Keep Holding On is a Young Adult, Contemporary Drama told from the point of view of Noelle Wexler. Noelle is a girl who lives in the suburbs with her single mother, who struggles to accept their poverty and is all but absent from her role as mother. Noelle struggles to get through her daily life, with a disconnected mother, and to get through high school, where she is bullied and doesn’t fit in primarily because of her economic background.
This story touched upon several important, relevant topics for today’s teens: bullying, fitting in, socio-economic differences, consensual relations, suicide, and abuse. It would be a good fit for fans of Susane Colasanti, those that enjoy Contemporary Teen reads, and those looking to read a book about bullying. Personally, I have enjoyed many of Susane Colasanti’s books and was looking forward to this one in particular due to the subject matter. This was a short, quick read, and as always Colasanti’s writing was great. While I wanted to love this one because of the important subject that was being tackled, it was not my favorite.
The parts that I enjoyed most about the book would be the subjects that the book was seeking to address. I also enjoyed Sherae (Noelle’s best friend) and Simon as characters, and I really loved that Colasanti tried to end on a positive note. I liked that in the story, the teen characters tried to look for ways to have a positive impact and to affect the culture surrounding them.
I wish that I could whole-heartedly endorse the story, because I do feel passionately about so many of the topics that are being addressed. I think it is so important for there to be contemporary YA reads that address the tough topics, that are relatable, and that give voice to these issues and a safe way to bring about discussions.
For me, the varieties of topics touched on were too big to contain in so short a story. It felt as though many were glossed over as a result, though I do understand that the focus was supposed to be on bullying, I wish that a bit more attention were paid to some of the other topics that arose. I think the hardest part for me was that I had trouble understanding and relating to the main character, Noelle.
Noelle didn’t ring completely true to me, and I didn’t really like her – which made it harder to relate to her and appreciate her struggles. For me, there were a variety of ways that Noelle didn’t match up to what we learn of her. Not the least of which was the fact that she was claiming to be poor, undernourished and starving but that she would rather scrounge for nothing than accept the humiliation of the school meals? This part really bothered me the most. I knew people in school that were on the free/reduced meal programs; I have also had students that are on those programs. When you are as hard up as Noelle was claiming, you don’t turn away what could be your only meal(s) of the day. I have worked with students who cried when they knew we didn’t have school because they depended on the breakfast and lunch to be a solid source of sustenance that they might not have otherwise. I could go on, but that is beside the point, so I’ll leave it at the fact that this part was very distracting and bothered me throughout the story.
Overall, I found this to be a very tough book to read and review. I think it hits on an excellent topic, and I think there were some great parts but there were some issues that I had trouble getting past. However, I do think this book is worth a read, and I appreciated that the author was trying to highlight such an important topic in a form that I feel many teens could relate to and enjoy reading. I also love that Ms. Colasanti chose to leave the book on a high note, and tried to give a hopeful outlook for those out there struggling. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Colasanti, because I have enjoyed many of her books.
If you enjoyed this book and are looking for more YA Contemporary topic reads try:
Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson
Just Listen – Sarah Dessen
Wintergirls – Laurie Halse Anderson
Perfect You – Elizabeth Scott
Something Like Fate – Susane Colasanti
3 out of 5 Doxies – Really enjoyed it, give it a try!
Tale of Two Doxies