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Review of Hold On by Alan Gibbons

by - April 27, 2014

Format: Paperback
Genres: Suicide, Bullying,
Pages: 176
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Release Date: 01/10/2006
Find The Author: Website ¦ Twitter
Amazon UK/US ¦ Goodreads

When Annie returns from an extended stay in Canada, she discovers that her friend John has killed himself. Annie is devastated by his death and is determined to confront those she believes responsible—a group of boys from her school, who bullied John mercilessly in the months before he died. But Annie's parents and friends don't share her wish to bring the boys to justice. She finds herself treading a lonely path—and soon discovers that nothing is straightforward. She is helplessly attracted to one of the boys, and when she reads John's diary, it's clear they weren't the only ones to cause him so much unhappiness. The novel tells John's story as a tragic waste of a young life in an unsentimental and compassionate way, but also tells Annie's story about moving on and looking towards the future.

"Everywhere you look there are thousands of people making do, getting by. Then, every once in a while, there is somebody like John, somebody who can't do it any longer. You hear them break, like a precious vase dropped during an auction. People look away, embarrassed." - Page 107 

I spotted this little book in an Oxfam shop while I was on holiday in Somerset. I've read one or two of Alan Gibbon's books before and loved them, but these were more Middle Grade, so I knew I had to have this one. I read the whole book in two sittings on the coach (yes, I paused for a nap. It was a 6 hour journey and no windows to open. Sue me.). Hold On is the tale of Annie and John, and the aftermath of John's suicide. It's told from both of their perspectives, Annie's from the present and John's from the past, in his diary entries. Annie's side is very sad and angry, she wants revenge for the death of her friend and naturally she blames his tormentors for his death. John is also sad, but more poetic and full of hope for this new friendship he has with Annie.

I really hated John's parents. I felt that they were as much to blame for John's death as the group of boys that bullied him, if not more so. John is overweight and his father uses every opportunity to make sure he knows it. Meanwhile, his mother just does nothing, which is possibly even more frustrating. Annie's friend, Bryony, really is a true friend. She sticks by her no matter what Annie does and does her best to help her. In most books, Annie would be left to her own devices.

One of the most interesting characters for me was Matthew, one of the bullies. He knows he's done some pretty horrible things in the past but his character really shows how easily it is to get caught up in a gang and follow along with what they're doing in high school, even if you don't want to. I think he had some of the best character development in the book.

There's is a small romance aspect in this and although I did see it coming I was hoping I was wrong. When it did happen, it felt very forced and I felt that it really didn't need to be there. Apart from anything, it made no sense. I do highly recommend this book to anyone interested in difficult subjects such as bullying and suicide, it's a seriously good book. Plus, there's some really nice poems from John too.

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  1. Nice Review. I'd like to read the book now! :)


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