Lalitha's Reviews > Keep Holding On

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti
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's review
Apr 20, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: teen
Read in April, 2012

Copy for review kindly provided by Penguin Young Readers Group via Netgalley

Noelle Wexler has endured constant bullying since the 8th grade. Now a high school junior, the situation hasn't let up, but seems to have gotten worse. Living in an affluent town, she is shunned by her classmates for being poor. Home doesn't serve as a refuge from the school cruelty because Noelle's mother is criminally neglectful (no food in the fridge, doesn't purchase essential personal hygiene and school supplies, and steals the $ Noelle is saving for college).

There are some bright lights in Noelle's life, though - she has some dear friends at school (Sherae, Simon, and Julian). She is also in a secret romance with Matt, one of her classmates. Readers know off the bat that the relationship is completely suspect and shady.


Bullying has essentially stripped Noelle of any self-esteem; it's clear to everyone that she and Julian really belong together, but Noelle feels that she'll never be good enough for him, due to her class status. When a classmate commits suicide due to bullying, Noelle decides to take a stand.


I'm a big fan of Susane Colasanti, and I think she captures the teen voice very well--I guess this comes from her experience of working with teens (she used to be a high school science teacher) and relating to them. Bullying is a critical topic, and it's heartening to see it being covered in such powerful way.

However, I did have a few reservations with this book (personally, they didn't detract from my overall good impression of the book, but I want to still discuss) which included:

-Noelle's secret relationship with Matt, when she clearly wanted to be with Julian. Matt was clearly an awful person (for cheating on his own girlfriend, and for being ashamed of his association with Noelle, among other things) and it always seemed like a clear choice to me (and probably most readers). I also thought the romance took away from the larger storyline of the insidious bullying.

-Noelle's relationship with her mother - I wanted there to be more exploration here. All we get are snippets of angry conversations with mother and daughter, but I wanted a bit more history. Essentially, the mother felt very one-dimensional to me (even as an awful personification).

-Noelle's friends, Sherae, Simon, and Julian. If they're such great friends, why do they allow the bullying to go on? Why don't they stand up for her? There is one instance (albeit a belated reaction) where Julian confronts Warner, one of the main bullies. But sorry, it didn't happen soon enough for me. Is Noelle truly that isolated from them at school - didn't make sense.

Overall, though, a great pick that will definitely spark intense discussions around bullying. I would pair this one with Courtney Summers's excellent SOME GIRLS ARE - both books are suitable for exploring bullying perpetrated by teenaged girls.

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