Authors: Susane Colasanti
When It Happens
Take Me There
Waiting for You
Something Like Fate
So Much Closer
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First published in 2012 by Viking, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
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Copyright © Susane Colasanti, 2012
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Keep holding on / by Susane Colasanti.
Summary: Bullied at school and neglected by her poor, self-absorbed, single mother at home, high school junior Noelle finally reaches the breaking point after a classmate commits suicide.
[1. Self-perception—Fiction. 2. Bullies—Fiction. 3. Poverty—Fiction. 4. High schools—Fiction. 5. Schools—Fiction.] I. Title.
Printed in U.S.A. Set in Minion
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For Tyler Clementi.
For every other teen who felt like
they couldn’t hold on anymore.
And for everyone who’s been bullied,
neglected, or left out.
You are not alone.
Be strong and never give up.
Julian Porter is
The blocking is probably unintentional. He sits two rows behind me in Spanish. We have to use the same aisle to get to our desks. I know he’s already been to his desk because his notebook and pen are sitting on it. Maybe he forgot something in his locker. Whatever the reason, he’s coming out of our aisle as I’m trying to go in.
Julian moves over to let me pass. I can feel him smiling down at me, but I can’t really look up at him. Looking at him is beyond intense. It’s like looking at the sun. But I can see him without looking. Images of Julian are burned into my brain. Hazel-green eyes. Disheveled sandy-blond hair. All-American Boy build. Four inches taller than me. Even the intricacies of his glasses are permanently etched in my memory, with their rectangular black frames that glint electric blue when the light catches them a certain way.
I press up against Julian as I brush past him. We’re talking serious sensory overload here. I’m overwhelmed with more attraction in this instant than I’ve ever felt with Matt Brennan. And I let Matt put his hands all over me.
I want Julian Porter to put his hands all over me. I want him to take me to his room and kiss me all night.
Does liking two boys at the same time make me a slut?
Having Spanish with Julian is excruciating. I’m always wondering if he’s looking at me. Or at least thinking about me. When I’m supposed to be paying attention to imperfect verb conjugation, I’m sneaking looks at Julian instead. There are ways to sneak looks at him without being obvious. Usually, I pretend I’m looking at something to the side and then rely on my peripheral vision. Or I’ll turn around and pretend to be interested when someone in the back is answering a question. I don’t like watching people answer questions, though. I get so nervous when teachers call on me. And the way everyone stares at me when I’m answering makes me even more nervous.
The bell rings for class to start. Julian comes back to our aisle. My heart pounds so hard I suspect it’s visible to anyone within a five-mile radius. On his way back to his desk, Julian slides two fingers over the fresh page in my notebook.
Why did he touch my notebook like that?
What does it
I have a sudden urge to rip out the page and save it. But if Julian saw me do that, it would be crazy obvious. I might be crazy obvious when I sneak looks at him, too. I should probably cut down on that.
No one ever wants to sit with me at lunch.
I never look around in the cafeteria. Being forced to sit here like some trapped zoo animal eating alone for the whole world to watch is embarrassing enough. I really don’t need to see them laughing at me.
I wish I could be transported to another school in an alternate universe where required learning doesn’t have to involve this traumatic test of survival skills. No one would care if you’re different in the alternate universe. Or maybe
would be different. How cool would it be if differences were celebrated? And the more different you were, the better? Fitting in would be a totally foreign concept.
But no. I’m stuck in this universe.
Don’t look up.
Tommy sits alone at the small table by the door. I sneak a glance at him. Our eyes lock.
The Eye Lock says,
We are both outsiders.
We are outsiders for different reasons. Tommy doesn’t fit in due to extreme geekitude. With me, it’s a lot more complicated.
I look back down at my lunch. Tommy and I have acknowledged that we are both rejects. But each of us will continue to pretend that we’re not the bigger reject.
My lunch is:
I qualify for free lunch, but there’s no way I’d subject myself to that kind of humiliation. You have to show a special card that everyone would see. The free-lunch cards are orange. The normal cards are blue. I’d rather scavenge in our empty refrigerator than have everyone know how poor I am.
Not that I’d ever buy lunch anyway. Back when I had friends, I might have gone up to get a pack of cookies or something. But now I’d have to walk all the way from the front of the cafeteria to my table in the back with everyone watching. Which would draw even more attention to the fact that I sit alone.
There’s a snort of laughter from the next table. My shoulders clench.
Warner Talbot is pointing at my sandwich. I try to avoid sitting near him. But when you’re the person no one wants to sit with, you don’t always have a choice about where you end up.
“Dude,” Warner says. “Her sandwich is only lettuce!”
“That’s messed up,” someone at his table says.
My face burns.
Their sandwiches are fat with meat and cheese and lettuce and tomato. I bet those cold cuts are the expensive ones from the deli section at the gourmet grocery store. I bet their sandwiches have two kinds of cheese. I try to imagine what it feels like to bite
into a sandwich packed with all those things. Crunching through the lettuce. The juicy tomato bursting with flavor. The soft succulence of the meat and cheese.
Rich-kid sandwiches must taste incredible.
I try to hide my sad sandwich under the table. That just makes them laugh harder.
Making fun of me apparently never gets old for Warner Talbot. He’s been exposing my lunches for two years, ever since the first day of ninth grade. All I could find in the refrigerator that day was mayonnaise, mustard, and the end slice of some bread. So I made a mayonnaise and mustard sandwich. Well, half a sandwich—I had to fold the slice of bread over. And somehow, Warner was right there laughing at me. It was like his radar for unfortunate people went ballistic when it detected me, all flashing red lights and wailing sirens.
Warner says, “Someone throw this girl a biscuit.”
Everyone at his table laughs.
They know I can hear them.
They just don’t care.