About the book
Hold On is a stand-alone contemporary young adult novel by Alan Gibbons. It was published by Indigo on 6th September and the book is 176 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com)
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.
What I thought
I really have to be in the mood to read something like this, considering the topic. Because of this, I had put off reading it for a little while but after not fancying much else on my shelf one night, this is what I went for and it made me sad that I had left it there for so long once I was finished.
Hold On tells the stories of John and Annie. The book is told through a dual narrative, Annie telling her side of things and John from the perspective of a diary. I really enjoyed the way that this was done as it was a bit different from the norm. Many books have dual narration but this is usually done straight from each characters point of view. The use of a diary broke the story up a bit and it also stopped us having two characters just telling us what was going on.
This is a story about the lead up to bullying, the actual bullying and what can happen when things get out of hand. The story is told in different parts and the timeline is quite jumbled but I liked this. Alan Gibbons jumps from the past to the present and back again numerous times and this gives the story a quick pace and an interesting story. Through Annie’s eyes, we get to see how she met John and what happened to him because of the bullying. Through John’s eyes, we get to see how he feels about himself, others around him and his life in general.
Hold On really has an important issue running throughout which is obviously bullying. At times, this was a book which was extremely hard to read due to the subject matter. I hated reading about what other kids could do to someone without realising the effects it would have on them, and also seeing them not even care. I hated seeing John so upset and not knowing how to cope with anything. I hated that there was nothing Annie could do to help until it was too late. Gibbons puts so much emotion into his characters that it would extremely hard to not feel for them and wish things had been different.
Due to the way that this story is told, it does get a little complex and slightly confusing at times but not for long. When new things become apparent about John and Annie, they are quickly explained so that things don’t get too muddled up in your head. Gibbons also has a wonderful way with words and somehow manages to make a story that is so hard hitting into something breath-taking and beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and want more from this author now!