Don’t look up.
Lunch is the worst, but there’s no safe place at school for Noelle. Keeping her mortifying home life a secret and trying to ignore the kids who make her life miserable are Noelle’s survival strategies. Her emotionally distant boyfriend, Matt, isn’t the one she really wants to be with. But there’s no way she could ever be with Julian Porter.
When Julian starts talking to her, Noelle is terrified. It seems safer to stay with Matt than risk a broken heart. But when the bullying of a friend goes too far, Noelle realizes it’s time to stand up for herself—and for everything that makes her keep holding on.
"Emotionally satisfying from beginning to end." - Kirkus Reviews
"A fast read that will give readers plenty to think about." - Publishers Weekly
"Noelle’s situation will resonate with teen readers." - VOYA
"Colasanti proves her facility with not only a powerful story, but also the poetic techniques that elevate a novel to an important work of art." - YA Book Shelf
You can read the first chapter of Keep Holding On here.
The first three chapters are available in my Scribd Chapter Sampler.
The Keep Holding On discussion guide may be used in classrooms and for book clubs.
Keep Holding On was featured on the morning news! Watch the segment here:
In this video, I explain what I hope my readers will take away from Keep Holding On.
Enjoy on Spotify.
1. "Keep Holding On" - Avril Lavigne
This song inspired the title of the book. So empowering and encouraging.
2. "Wait Til You See My Smile" - Alicia Keys
On the darkest days, there's always hope that tomorrow will be brighter.
3. "Everything" - Lifehouse
These lyrics perfectly capture Noelle's fantasy of the boy who would be her everything.
4. "Not Afraid" - Eminem
In Keep Holding On, Noelle reaches a point where she is done. She's done with being tormented. She's done standing by and watching others being bullied without trying to stop it. And she's done being afraid to start creating a better life for herself. "Not Afraid" is about being done. It's about finding the strength to pull yourself out of the darkness. It takes courage to speak up when you or someone you know is being mistreated. Taking a stand against injustice isn't easy. But now is the time to be strong. Now is the time to reach out to others in need. When you are not afraid, you can change the world.
5. "Darkness" - The Police
The hope that I could live a better life one day is what kept me going during the worst time of my life in high school. On really bad days, I would try to find that glimmer of hope. Hope made everything feel wide open. Like all of the possibilities I imagined could actually be my reality if I never gave up. Darkness is not forever.
6. "First Day of My Life" - Bright Eyes
Noelle is waiting for her real life to begin after graduation. But she realizes that real life is happening right now. This is real life, every second of it. And we all have the power to make this life better for ourselves and others.
7. "Today Has Been Okay" - Emiliana Torrini
On the worst days when every minute feels like an hour and every hour feels like a year, it takes every bit of strength just to survive. But when you get through it, when you keep holding on and never let go, the next day comes. And it's better than the day before. Noelle learns to be thankful for what she has instead of being depressed about everything she doesn't. Which makes it easier to survive the worst days.
8. "Breathe (2 a.m.)" - Anna Nalick
This song is just so soothing. It makes me feel like everything is going to be okay. Like no matter what happens, everything will work out the way it should. All I have to do is keep breathing. That's the feeling I want my readers to take away from this book.
9. "Let Me In" - R.E.M.
Julian is determined to make Noelle see how much he cares about her. This is his song.
10. "Promises Promises" - Naked Eyes
Matt makes promises to Noelle that he can't keep. He doesn't love her the way she loves him. But Noelle wants to believe he can change so badly that she ignores that feeling deep down telling her he's not the one.
11. "Sweet Disposition" - The Temper Trap
A song that's all about living in the Now, cherishing these moments, and finding happiness in the little things.
12. "Lights" - Ellie Goulding
Ellie Goulding's childhood fear of the dark inspired her to write "Lights." But this song speaks to all of our fears that lurk beneath our bright dispositions. We are all searching for those lights that will lead us from the darkness.
13. "Wonderwall" - Ryan Adams
This song reminds me of when Noelle finally decides to take a chance on finding something real with Julian. I said maybe...you're gonna be the one that saves me...
14. "Keep Holding On" - Glee
The Glee version of "Keep Holding On" gives me chills. Every time I hear it, I'm motivated to dream big and never give up. Just stay strong...
Whatever you’re going through, please know that you are not alone. Friendly neighbors are out there who want to help you. Here are a few of them:
Born This Way Foundation - bornthiswayfoundation.org
The Born This Way Foundation was founded by Lady Gaga to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated. The goal of the Born This Way Foundation is to challenge meanness and cruelty by inspiring young people to create a support system in their respective communities. The foundation is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a braver, kinder world. Everyone has the right to feel safe, to be empowered and to make a difference in the world. Together, we will move towards acceptance, bravery and love.
Stop Bullying - stopbullying.gov
Stop Bullying provides information on how to recognize the warning signs of bullying, how to take a stand against bullying, and how to get help if you are being bullied. If you are thinking about hurting yourself or know someone who is, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255. The lifeline is available 24/7 and is a free, confidential service.
Above the Influence – abovetheinfluence.com
Being above the influence is about being yourself—and not letting people pressure you into being less than you. It’s also about having positive influences in your life and knowing that you can be a positive influence on other people. You have the power to reject the negative influences that can bring you down, including the pressure to use drugs, pills, and alcohol.
To Write Love on Her Arms – twloha.com
To Write Love on Her Arms is a movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. If you are worried that you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.SUICIDE.
A Thin Line – athinline.org
New issues like forced sexting, textual harassment and cyberbullyiing have emerged, which now affect a majority of teens in the States. A Thin Line was developed to empower teens to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse in their lives and among their friends. The campaign is built on the understanding that there's a "thin line" between what may begin as a harmless joke and something that could end up having a serious impact on you or someone else.
It Gets Better Project – itgetsbetter.org
The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach—if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone—and it WILL get better.
The Trevor Project – thetrevorproject.org
The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including their nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline at 1.866.4.U.TREVOR.
Love Is Respect – loveisrespect.org
Love Is Respect is a joint project between the National Dating Abuse Helpline and Break the Cycle to provide resources for teens, parents, friends and family. All communication is confidential and anonymous. The National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1.866.331.9474 is a national 24-hour resource that can be accessed by phone or the internet, specifically designed for teens.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) – rainn.org
RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. It operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline at rainn.org. The hotline's services are free and confidential. RAINN leads national efforts to prevent sexual assault, improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.
Stay Teen – stayteen.org
The goal of Stay Teen is to encourage you to enjoy your teen years and avoid the responsibilities that come with too-early pregnancy and parenting. The more you know about issues like sex, relationships, waiting, and contraception, the better prepared you will be to make informed choices for your future.
Leave Out Violence (LOVE) – leaveoutviolence-us.org
Leave Out Violence was created to reduce and help eliminate violence in the lives of teens and their communities by initiating a movement of youth spokespeople who communicate a message of non-violence.
If Noelle can just hold on until graduation, she might finally escape the school bullies and her neglectful mother. But when the bullying goes too far, she must choose whether to run away or finally stand up for herself.
Caught between her miserable existence at school and a home life that is at best impoverished and at worst abusive, Noelle believes if she can just keep her head down, she can escape to the city, where her life will really begin. Unfortunately, the brutal bullying, her mother’s refusal to buy food and a boyfriend who only wants to make out in secret are making it hard for her to stay hopeful. When she is offered a position on the lit mag and her crush, funky Julian Porter, asks her out, Noelle wants to believe that things are finally turning around. Then one of their classmates commits suicide, and Noelle is determined to make sure everyone knows the truth. The familiar story of bullying is elevated by Colasanti’s smart dialogue, quirky characters and richly layered plot. Readers will engage intellectually and emotionally with each character, and the countdown toward graduation that marks every chapter heightens Noelle's desperation to escape. The high level of craft in the writing even makes the cloying and overly earnest ending forgivable.
Emotionally satisfying from beginning to end.
- Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Noelle’s life is bleak. She has a single mom who is too self-involved and mired in her own misery to even bother keeping food on hand. Noelle is the target of two bullies at her high school, and her boyfriend, Matt, is “not ready” to go public with their relationship, content to just make out while skipping study hall. Each day at school is an endurance test—trying to ignore the taunts of her tormentors—as is life at home, wondering if there will be food for dinner or something for her lunch sandwich besides mustard and mayonnaise. Graduation is the brass ring she hangs onto in order to get through each miserable day.
Noelle’s situation will resonate with teen readers. Her struggles are those of real teens—trying to fit in, feeling left out, searching for love, making hard choices. Readers will feel her despair, but will also detect her inner strength. It is that strength which finally brings about changes in Noelle’s life after the suicide of another of the bullies’ victims. A side story of Noelle’s best friend, Sherae’s, date rape is told without graphic descriptions and highlights another kind of victimization. Sherae finds the courage to tell her story after she witnesses Noelle’s transformation. Noelle’s journey from victim to victor, while a tad too facile, is an important story for anyone who has felt the sting of their peers’ cruelty. The author’s note offers encouragement plus a list of organizations to which teens can turn for help is included.
The Gist: High school is hard for a lot of people, but it is literally a nightmare for Noelle Wexler. Noelle is every bully's target and is tortured by her peers every moment of everyday. She is the poorest student at a rich school, where you only belong if you have this season's latest trends. She is taunted for everything from the clothes she wears to what she packs for lunch. When Noelle goes home, she must face her neglectful mother, who constantly reminds her that she is the reason behind their poverty. Still, she finds small glimmers of light through her best friend and longtime crush Julian Porter. For Noelle, making it to graduation is the only thing that matters.
When Noelle witnesses another bullied student's torture however, she realizes that it's time for things to change—for the better. Slowly, she gains the courage to stand up for herself, her fellow victims, and even faces her own mother.
Our Favorite Part: Jullian takes Noelle into the city where they share a romantic date. It was a heartfelt moment during a tough time in Noelle's life, reminding readers that there is always hope.
You'll love it if...you love reading an inspirational anti-bullying story. Everyone knows at least one bully in their school. Susane Colasanti shows us that you don't have to stand by and watch them continue their torture.
Susane Colasanti's latest lead character, a victim of bullying, narrates with an authentic voice in a novel that may well unite teens everywhere.
Noelle Wexler is counting down the days to high school graduation so she can escape Middle of Nowhere, USA. She hopes to make the world a better place, after it's been so harsh to her ("If we're not improving the world in some way, then what's the point?"). Since ninth grade, Warner Talbot has humiliated her for being so poor that she's eaten mayonnaise and mustard sandwiches during lunch. Carly, who's also been "obsessed with bullying" Noelle for three years, physically harasses her. Between getting publicly stood up by her almost-boyfriend Matt, and her neglectful and delusional mother, Noelle feels weak and "impossible to love."
Noelle knows that "[o]ne thing about being bullied is that you quickly learn how to avoid the people who make your life miserable." While this isn't always easy, Noelle does find friends who are true to themselves despite what anyone else thinks of them, such as Simon Bruckner, an "outsider by choice," who encourages Noelle to join the school's literary magazine, and Julian Porter, who cares for her, much to her disbelief.
Keep Holding On is a brave and sensitive novel for bullied teens that assures them that life gets easier, sometimes by finding the strength to speak up and take a stand.
- Shelf Awareness
This book broke my heart in a hundred and sixty-five different ways. It’s the first book I’ve read that’s shown the emotional and the physical effects of bullying and it really got to me.
Noelle is constantly bullied at her school. Whether it’s because of the outfit she wore that day or the sandwich she packed, there’s always this punk ass kid, Warner, there to make her feel like crap. She’d much rather avoid lunchtime humiliation and I can attest that when you have no friends in your lunch period, the bathroom seems like a good option. And that’s where Noelle finds herself, avoiding the cafeteria and eating her lettuce sammie in the girl’s room. *insert sniffle*
But then good ol’ Simon Bruckner comes along! And he invites her to join the school’s literary magazine, which they’d have to work on during the lunch period. HUZZAH! An offer Noelle can’t pass up! I saw Simon as a Godsend and I think Noelle did too! He’s just this super nice kid and I personally loved him and his skinny ties! :P
Considering that Noelle bypasses the lunchroom you’d think she’d be in the clear right? Wrong. Warner wasn’t the worst of her problems, there’s also a witch named Carly. And she threatens/verbally attacks Noelle almost on a daily basis. Oh my gosh. I wanted to reach through the pages and strangle her. She was terrible.
The underlying problem for Noelle is that she’s living in this community where everyone is extremely wealthy and she’s very low class. She can’t afford healthy food, “stylish clothes” or even feminine products. She uses a crate as a nightstand, and she’s lucky if she sneaks a shower in the morning or if her laundry gets done. She’s embarrassed by all of this, so she tries to hide it from everyone, even her best friend. Oh! And she also has an absolutely horrific mother. For some reason I just can’t deal with moms who neglect their kids. At home, Noelle is basically invisible unless her mom wants to go off on some kind of tangent. I will not accept this. *insert chest pains*
Thank heavens for her best friend, Sherae, though! Even if it took awhile for Noelle to open up to Sherae, she eventually did. Sherae was there to pick up some of the pieces and was just a really good friend. (I very much would like to go over to her house for some chocolate cake.)
Throughout the book there’s also this adorably nice boy named Julian. *sighs* He’s the sweetest little thing. He was always giving Noelle compliments or talking to her about things she loves, and then...one night...he calls her and asks her out! Problem is, she’s sorta secretly seeing a douche-tool named, Matt. UGH. That was the suckiest relationship in the history of ever. For multiple reasons. Thank goodness it ended.
After her fallout with Matt comes a turning point the story. A scene where a couple of girls ambush Noelle at the bus stop and shoot paintballs at her. It was so painful to read. Not only because she actually got attacked but because she actually thought the guns were real. She didn’t even attempt to run. She didn’t even try to fight for her life in that moment. Giving up would’ve been easier. *insert MASSIVE tears here*
THIS POOR GIRL. I don’t want to give too much else away except that something major happens to someone Noelle knows and it kind of changes her whole perspective. She learns that she needs to stand up not only for herself but for other people who are bullied as well.
By the end of the book she also learns that keeping people at a distance isn’t the best way to live and she finally lets Julian into her life. He is perfection. He’s passionate about the things he loves, he’s considerate of other people and he gives Noelle a second chance. HEARTS, HEARTS, HEARTS. I heart him.
Overall, Keeping Holding On is a powerful story about never giving up and learning to stand up for yourself. With loveable characters, deep-rooted issues and a bit of romance, this book packs an emotional punch! I definitely recommend it!
- Brooke Reports
This is one of those books I want to hand out to every person who's dealing with a bully, has been bullied and has yet to deal with a bully. Susane Colasanti packs a powerful punch with her newest release, Keep Holding On. This story totally broke my heart, bothered me to no end because of some of the things that happen in this book, moved me to tears, and left me feeling hopeful for Noelle. This story is an eye opener. It's one that will move readers as much as it will inspire them. Noelle's story is full of grace, strength, heartbreak, bullying, love, and that little thing that keeps Noelle going even when she doesn't have much to go on for, HOPE.
Noelle is an amazing strong character! I say that in the same breath as I say she's incredibly broken as well. She's brave and surprisingly strong, because even in the face of her daily bullying, her constant teasing, living with a single mother who completely neglects her, and doing her best just to survive each day, Noelle keeps her inner head held high. She will do whatever it takes to stay strong in the face of so much discouragement and hate. When I would have crumbled, she kept going. Let me just say, Noelle deals with some pretty cruel things from some pretty terrible people that had me wanting to go all "mama bear" on them. Seriously, it was painful reading what she had to endure by herself. It was horrifying to know that there are kids that really do endure the bullying on the same level Noelle does and worse.
Aside from the hope that keeps Noelle going is her amazingly awesome best friend Sherae, who will do anything for her. The relationship these two have is so well written and created. I loved it! The other person I enjoyed getting to read about is the story's main love interest Julian. Their relationship was built up so naturally and it was so wonderful to see a relationship like theirs. The progression was well paced and really fit in with Noelle's story. The other thing I enjoyed was the list that Noelle kept of all the ways she as a teacher (she wants to be a teacher or a writer) was going to help stop the fight against bullying. Numerous times she thinks back on all the bullying incidents that have happened to her were no one, not even a teacher who witnessed what was happening, took a stand against it. Shocking, I know.
Huge kudos to Susane for tackling such tough issues. The things that Noelle deals with are serious issues that teens face today, and through Noelle's story Susane brings them to light with such poise. She creates a story that pulls you in with Noelle's voice, and then emotionally grabs at you either from things you've personally dealt with as a reader when you were a teen, or it will grab at you because you're dealing with it now or know someone who is. Susane nails bullying on the head. She doesn't just say bullying is bad, as a reader you get the firsthand effects of how it affects Noelle, and the horrible things this poor girl has to endure. Through Noelle, we also see the deadly effects bullying has on others, the guilt some of us carry for not speaking up and how it moves others to stand up and take action.
Through all the tough things that Noelle faces and deals with, I loved her positive attitude, and the fact that she never gave up! She didn't let the bullies control her, even if they controlled the situations they created. NEVER GIVE UP is one of the strong messages Noelle's story shares. The book ends on a high note with a powerful message from Noelle talking directly to the reader. Susane herself also includes a message of hope from her personal letter to readers about her dealing with bullying, and at the very end of the book is a list of organizations who are there to help teens cope and get through all they're dealing with. Noelle's message is a powerful one mixed into a well written contemporary. This is a book that I'd HIGHLY recommend picking up! This is for teens as much as it is for parents and teachers, etc.
- Mundie Moms
School was the most difficult time in my life. I didn't have it as bad as Noelle. I have a great family who gave me everything I needed, but my school life was terrible. I was picked on and laughed at for being little. I had a hard time approaching people to make friends. I was even bullied by a teacher who made it a point to humiliate me. I was too young to realize this back then, but I will never forgive her. This all made me lash out and act in ways that made myself unapproachable. Being from a very small town like Noelle, this story hit incredibly close to home. It may not be a perfect book, but it still deserves every single star I can give for the simple fact that this sends a strong message that could help people live through what may be the hardest years of their lives.
Noelle had my sympathy from the very first page. She's an immensely strong willed person to have kept herself together the way she did. She is intelligent and caring. She has a huge heart that has been trampled on, but she never gives up. I admire her will and I think a lot of people could learn from her. Her emotions are vivid. She made my heart break and gave me goosebumps by seeing her finally stand up for herself. Yes she makes some stupid decisions, yes it's obvious to us how Matt is using her, yes her reaction to others being bullied is ironic. It may be hard to understand, but when you can avoid making your life even worse, you do so. We have to realize that this girl is stifled in a life of depression and shame, her irrational decisions are due to an unconscious defense mechanism. We'd like to think someone who gets bullied would help others in the same boat, but I call that wishful thinking.
The side characters, though some more than others, have a big a role in the story as well. From her best friend to the bullies, these were plucked out from real life with real problems of their own. I also found her mother very convincing. She's a horrible parent figure, but unlike some other books I've read it didn't feel exaggerated for the sake of the story. It felt like a realistic situation where the parent is just as lost as the child. It's sad, but more often than we realize there are kids who raise themselves, do their own laundry, don't get enough to eat, etc. It's horrible. It really is.
Being a very short book it packs quite the punch; the story is packed full of emotional highs and lows. Like I said it's not perfect, some things could been fleshed out - like her friendship with Sherae, her relationship with Julian, and the ending which I felt was a bit implausible or too good to be true. In real life things don't usually turn around so quickly. Nonetheless, the story is touching. It could definitely help give some kids hope and I think this is what matters in the end.
Yes it's true, things get better. What happens in school doesn't matter when you're older. If only this was easy to believe when you're a teenager. I commend Susane for taking her experience and writing such an encouraging story. It takes courage, I know just by writing this that it IS embarrassing to admit you were bullied, but you know what? Don't ever be ashamed! This is what defines who we become, and I would not change a thing about my life today!
- Xpresso Reads
Three “rules” exist for surviving the school cafeteria: chew, swallow, and no matter what happens, ignore everyone else around you. Lunch period is the worst, but in Keep Holding On, there really isn’t any safe place for Noelle at school. Other than ignoring the constant stream of comments, the only strategy Noelle has is to keep her embarrassing home life a complete secret. She has an emotionally distant boyfriend, Matt, but she’d rather be with Julian Porter. (If only she was good enough for him.) When Julian starts talking with her, Noelle is terrified and believes that staying right where she is would be safer. Only when the bullying of a friend goes too far does she realize that she needs to take a stand for herself and everything that makes her want to keep holding on.
Last year, I read and loved Susane Colasanti, so I knew that when Keep Holding On came out I had to read it. I thought her 2012 release would be a light, contemporary YA novel like her 2011 release, but it was so much more than I expected. Colasanti brings to life a character in Noelle who is so real and authentic that it’s no wonder that some of the author’s own experiences with bullying went into creating her. More importantly, Noelle’s story and character development are sure to resonate with teens, their teachers, and adult readers of YA who have ever been in Noelle’s place. In some moments, Colasanti’s narrative and Noelle’s inner voice will break your heart and move you to tears. (Keep the kleenex near by with this one.) But at other times, the author will empower Noelle in important ways, ways which will help teen readers realize that there always is something worth holding on to, even in their darkest moments.
Clearly those who appreciate emotionally-heavy, character-driven, contemporary YA should check out Keep Holding On. However, there is more to this novel than just a story of a girl being bullied at school and suffering from low self esteem. For starters, each chapter identifies not only the date, but also the number of days left . She may not explicitly state what she’s counting down to right away, but Noelle’s perspective helps readers make the connection for themselves. As much of this book is written as Noelle’s interior monologue, the moments when Colasanti decides to break out of the main character’s voice become even more pronounced. In some of these moments, Noelle recollects an instance of abuse she suffered, often in the form of a note passed among her classmates, but in others, Noelle lists one of the many items on her list of things she’d do when she becomes a teacher. All of these aspects of the novel, and others, reflect the ways in which the novel’s form helps illuminate the meaning or function of a specific scene. By exploring these elements, Colasanti proves her facility with not only a powerful story, but also the poetic techniques that elevate a novel to an important work of art.
Finally, I loved that this novel slowly brings us—as readers—further into Noelle’s psyche as the novel progresses. We know from page one that Noelle’s life is hard, but only as the author reveals more information about her past and present situation do we have a clear picture of how hard it actually is for her. Not only does this pacing allow readers to become increasingly engaged with Noelle’s story, but also makes the novel more realistic. Why do I say that? Well, the way Noelle comes to realize things about herself is a process that doesn’t happen immediately. Sometimes, in fact, a catalyzing event needs to happen for her to recognize the extent of her feelings about any one aspect of her life, much in the same way that real teens would come to this type of realization. Through Colasanti’s portrayal of Noelle’s growth over the course of the novel, the author demonstrates a thorough understanding not only of teens, but also of human nature. Moreover, her efficient prose heightens the emotional tenor of a scene at precisely the right moment. Colasanti’s understanding of character and her facility with connecting to a reader’s emotions makes her a YA writer that I’ll be watching closely.
Whether you’re a teen going through tough times or suffering from depression, a teacher who wants to make sure your students know it gets better, or someone who loves hard-hitting and truthful YA lit, then please, do yourself a favor, and pick up Keep Holding On today. And once you read it, make sure it gets into the hands of (other) teens who need it.
- YA Book Shelf
After getting about halfway through Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti, an author whom I had never read before, I made a quick visit to her website to learn more about her. Going in, I had not realized how strongly the theme of bullying would play in this book, and many of the experiences that Noelle Wexler faces are eerily similar to things that happened to me any time from kindergarten to 9th grade when I attended three different private parochial schools. Keep Holding On is based on Susane’s experiences growing up, and maybe even on some of the things she saw happen to her students when she taught for 10 years. I admire Susane for re-living those painful memories to create this wonderful book that will be a friend to teenage girls and boys going through similar situations at home and at school.
Noelle Wexler cannot wait to graduate from high school. She is saving every penny so that she can move out, go to college, and start over. Every day she goes to school, fearful of what will be said to her and what a few of her fellow students might do to her. Noelle has one good friend, Sherae, but even Sherae does not know how truly awful things are for Noelle at home. Her classmates pick on her because she writes song lyrics on her sneakers, assembles strange sandwiches for lunch because her mother doesn’t purchase enough groceries, and has had a few unfortunate incidents with wearing smelly/dirty clothes to school because her mother “forgot” to do her laundry. Warren and Carly see all of these less-than-perfect things about Noelle, and refuse to let her forget about them.
The only light for Noelle is her secretive relationship with Matt. They meet in an unused part of school grounds to make out during study hall. Noelle feels great when she is in Matt’s arms and their lips are locked, but she wants to take their relationship public. Matt isn’t ready to take that step with her, and Noelle figures he just needs more time. Meanwhile, Julian asks Noelle out on a date and she turns him down. She has had feelings for him forever, but thinks he is too good for her.
More than any other literary character I have encountered, Noelle is the one I identify with the most. Throughout my reading of Keep Holding On, I kept highlighting passages that really stood out to me: heartbreaking ones, profound ones, and hopeful ones. Sometimes I highlighted nearly the entire page. This is one of the most important books that I have read this year and probably in my entire life; if you or any friend you might have is going to school afraid of their peers, you need to read this book. High school can be an unforgiving world. But life does get better, and it can start with just a few ripples. Noelle finds sanctuary when she joins the lit mag as co-editor. She experiences what it feels like to share common interests with other students like Simon, who is like her guardian angel in so many ways. I adored Simon for all the little things he did to make Noelle’s life better. I loved Sherae for being the best friend and support system that Noelle needed, and for convincing her that she mattered and that she should not let Julian slip through her fingers. We all need a best friend like Sherae!
All of you, step back for a second and look at yourself in the mirror. Who are you? Are you the person who hears those hurtful words, or are you the one who is dishing them out? If it’s the latter, I want you to hear me. Once those words leave your mouth, they can never be taken back. Whoever you have addressed them to will not hear them just that one time; those words will be re-played for many years to come. That will be your legacy, how you will be remembered for a lifetime. Even if you go on to do great, charitable things, to at least one person who will be nothing more than a wound inflictor. No one should want to be remembered that way. Take care with your words and actions; they cut deep wounds.
- Literally Jen
I just want to hug everyone in this book, you guys. All of them. Even the bullies (sometimes...maybe just a pat on the back). I want to take them all home with me and feed them and read them stories and reassure them that life gets better.
My heart is so broken over the idea that this book isn't just a story to someone - it's THEIR story. This is their reality. And I hate that so much. I couldn't help it but feel that some of this could be an extreme version - but then it makes me feel guilty that it's "extreme" to me because I was so, so fortunate to never go through this. It's absolutely shattering to know that someone is probably relating to this, going through the exact same thing.
The secondary characters were the best. I mean, I liked Noelle, the main character: she was a solid teenage girl, going through the paces and making my heart contract when she didn't fight back. She grew and evolved really well. But all those around her were amazing. Sherae was the best friend we all want, I'm so in love with Simon (lit mag editor?! Yes PLEASE!), and I want to marry Julian. I want someone to say "I'd do anything for you, don't you know that?" to me. That line literally made my heart skip. Ms. Scofield was quirky and jumped right off the page for me, recalling several favourite teachers from my past. And even though I just wanted to shake Noelle's mom until she came to her senses, I thought she was done well, too.
I really liked that Susane Colasanti gave lovable characters in this. That she gave Noelle lifelines, that they were true friends to her throughout her ordeal. I liked that Noelle was the block for most of the novel, not being able to get over her own humiliation and embarrassment to reach out to those there for her. The story itself is woven really well. Bullying is often about the internal and the external, how those around you can affect what's inside you, and I think Susane told this brilliantly.
Keep Holding On is also very well rounded and reasoned. I'm not sure I'm saying that correctly - what I mean is that it's inevitable for you to start questioning things when you're reading. Why doesn't Noelle tell Julian? Why doesn't she dump Matt? Why doesn't Sherae tell? Why does Carly suck so hard? Why would Audrey do what she does? What is wrong with Noelle's mom? The book answers every single one of those. For everything that happens, there's an explanation that goes with it - and I really love that. It makes the novel real, and full, and sweeps me right along into the drama and emotion of it since I feel like I really understand everything.
So, there's really not much much else to say about this book, except that it's an important one. I want to pass it out to every high schooler in the world. I encourage everyone to read it, and share it with others, and to talk to each other.
- Ashley Loves Books
Keep Holding On is like a giant stop sign screaming, "WAIT! STOP! DON'T YOU SEE WHAT YOU'RE DOING? DON'T YOU SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING?" Susane's words leap off the page in an array of promise and hope, desperation and authenticity. She's encapsulated a common teenage life into one of the shortest—yet fullest—books I've ever read. And the entire transformation of Noelle's character is so believable and complete that I am in awe of Susane's obvious understanding of both the topic and her talent.
This book incarcerated me. I'm out at dinner, eating hot pot with my parents, waiting for the food to arrive and reading this and BAM it's like everything I try to forget just drowns me again. I was addicted and terrified of Susane's words. They crippled and crushed and dared me to hope. They were so real I could barely stand it. Of course, my situation is not even close to how badly Noelle gets treated, but I can relate to her, and I even pronounce it almost impossible to not relate. There are some feelings that are too hard to ignore—too rare to be immune to—and one of those is sympathy. Sympathy and an eagerness to understand. (Though again, some people's qualities and actions continually surprise me—though they shouldn't. I should probably be used to them by now.)
Funny. I'm more like Simon—I don't give a darn what you think about me—I just live life because I don't think there's a point in wasting it on not-being-awesome. But we all have times when we just sink until we can't breathe, and Keep Holding On is it. It's beautifully heartbreaking and tragically sweet, subtly raging and fabulously daring. I'm in love with it and Noelle and Julian, and this book gives me so much strength—so unbelievably much—I'm still rocketing around on an I-CAN-DO-ANYTHING! high.
Life's weird. Life's stupid and gorgeous and obnoxious and endowing. Keep Holding On will guide you through the storms and find the rainbow.
- The Reviews News
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 study hall 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.
- The Hate-Mongering Tart
Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti was an unbelievably heartbreaking and moving book. I was not bullied back in high school, and I didn't really know anyone who was, so Keep Holding On was also definitely an eye opener for me.
Throughout the entirety of Keep Holding On, I just could not believe what was happening. People are truly this terrible to other people in high school? It was shocking and upsetting. Keep Holding On is definitely a book that needs to be out there in the world to give students hope.
As for the characters, I loved Noelle. She has a hard life and she's not sure what she's doing, but she's still so inspiring and brave for all the things she does. Even if sometimes they were too late. She was definitely the most genuine character I've read in a while. And I loved the natural build of the romance between Noelle and Julian.
Like I said, the story completely broke my heart. I ached for Noelle. I wanted to fix all her problems and yell at all the terrible people in her life. Throughout Keep Holding On we really got to watch her grow and become a stronger person, and I loved that.
Overall, you should buy Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti and give a copy to everyone you know. It's eye opening, moving, and inspiring. A wonderful contemporary.
- Tara's Reviews
This book just left me speechless. It was just so utterly powerful, heartbreaking and thought provoking read. Susane Colasanti has brought an upsetting and emotional issue that many teenagers experience throughout high school to light through this book.
Noelle lives in a town where everyone has money, except Noelle and her mother. Noelle is constantly bullied. She is judged by her lack of expensive clothes or her lack of food. Her best friend is always there for her but Noelle keeps everything a secret even from her best friend. She hides how much she gets bullied and how much her mother actually neglects her. To top it all off the guy that she has had a crush on for years is starting to pay more attention to her but she is terrified that he will find out all her secrets.
I admired Noelle’s character so much throughout this book. She was bullied in a way that was absolutely mean and horrible that every time something happened to her I wanted to cry but Noelle just picked up and kept going. She was an extremely strong and admirable character. After a terrible tragedy occurs at her school, Noelle starts to realize that she doesn’t have to do this on her own and starts to stand up to her bullies.
The bullying in this book was so intense and heartbreaking. I didn’t realize that people could be this cruel to one person. It just hit me hard. Susane Colasanti did a magnificent job at making this book so realistic, emotional and just brilliantly hopeful and encouraging. I recommend everyone to read this book!
- Moonlight Reader