I was only five pages into this book when it broke my heart. This is more than a story of the underdog sticking it to the man. It’s more than overcoming poverty, more than dealing with tough parents or a broken home. It’s more than mean girls and social status and getting over it and moving on. KEEP HOLDING ON by Susane Colasanti is a book about bullying. And as much as it’s about bullying, it’s about social change.
Noelle is a kid who has had it pretty rough. And the kids at her high school aren’t making it much easier. Every single day she dodges blows — physical and verbal — from girls and guys who make it their mission to make her miserable. They make fun of her sandwiches, which due to her mother’s neglect sometimes only contain lettuce and mustard. They corner her in the hallways. Even her sort-of boyfriend won’t let her tell anyone that they make out during studyhall in their secret spot.
Noelle has one good friend, and that’s what keeps her going every day. That and the fact that she could, maybe, talk to Julian, the cute guy who doesn’t seem to realize she’s a social leper. And while her daily torment isn’t getting any better, a spot on the lit mag at least gets her out of the cafeteria for lunch now and then. But Noelle knows she’s not the only kid in school who gets picked on, and when the unthinkable happens, she realizes that she can’t just duck and cover anymore. She has to take a stand.
KEEP HOLDING ON is both heart wrenching and inspiring, an important book that I hope will make it into all the right hands. Bullying isn’t something that “makes us stronger” when it doesn’t kill us. And sometimes it does kill us. Susane Colasanti‘s treatment of the topic is no-holds-barred, and for that I applaud her.