Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kick the Puppy Review: Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

Keep Holding On

Goodreads Summary:

A romantic and empowering book about bullying

Noelle's life is all about survival. Even her best friend doesn't know how much she gets bullied, or the ways her mom neglects her. Noelle's kept so much about her life a secret for so long that when her longtime crush Julian Porter starts paying attention to her, she's terrified. Surely it's safer to stay hidden than to risk the pain of a broken heart. But when the antagonism of her classmates takes a dramatic turn, Noelle realizes it's time to stand up for herself--and for the love that keeps her holding on.

My Review:

Like many very short people, I was bullied. Which made my dad upset enough to teach me his rules: 1. If you're smaller than the person you're fighting you can fight dirty. 2. The degree to which the other person outweighs or is taller than you determines how dirty you can fight. 3. If it's a boy and you're a girl, you can always fight dirty. So, as I would go to a new school, my reputation would not follow and I would have to get into a fight. Only once did I get caught. Which resulted in my dad sitting in the principal's office doing mostly this:  laughing at the boy's father while saying, "Your son" and raising his hand and then saying "My daughter" and lowering his hand. And laughing again. This was his response to any question posed by anyone. The boy's father was so disgusted and embarrassed that he stomped out. As we left, we could hear the principal laughing in his office. And that was that as far as bullying for a while. Now, this was a few decades ago and the world has changed. But being bullied as a child shaped how I responded to it as a teacher- which is that I did my best to stamp it out whenever I saw it. Without waiting for a student to come to me, telling me it had gone too far.

The author says that as a child she was bullied, too. So, I don't know if it's just transferring real life to fiction or that the world has changed, but some things about this book just seemed off. First, Noelle's best friend pretty much seems oblivious to Noelle's being bullied. I really don't see how that is possible. Second, the best friend sees her wearing the same clothes, shoes, etc. for over a year. No warm jacket even. And does nothing. Really? No, "Gee, my grandma/aunt/cousin bought me these clothes for my birthday/Easter/Christmas etc. They haven't seen me in years and bought the wrong size. And they were on clearance/from a store in another state, etc. and they can't be returned." Simple for a friend that has her own credit card. And on and on.

More bad stuff about this book and a potential spoiler.... Noelle's best friend was the victim of date rape by her long term boyfriend. Now, initially in the book Noelle is being bullied, but it's not at the level we see at the end. Meaning, yes it's horrible but not anywhere close to being raped. I'm sorry. And the whole rape issue is pretty much blown off and not dealt with until the end. More bad stuff...there's an incident that gets Noelle to start being more assertive and asking for help. That incident, although possible and plausible in real life, seems contrived in this book. One of those, "Oops, I need a plot device so, here it is" type things.

Look, I feel bad coming down on a book about the issue of bullying. And it's not horrible, I guess. It's just really sloppily written. I did feel for the main character. And I did feel like overall the author did a decent job in developing the secondary characters. But I wish I had read a better book.

Overall Rating: 2 1/2 to 3 stars


  1. I can definitely understand your point of view with this book. Often when we have experience with a topic that an author attempts to cover in a fiction novel, it's easy to see the holes and flaws.

    Now, I don't necessarily think that bullying is a one-size-fits-all experience. I was bullied throughout middle school--mostly verbally, but I got in a few physical fights as well. It made me vicious and wary of people, so that when I met new kids I tended to lash out and the smallest perceived attack. Because I was bullied, I came very close to turning into a bully myself. I'm not proud of that.

    Going into high school, I wanted to leave that all behind, so I got a lot shyer and more quiet. Those that knew me from middle school still verbally abused me, and tried to pick fights, but I did my best to keep that fact from the few new friends I'd made. My experiences have taught me that yes, you can hide the fact that you're being bullied. Also, bullies usually are the way that they are because someone has hurt them at some point. It's a terrible cycle.

    Anyway, great review on an interesting topic. I'm not sure this book is my cup of tea, but I might consider it at some point.

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