Hardcover, 224 pages
Expected publication: May 31, 2012 by Viking Juvenile
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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.
There is a big part of me that doesn’t even want to write this review, because I appreciate what Colasanti was going for, and I wish bullying was something that was addressed more often in YA. Not even necessarily as a central theme, but it would be great if it was touched on in some of these books that are nothing more than romance. It’s a big issue with teenagers and we simply do not see it addressed often enough. That said, I had many issues with Keep Holding On, some that kept me from enjoying it.
The characters fell flat for me. None of them are really fleshed out, the love interest is practically a stranger even in the end, and our main character isn’t much more than a bullied victim with low self-esteem (obviously). That said, it’s sad what she goes through at school, and I hate that this is something that occurs daily in this country. There are a lot of problems in America, but I think bullying is the worst. It’s bad enough that things are hard financially, but we make it worse by treating each other horribly, and unfortunately the majority of it happens in school when people are at a most vulnerable point in their development.
Bullying isn’t the only issue Keep Holding On addresses, but I kind of wish it had been. The other issues just aren’t addressed enough to serve a purpose. It felt like there was too much going on but none of it was developed enough.
The one aspect I didn’t find believable was Noelle’s reactions to her home life. Yes, there are neglectful parents out there, I know this. But the thing that struck me was the fact that Noelle is starving but never feeds herself. I’ve been hungry. I know the feeling. When I was of age, I got a job, and you know what I did with the money? I fed myself. Noelle shouldn’t have to feed herself, but that’s the life she’s been given, and instead of doing that she spends her money shopping. If you’re truly hungry (and worried about being made fun of for your “lunch”), your money is going to feed you before it goes on new clothes. These just weren’t authentic actions of a starving teenager, in my experience.
Keep Holding On didn’t move me the way I was expecting, but it is definitely sad and I would still recommend it to teens everywhere.