Sunday, June 10, 2012

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

Title: Keep Holding On
Author: Susane Colasanti
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: May 31, 2012
Pages: 224 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Won it in a Goodreads giveaway
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Lunch is the worst, but there's no safe place at school for Noelle. Keeping her mortifying home life a secret and trying to ignore the kids who make her life miserable are Noelle's survival strategies. Her emotionally distant boyfriend, Matt, isn't the one she really wants to be with. But she's sure there's no way she could ever be with Julian Porter.

When Julian starts talking to her, Noelle is terrified. It seems safer to stay with Matt than to risk a broken heart. But when the bullying of a friend goes too far, Noelle realizes it's time to stand up for herself--and for everything that makes her keep holding on.


Books like Keep Holding On are the kind of books no one really wants to criticize. It delivers a strong anti-bullying message with its stark portrayal of the torment Noelle goes through and anyone who has been bullied--no, anyone with a heart--will realize how worthwhile the novel is. After the recent attention on suicides due to bullying and bullying itself, this kind of novel was begging to be written. Colasanti's novel begins strongly, but a lack of strong characterization throughout the cast and lacking coverage of other subjects brought into the novel weaken its overall impact.

Noelle's characterization is fantastic. The self-loathing, the way she felt helpless to change her fate until late in the novel, her feelings of isolation--they all ring so true because I've felt the same way. From kindergarten to twelfth grade, there wasn't a year I wasn't bullied by my classmates, and I was more than happy to graduate a few weeks ago after a rough senior year that saw me having panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. Like Noelle, I considered suicide, but I decided to keep holding on because I knew it would get better eventually. I found something I loved doing and clung to it for dear life, and Noelle reflects so many aspects of me in her personality that it's almost uncomfortable.

What I wanted to see was stronger characterization across the board. Noelle's love interest Julian is never really a character. He functions more as a goal or ideal to Noelle. With him in that role, their romance becomes very underwhelming and he is robbed of becoming the full character he deserves to be. Noelle's bullies and her own mother get taps of characterization, but they deserved more depth too. Two-hundred pages is relatively short for a novel and when major topics like suicide, child neglect, and rape are introduced, they don't get the full attention they deserve and need because of the length and concentration on bullying.

So while I feel Keep Holding On itself is only worth three stars because of its weaknesses, I will give it a fourth star for the resources listed at the back of the book. The links to organizations like A Thin Line, To Write Love On Her Arms, and Love Is Respect are perfectly placed so any reader the story resonated with can reach out to the right people and groups. Short and poignant, Keep Holding On is the kind of novel I can see making a difference in the right person's life.

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: Waking Storms by Sarah Porter


  1. Great review. :) I've never read any of Colansati's previous books before because chick-lit books isn't really for me. However, this has been receiving excellent reviews and is a departure from the author's usual fluffy books.
    I dislike the cover, though. Some sexist overtones to it that bother me...

  2. I've definitely heard mixed things about this book. Some people adored it and other people despised the way it was written even though the subject matter was good. I think I'll read it because I have enjoyed Colasanti's previous works too a certain extent. I loved that the book has resources, that is definitely very smart and helpful. I'm so sorry you had to go through school like that... I went through some stuff like that as well, but thankfully high school wasn't quite as bad for me as elementary school.


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