by Marley Gibson
Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Publisher: Graphia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Publication date: April 3, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, realistic fiction, contemporary
"Hayley Matthews is determined to be the best cheerleader she can. She works hard and pushes herself 110% all the time. Then Hayley finds a lump on her leg. The diagnosis is cancer. The prognosis is unclear. She could lose her leg. Or maybe her life. At first Haley is scared, terrified. In an instant, everything she’s worked for seems out of reach. But Haley is strong. She’s going to fight this disease. She will not let it take her life or her dreams."
I received this as an ebook from NetGalley.
I very, very rarely give a book 5 stars. A book that I really like will get 4 stars, but a book has to speak to me in a certain spectacular way to get bumped up to that last star. Radiate is hands down 5 stars.
Radiate balances the issues that a high school girl faces with the issues that someone diagnosed with cancer faces. As Hayley battles her cancer, in the midst of what will perhaps be the most difficult time in her life, she is still concerned with (by comparison) more insignificant things like being on the cheerleading team, fitting in at school, and dating. This gives the book a wonderful realism; her cancer isn't downplayed, and neither is her high school social life. It all comes to alive with Hayley's bright, spirited narration.
The thing I loved most about this book was the overwhelming feeling of hope. I doubt there will be a person who picks up this book who hasn't been touched by cancer in some way. I'm no different, and because of that, there were moments in Radiate that were difficult for me to read. I was in tears a few times. But there is never a feeling of giving in, or of being out of options. The feeling always, despite how desperate things seem, is hope.
From the moment she is diagnosed through her treatment, Hayley is of course terrified, and angry, and there are times when she questions why this happened to her. Despite it all, she can count the number of times she cries on one hand. She is unbelievably strong. She never lets the possibility of anything except full recovery become a reality in her mind. She tells her doctors what she will be able to do, rather than listening to them tell her what she won't be able to do. She becomes an inspiration to others without intending to.
I had no idea that this book was based off the author's life. If you read Radiate (and I highly recommend you do), please be sure and read the note at the back of the book. It's the perfect ending to it all. The fictional story was wonderfully written and really touched me, but knowing it was based off a true story made the book feel even more real and alive, and it made the feeling of hope even stronger.
Radiate is a beautiful, wonderful book that stares cancer in the face and cheerfully tells it to get lost. Highly recommended for YA readers, with a note that there is some strong language, including the F-word.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars