For Susane Colasanti, author of Keep Holding On, junior high and
high school constituted the worst years of her life. It wasn't until
college that she found a milleau where it was not only acceptable, but
awesome to be unique. Memories of those painful times and the
strength she developed surviving them motivated her to reach out to
others in similar plights as an teacher and as an author.
Noelle, protagonist of the book, has what you'd call a very
dysfunctional family. Her mom has made it clear that having a child
ruined her future. She's basically checked out of the parenting bit,
not even keeping the kitchen stocked with food or buying basic hygiene
supplies for her daughter. She's a bitter woman, constantly
complaining about her plight, never taking a real look at the young
woman she's supposed to be raising.
Before, when her mom had a boyfriend, Lewis, and her family
enjoyed a good standard of living, Noelle felt like she fit in. There
was always enough food. She could invite friends home. She had
friends to invite. Then Lewis died.
Now all Noelle's friends except one have deserted her. Bullies
regularly torment her. The other kids for the most part go along with
it. The boyfriend she makes out with in private will not be seen with
In one chapter Noelle is trapped in a school bathroom with her
prime bully, Carly, and her former best friend, Audrey. They steal a
bracelet she loves, given to her as a birthday present, and sling it
into a stall. It lands in a toilet.
There are, however, changes on the horizen. You'll want to read
the book to see what they are.
At the end of the book there's a list of groups to help students
in crises. There is also a deeply touching letter from the author.
I'd like to end the review by quoting from it.
"On your worst days, the days when it seems like everything is going
wrong, when you want to hide from the world and never come out, please
know this: I was in that dark place, too. And I made it to the other
On a personal note, back in the day I had just started a new boarding
high school as a junior. For some reason the prevailing mean girls
wanted me to join them. They told me to talk to a girl they
tormented. I could hear them snicker in anticipation of a real
zinger. I asked her if she'd like to sit with me at supper. That
dear, kind girl urged me to reject her to protect myself. She was
used to it. I had the chance to be popular. If I had to be mean to
be popular I wanted no part of it. Needless to say, I had a friend.
Amazingly, considering my very small size, the pack, instead of
tormenting us both, went in search of other prey.
A great big shout out goes out to people who try to help instead of
looking the other way.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod