I was a teenage book nerd. Also a pre-teen one. And an adult one.
Basically, I’ve had my nose in a book (or, more recently, my eyes on a Kindle) since the age of five. I loved going to the public library on Saturdays, stacking my gleanings next to my bed, and watching the height of the pile drop precipitously over the course of the week. I loved school recess, because it meant I could curl up in a corner of the playground and read. My idea of heaven: a rainy weekend afternoon with a good book and nothing else to do. My idea of hell: stuck somewhere (doctor’s office, airplane ride, line at the post office) with nothing to read.
So I was touched by the story of Callum Manning, a thirteen-year-old from northeastern England who was reduced to tears when kids at his new school added him to their group chat and then availed themselves of the opportunity to mock his Instagram account, on which he reviews his reading (“Yo, it's me Cal and I LOVE books.”)
Middle schoolers are a feral lot. You couldn’t pay me enough to return to those days.
Luckily, this story has a happy ending: When Callum’s big sister tweeted the tale over the weekend, hoping to encourage a few of her friends to cheer him up by following him on Instagram, her tweet went viral. Soon, she had replies from Waterstones, a leading British bookseller; Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London, praising Callum for his love of Romeo and Juliet; numerous survivors of childhood bullying; and a slew of famous writers, including Neil Gaiman, who tweeted, “All the interesting people I know were once considered weird kids with books. Including me.”
Within two days of his sister’s tweet, the follower count for Callum’s Instagram account, on which he’s posted his reactions to books ranging from Crime and Punishment to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, stood at 245,000. Take that, bullies!
In case you were wondering, Callum seems to be reading Pride and Prejudice right now, and so far, so good. “I've started reading this cause I saw some good reviews,” he reports, with more enthusiasm than punctuation. “It's great I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was but it's great for you guys who like romance/old English literature.”
Welcome to the book-nerd club, Callum. Some of us actually have annual meetings.