Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti
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.
I've read each of Susane Colasanti's six books, but none of them have impressed me nearly as much as her debut, When It Happens. However, Keep Holding On is definitely a step-up from the books that came in between it and When It Happens, despite its often preachy narrative.
Keep Holding On is rather short, at just over 200 pages, which is both a strength and a weakness. As with any book of its length, a few dozen more pages would have added a whole lot of depth to the story. The characters are impressively well-developed in such a short book, but some of their actions and changes-of-heart nearer the end happened a bit too quickly for me to believe they're entirely plausible. However, I overall appreciated the strength of the story in relation to its brevity. Noelle gives just enough flashbacks to set up the bullying she receives, and there's also enough of the present-day tormenters to make her issue believable and thus heartbreaking. The constant occurrences of torment also keep the story at a constant pace; there's never really any down time in terms of action, so it's a engaging read as well.
The characters are also nicely developed, quick attitude changes aside. Noelle is more sympathetic than many other YA heroines not only because she has to put up with bullies at school and at home, but because she acknowledges her faults in trying to change certain aspects of her life but not others, and the difficulties involved with change. Her narration is often preachy, but somehow her messages still fit naturally in to the story. I also love her awesome best friend, Sherae, who provides her with respite but isn't afraid to tell her like it is too. I hoped for more from Noelle's mother and Potential Boys Matt and Julian, but even though they appear for a short amount of time, Noelle easily convinced me of the strength of her relationship with all of them.
It's often preachy and could have benefited from a bit more length, but Keep Holding On packs an emotional punch with its realistic characters and heartbreaking storyline.
Book details: Viking/Hardcover/$17.99
Source: sent by publisher for review