jill doesn't, as evidenced when she refuses to take part in Wendy's revenge plan because she's not convinced Linda was the one who tattled on her and Jill for their prank on Mr. Machinist. Part of this could be due to better parenting, as it's implied that Tracy's parents are much more hands-on and involved with their daughter than are Jill's (Mrs. Wu even has time to make Tracy's award-winning Halloween costume, while Jill's mother barely has time to talk to her daughter let alone do things like cook, leaving the parenting to the nanny).
  • Nature Tinkling: As mentioned under Potty Emergency below, Tracy and Jill relieve themselves by peeing on Mr. Machinist's trees.
  • No Ending: The book really doesn't have a conclusion. It just sort of stops in a "just another day" kind of fashion.
  • Picky Eater: Jill doesn't like a lot of things, including Chinese food and the menu at Warren's Bar Mitzvah. It's possibly the reason she's so skinny, and she's actually called out for it a few times.
  • Potty Emergency: Jill and Tracy's punishment for their prank on Mr. Machinist is having to rake his huge backyard. Both badly need to pee before they're finished, and both opt to water the man's trees rather than humiliate themselves by begging permission to use his bathroom.
  • School Bullying Is Harmless: HELL NO.
  • Shameful Strip: After trapping Linda in the girls' bathroom, Wendy orders Jill (dressed as a flenser for Halloween) to "strip the Blubber" and not stop until she has to run down the hall "in her blubbery birthday suit." It never gets that far, but the girls do reveal Linda's undershirt and flowery underpants before letting her off with a lesser humiliation.
  • Shout-Out: Tracy's Big Bird Halloween costume, homemade by her mother, wins the school's contest for most beautiful costume. And Jill wishes her class could do a Thanksgiving pageant like the Christmas pageant in Harriet the Spy, in which Harriet got to roll around on the floor while playing an onion.
    • In fact, both Blubber and Harriet the Spy have thematic similarities, in that in both books, the protagonist is singled out for bullying by the rest of her class.
    • It's also possible that the character of Great Maudie may have been inspired by the title character of the sitcom Series/Maude as played by Bea Arthur.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Jill does eventually call Wendy on her bullshit, even if in the end it amounts to little. (All it does is cost Wendy her friendship with Caroline.)
  • Token Good Teammate: Rochelle, who is quiet and stays out of the class' bullying behavior. It's implied she doesn't approve of her classmates' treatment of Linda but is afraid to speak up, which she finally does on the day of Linda's "trial." She becomes Jill's new friend at the end of the book.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Jill loves peanut butter sandwiches, to the point where she sneaks one to Warren's Bar Mitzvah to eat when she doesn't like the food provided. One of the starting points for her friendship with Rochelle is that Rochelle has a peanut butter sandwich too.