Author: Susane Colasanti
Author's Website: http://www.susanecolasanti.com/
Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Released: May 31, 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Noelle has a terrible home life - her mother is basically defunct, there's no money and never any decent food, she has to do her own laundry and pick up toiletries on the downlow. And on top of that, she's bullied mercilessly at school. But she keeps her head down, sticking close to Sherae, her one friend, and waiting for all of this to be over, when she can move out of this small town and into the city, and start a new life. But when the bullying goes too far with another girl in school, Noelle realizes that she can't just sit back and wait - she has to do something.Don't let the cover fool you - this is not really a romance. Yes, Noelle has a romance with Julian, and that's a pretty important part of the story, but the main part of the story is about self-confidence and standing up to bullies. I teared up a couple of times - it's that type of book. Interestingly enough, this was an eye-opener for me as to the extent of bullying that goes on in high schools. I went to a religious school, where we had our fair share of cliques, but not outright nastiness and deep suffering like this. When I read Susane's note at the end, I realized that everything she wrote is true, without exaggeration. And then I watched the X Factor, where Jillian Jensen shared her story about being bullied, and it's just mind-boggling to me that this actually goes on. That kids actually live with this, day in and day out. That school, where everything is supposed to be safe before you go out into the big wide world, can be a hell on earth.
Noelle is such a strong character. Even when she's doing nothing to stop the bullying, she has such strength, just to keep going, to "keep holding on," in the face of such terrible trials. But her self-doubt creeps in as a result of all of it, and she almost destroys her chance at actual happiness because she feels she isn't worthy, when Julian asks her out. To complicate things, she has such low self-esteem that she doesn't even realize it when her "boyfriend" is using her and is so undeserving of her.
The thing is, I loved the book up until the last few pages. I wasn't so happy with what happens when Noelle stands up to the bully face to face. Someone else steps in to defend her, but that person ends up bullying the bully. To me, that just reinforces the cycle and doesn't teach the lesson that bullying is wrong. For a book that's meant to teach a lesson, it fell short for me in that respect.
If I starred books, I'd give this one three and a half, because I really loved the storytelling, but the resolution fell flat.