I had higher hopes for Keep Holding On then what the book delivered. I was hoping for something more along the lines of Saving Francesca
, Life Without Friends
, Fat Kid Rules the World
or Feeling Sorry for Celia
. All of these books deal with tough life stuff without meandering into after school special territory. Celia cooked herself dinner which Noelle desperately could have learned to do for herself. I grew up in a "whatever you want to fix" childhood. I was also nicknamed "laundry girl" by my mom because that was my chore. I speak from experience that this is a needed skill. It was terrible her mother neglected her, and I understand the tension she felt but, still her expectations reminded me of the book Coraline. "Why don't you go ask your other mother if you want pancakes?"
I hate to be unsympathetic but, you have to suck it up and fend for yourself. By sixteen you should start learning life skills.
Noelle, please go buy your own tampons. You are sixteen years old. You even had a previous embarassing experience of bleeding on the seats. Periods come once a month. This story might have been better served had it been set when she was younger. It explained her low self esteem problems that her mother treated her that way but, it did not help the general helplessness in other areas.
Keep Holding On resembled the film Pretty in Pink
with shades of Seventh Heaven
mixed in with a Sweet Valley High
book where Elizabeth helps a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.
I get that low self esteem and depression are frustrating issues. From the outside looking in people appear to have better lives than they do. This is an aspect we did not miss from Noelle despite reading the book from her perspective. She was wholly self absorbed throughout. This is exactly what her mother's problem was. They were clearly a lot alike if Noelle bothered to consider things from another point of view.
It was the best part of this book is when Noelle's counselor gets her to see her mother's side of the story.
Every guy in the school had a crush on her. She had the lit paper and a best friend. Her outlook on life was negative just like her mother's. The storyline about poor Ali was heartbreaking. She kept trying to reach out to Noelle who cruelly didn't want to be made fun of. This reminded me of that horrid film Welcome to the Dollhouse. Geeks are far crueller than popular girls were to me in school. I hated Noelle for this. She lost most of the sympathy I had for her.
Noelle was a character whose entire problem was needing to fit in to the exclusion of all else. For an example, she doesn't take advantage of school lunches because she was embarassed. When I was a youngster I was socially awkward and ignorant about things like social class. I bragged that I did not have to pay for my lunches and got them for free. I was a pretty stupid kid. I'm more like Haverchuck from Noelle's favourite show Freaks and Geeks
going through my life oblivious and doing what I want to do. This girl watched this show obsessively, and didn't remember that awesome scene of Haverchuck and the grilled cheese sandwhiches? Do your own thing. People will always hate and will always try to stop people from doing what they want. You can't make them happy.
She did think the 'Lady L" song was meant to be romantic. That was not how I took Nick and Lindsey's relationship at all. I did like the Freaks and Geeks shoutouts nonetheless.
If I could I wish I could give each adolescent the gift of perspective.
1] If no one likes the bitchy girl terrorising the school then she isn't actually popular. [I got this from my older brother when I was in school. He was right on.] Popular means well liked.
2] If they don't want to be seen with you in public then dump them.
3] If someone threatens to kill themself if you dump them just be glad you got away from that manipulative control freak. Who knows what else they'd do? [Also advice from my brother]
4] No one is paying attention to you because everyone is too busy trying to deal. [I got this from my girl Buffy.]
5] It doesn't actually change after highschool... guys like the Walden guy are still going to be in the workforce.] Bullies who don't finess their cruelty end in jail but, most are just as nasty as they were in highschool. Everyone else is just trying to live their lives.
Noelle had very unrealistic ideas about the role adults play in society. Her inner monologues about adults who could have done something felt more like the author shaming teachers. Teachers have a tough enough time in American schools. We all wish we had a Melina Marchetta as a teacher in highschool but, the best most of us got were hippies that played Paul Simon live in Africa tapes while waxing our career opportunities at Taco Bell. I'd personally have liked a teacher like in Mean Girls as well.
Noelle was kidding herself that she'd help any kid when she turned her back on poor Ali. This girl never once put herself in someone else's shoes. This ended up being how I knew she was depressed. Depressed people are blind to everyone else. The book was very vague that she had a cutting box or meant to kill herself.
I found this particularly disturbing since having that as an option is not helpful despite what Noelle thought. I hated my mother for putting that out there as an option with her joint suicide proposals. I think it made my own depression problems much worse.
Yup, doing your own laundry, cooking and grocery shopping is normal. Right? It's not? Oh well. I lived. I think the best thing families and people can do for themselves is stop comparing themselves to others. It's always different on the outside.
I liked the sentiment this book was going for but, it didn't top the infamous scene from Pretty In Pink.
"I hope they shrivel up and fall off"
"You hope what shrivels up and falls of?"
"Her breasts... Miss Deeds."