Published by: Viking Juvenile on May 31, 2012
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
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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.
Susane Colasanti is amazing. I fell in love with Noelle on the first page. And that’s not an exaggeration. Noelle’s character has so much voice that I can literally feel her coming off the pages. She’s a teenager and she totally sounds like one! The first page she’s looking at a guy in her class and has all these crazy romantic daydreams and is questioning whether she’s a slut for liking two guys. I chuckled and I just knew I had to keep reading!
At only 224 pages, Keep Holding On is a super fast read. It deals with a lot of intense issues like bullying and suicide, but we see it all through a teenage bully-victim’s eyes. That makes it all very easy to understand and relate to.
I honestly didn’t have much experience with bullying when I was in school. Maybe there was a bit in my middle school, but there was very little at my high school. It was so saddening to hear about all the bullying in Noelle’s life, that I imagine is common in high schools all over the world. Although I wasn’t able to personally relate to Noelle being bullied, I really felt I could relate to her in other ways. I was kind of one of those self-made loners in high school. I could have had a lot of friends, but I just couldn’t relate to the people at my school. I felt like we didn’t click and didn’t share interests. So rather than pursue a bunch of ‘fake’ relationships, I chose to mostly sit on my own. So I could relate to Noelle eating alone at lunch, or avoiding lunch all together.
This book is filled with so much emotion and sadness. Ultimately, Keep Holding On is about Noelle just wanting a normal life, a normal family, and to be loved and cared for. Is that too much to ask? Certainly not! In addition to the issues at school, she has to deal with her mother and her home life. Her mother doesn’t love her or care for her. They barely have enough food to survive on, and Noelle often goes to school hungry.
In the last third of the book, the bullying goes too far. I won’t say what happened since it’s revealed near the end, but man. I had to stop and put the book down for a minute just so I could mull things over. This book seriously makes you think, and it will probably make you reflect on your own high school days.
One thing did kind of annoy me though. Noelle gets an opportunity to see a change in her life and maybe even be really happy. The boy she likes asked her out. But she just immediately turned him down because she decided she wasn’t good enough for him. Her friend keeps telling her he obviously likes her and that she could be with him and she’s just like, “No. You don’t understand.” And I didn’t understand. When that happened I honestly couldn’t help but think that Noelle was bringing on some of the unhappiness herself (though I kind of feel bad for thinking that). She wasn’t letting herself be happy and she was ignoring new possibilities and opportunities.
Also, a huge part of the book is about Noelle talking (well narrating) about how one day when she becomes a teacher she will put a stop to bullying. She silently criticizes her teachers for just letting it happen and hates them for not intervening. But then, at school there’s a girl who gets bullied worse than Noelle and Noelle does nothing to help her because it would “just make the bullying worse” (for Noelle). She wouldn’t even hang out with the poor girl after school! So there was a bit of frustrating hypocrisy there.
But the good thing about this storie is that Noelle learns from her mistakes. She finally learns to stand up for herself and for others, and to take chances in life. The end of this book is so beautiful, heartwarming, hopeful, and unbelievably satisfying.