Friday, April 06, 2012

Radiate (YA)

Radiate. Marley Gibson. 2012.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 416 pages.

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!)

Read Radiate
  • 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


petra,  2:56 PM  

So are you saying that just because someone's a Christian, they can't say bad words? My mom is a breast cancer survivor and a Christian and believe me, when she was going through her treatment, she had a LOT to say that would have curled your ear hairs. I would very much like to read this book. I heard it's based on the author's on true life story. That's amazing.

Becky 9:32 PM  

Petra, to clarify. I wouldn't recommend it generically--collectively--to "all" Christians as a "Christian" book. I think it is realistic, and I think there are definitely some Christians that would be more than okay with the content. Then again, there are probably some that wouldn't be. Usually--for better or worse--when you label a book a "Christian book" people expect it to not have certain words in it. That's why labels are either good or bad depending on your perspective.

Marley Gibson 12:53 AM  

Hi there...thanks for reading my book and reviewing it. For the record, the book was never intended to be, nor labeled, a "Christian" book. It's a realistic YA book. I've seen this posed in a couple of views and don't understand where the misinformation is coming from.

Could I request that you put a ***SPOILER*** header in the review as you give a lot of the plot away that some people might not want to know going into the story.

Thanks again and all the best!
Marley Gibson

Becky 10:50 AM  

Marley Gibson,

I've added a spoiler alert for the review. As I said in my review, I thought the prologue gave away too much--and I just stuck with what the prologue talked about. Usually I don't do spoiler alerts for the very, very beginnings of books. But I'm happy to do so at your request.

I wouldn't label Radiate "Christian fiction" either. It's not published by a "Christian publisher" and I've not seen any marketing that would lead one to believe that it was "Christian YA." I definitely think "realistic YA" is a better fit, a much better fit. And I think that it would definitely bring the book to a larger audience than if it was "Christian." Because there are so very many readers who avoid "Christian fiction" completely. Even Christians who avoid anything published by Christian publishers. And "Christian Fiction" carries so many generalizations with it--for better or worse. So I am not saying that the book is a disappointment in that all. That I was led to expect a Christian book and was disappointed. I wasn't. I didn't have those expectations.

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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