June 27, 2012

Title:Keep Holding On

Author: Susane Colasanti

Published: May 31, 2012

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Pages: 224

A romantic and empowering book about bullying.

Noelle’s life is all about survival. Even her best friend doesn’t know how much she gets bullied, or the ways her mom neglects her. Noelle’s kept so much about her life a secret for so long that when her longtime crush Julian Porter starts paying attention to her, she’s terrified. Surely it’s safer to stay hidden than to risk the pain of a broken heart. But when the antagonism of her classmates takes a dramatic turn, Noelle realizes it’s time to stand up for herself–and for the love that keeps her holding on.

**Note:** This copy was provided by Net Galley but did not influence this review in any way.

  • Christina is placing Keep Holding On on her third shelf. 

The Low-Down: Sixteen-year-old Noelle lives a difficult life. She’s tormented at school because she’s poor and doesn’t eat the same foods or wear the same clothes as her wealthier peers, and simply because it’s her classmates favorite form of entertainment. Her home life isn’t much better. After her mother’s boyfriend lost a battle with cancer, Noelle and her mom were forced to move across town to a lower-income neighborhood and her mom fell into a slump; thus neglecting Noelle more and more each day. With Matt, the guy that she frequently makes out with but keeps her his dirty little secret, and her best friend Sherae, who has her own problems to deal with, it’s no wonder Noelle feels alone in the world with no place or person to turn to for help. That all changes when her long-time crush, Julian Porter, seems to take notice and a tragic death awakens Noelle’s fighting spirit.

Author Ego-Booster: I believe Susane Colasanti handled the very dark themes presented in this book with the sensitivity they deserved. It never felt exaggerated or forced, just sad and honest. In the right age groups– the one it’s targeted for, I feel like this book has the opportunity to impact how teenagers view their world and can even learn how to appropriately treat their peers. It is hardly ever the fault of the kids, and often enough, not even the parents are to blame. Some people are simply unfortunate to live in the circumstances that they do, and we should learn to build those people up instead of tearing them down further. This is one of the messages that I feel the author conveys well.

Noelle’s Haiku assignment for school:

Seeing ≠ Believing

What’s in front of you

is not necessarily

the entire story

I also loved the author’s note at the end addressed to the readers. She spoke specifically about how she was bullied in school– about how it was the darkest time in her life– and how life got better as she got older. It was so personal and very touching.

The Drawbacks: I read every book from beginning to end and everything in-between no matter what, and this includes the dedication and acknowledgments. This is the dedication that was at the beginning of my eBook copy:

For Tyler Clementi.

For every other teen who felt like they couldn’t hold on anymore.

And for everyone who’s been bullied, neglected or left out.

You are not alone.

Be strong and never give up. 

Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on who Tyler Clementi was, okay? He was the eighteen-year-old Rutgers University student that committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate exploited his intimate interactions with another male via webcam. His death, along with several other gay teen suicides that year, sparked national attention to bullying and how our youth are plagued by it.

So, having read this at the very beginning, I thought without a shadow of doubt that I was going to be in for one emotional journey. Sadly though, the dedication was the only time that my vision blurred or that I was given chills. I’ll admit, there were times that I was sympathetic to Noelle’s situation and angry at those that tormented her and countless others, but I was never as moved as I had anticipated being. There was never a moment that had me sobbing or clutching my chest with heartache, even after a certain death, and I think that was the missing piece for me. I felt like Colasanti told me about the characters and their hard life, instead of letting the characters show me through their actions and emotions. I didn’t really feel attached to them at all.

Special Notes: Another thing that struck me as odd is that the cover art and summary both allude to this romance that possibly helps pick Noelle up, and while Julian Porter is sprinkled throughout, the romantic side of the story takes a back-burner to the bullying. While I agree that the menacing should have been placed in the plot spotlight- seeing as it’s such a common problem with our youth today; I  still felt a little mislead. The Julian-Noelle relationship doesn’t really happen until the last few pages, and that was a bit of a letdown for me, personally.

Verdict: I believe that this book should be required reading in school for every student between the ages of fifteen to eighteen. Growing up, I think we, as people, generally don’t realize the impact that our actions could have on other people’s emotions. Even though I didn’t find myself getting drawn into this story, I think that the fault is more in part to it being geared toward a younger age group rather than any one particular issue that I had with this novel.

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