By Marley Gibson
Available April 3 from Graphia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
I feel sorry for Marley Gibson. She's written a wonderful, uplifting teen novel based on her personal battle with cancer - and it comes out shortly after John Green's The Fault in Our StarsTHE FAULT IN OUR STARS. The two novels have little in common aside from being young adult novels involving cancer, but it's enough to create a comparison between the two.
Radiate is the story of Hayley Matthews, beginning the summer before her senior year of high school. She's just become a varsity cheerleader, giving up band in the process of doing so. I found Hayley to be extremely grating in the first chapter, since she kept putting band down in order to show how great cheerleading is. As a former band geek, I found it insulting. But Hayley truly does care about cheerleading, to the point you wonder why she just started.
Fortunately, her increased physical activity leads her to find a lump on her leg. Unfortunately, it's cancer - and the doctor wants to amputate. Hayley's mother refuses to consider taking such drastic action without a second opinion and soon Hayley is at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital to fight the cancer. There are interesting passages during this part of the novel, but it drags until Hayley returns to school as the-girl-who-had-cancer.
The romantic shenanigans are fairly predictable. Girl falls for popular, shallow guy; great, supportive guy is under her nose all along. Luckily RADIATE doesn't dwell to much on the romance. Hayley's belief in herself are more important, as are her friendships.
There are some sad parts, but I was happy this wasn't a weepy cancer book a la Lurlene McDaniel. There are a few times when Hayley is more of an inspirational role model than a character in her own right, but it's forgivable since most of the novel gets under her skin.