You know how you always think there's something...more?
Months before her Senior year in high school, our heroine, Hayley Matthews decides to give up marching band and try out for the varsity cheerleading squad. She isn't sure she'll make it, even though she knows how to tumble and is a fast-learner when it comes to dance. She makes the team--to her delight--and then her real struggles begin. But don't worry, these struggles all work together for her good.
ETA: The author thinks there should be a spoiler alert for my review, and I'm happy to comply. There is nothing in my review that the reader wouldn't learn for themselves after the first few chapters, or even after the prologue, but if you want to truly pick this one up knowing nothing about it. Don't read the rest of the review. Just don't.
I'm not sure I like the prologue to Radiate. I'm not saying I hate it. I don't. It's just that sometimes you don't want to be told on page one that a book is a cancer-book. (Okay, it's not page one, but it is in the first few pages.) Not when there are chapters--quite a handful of chapters--to be read before she even goes to the doctor about a suspicious lump and a pain that just won't go away.
So our heroine Hayley is making new friends in the days and weeks following the announcement that she's now on the squad. And surprise, surprise the boy that she's liked since forever knows who she is now. And he can't stop flirting with her. Fortunately, Hayley is so smitten, so very, very smitten, that she fails to see he has any personality, any depth, any genuineness to him. Unfortunately--at least for this reader--I found little charm or charisma. In fact, I saw right away that he was so not the one for Hayley. That there was no way in the world he could possibly be there for Hayley when things got rough. But the lack of depth in the boyfriend is partially made well by the fact that there's a cute boy next door that has just come back to town. A boy that she grew up with. A boy that seems to genuinely see Hayley as a real person and not an object.
Did I like Radiate? Well. I'm not sure. On the one hand, it's hard not to cheer for a cheerleader who overcomes such harsh obstacles. She shows determination and courage, there is a real genuineness to her, a sincerity that makes her anything but shallow. But at the same time, the book lacks other developed characters. I had a hard time with most of the minor characters--including the boyfriend and the rest of the cheerleaders, for the most part. The family, on the other hand, had a little more depth. I felt there was definite potential there. I could see how this family functioned--or didn't function, as the case may be. For everything I liked about the novel--and there were quite a handful of things I liked about it--I found little things that didn't quite work for me. One thing that bothered me--and it's a thing that may not bother other readers at all--was the fact that this family was displayed as a Christian family, our heroine, so we're told is a Christian. Yet the novel itself uses language I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending to Christian readers. (Though it's miles away from being Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist!)
- If you're looking for a happy-ending Cancer book
- If you're looking for a YA book with a realistic school setting
- If you love reading about cheerleaders and football games
- If you love stories about how the boy-next-door is a much better catch than that oh-so-secret-crush you've had for years and years
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews