{Review} RADIATE by Marley Gibson

O P E N I N G   H O O K:
YOU KNOW HOW YOU ALWAYS THINK THERE'S something...more?  Like there's something else you can be doing?  A way you can put yourself out there more.  An effort that will plant you in the spotlight and make people finally recognize that, "Hey, you're special."
(pg. xi, US ARC edition)

First, a moment of truth:  I never wanted to read this book.  I know now that if I hadn't picked it up, I would have missed out on something amazing.  I'd seen the ARC on Netgalley and on other blogs, but it never appealed to me.  A publicist from Harcourt was kind enough to send me a copy along with an ARC I had been interested in last fall.  Yes, last fall.  I never read this, and I wasn't sure I wanted to.  I don't read a lot of books that take place in a school setting, and that's what the cover with a happy cheerleader seemed to tell me it was about.  The blurb stated the novel was about cancer, and while I was a huge fan of Lurlene McDaniel back when I was in high school, I no longer read all the weepy teen illness books.  But RADIATE?  It's so much more.  It meets NONE of my expectations.

For one thing, RADIATE is based on a true story.  Author Marley Gibson went through the same things main character Hayley Matthews is going through in the novel.  In the 80s, she had cancer in her leg and feared that it would have to be amputated.  Cheerleading--having goals, having something to believe in, having physical exercise on her road to recovery--all of this literally saved Marley's life and she has shared her story with the world through the fictional eyes of Hayley.  When I got to the end of the prologue and read, "This is a story of how cheerleading saved my life," I admit it: I rolled my eyes and groaned a little, thinking this was going to be one of those books.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

RADIATE has such a strong, powerful message.  It's about overcoming adversity, about never giving up, about making the most of the horrible situations life throws at you.  It's about one girl's journey through something nobody should have to face, especially a Senior on the cusp of what should have been the best school year of her life.  By the end of the book, my eyes were not dry.  Sad tears, happy tears...I definitely had misty eyes, and I never dreamed that was possible when I first picked up RADIATE.  I even love what the book's title stands for now that I know--and no, I won't tell you.  Read and find out for yourself!

The novel centers around Hayley, a girl who has been a "band geek" and finally has the chance to be something more when she makes the cheerleading squad.  Suddenly, she's moved up socially, can interact with her crush, and is invited to parties.  Then, everything falls apart when what she thought was a cheerleading injury turns out to be cancer.  They might have to amputate her leg in order to prevent the cancer from spreading, and whoever heard of a one-legged cheerleader?  She keeps her head held high and makes a goal:  That she'll be better by cheerleading camp in August, that she'll make it to the field for the first football game of the year.  Making goals helps her get through her time in the hospital, and it truly doesn't sink in that her circumstances are so dire until quite late because she's so focused on getting better.  Once she finally leaves the hospital, things aren't as rosy as she pictured they'd be.  Everyone at school stares at her, and not necessarily in a good way.  Her crush may or may not now be embarrassed by her.  Her hair has started falling out and her skin is thicker than it was before.  Hayley keeps her head held high and focuses on her goals, using cheerleading to help her get back into shape because she refuses to let cancer take her dreams away.

I can't say enough good things about this book, and I really don't have the words to depict just how powerful of a read it was.  I'm so mad at myself for being a book snob and not wanting to read this one.  If I hadn't, I would have truly missed out on something amazing.

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I personally wouldn't have picked this book up on my own if a Harcourt publicist hadn't been kind enough to include a copy with another ARC she sent me.  It looks very contemporary, very high school.  I wouldn't have realized the issues lying beneath the peppy surface if I hadn't taken a closer look.  (I'm so glad they sent me this!!)

At the same time, the colors are definitely striking and will have readers in the target interest group picking it up to take a closer look.  From the yellow background to the pop of red in the model's uniform to the awesome colors in the title that range from red to pink to orange, this book stands out and screams, "Look at me!"

After reading RADIATE, the cover is also so triumphant and full of spirit in ways I never would have anticipated before reading this!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:
Author: Marley Gibson
Release Date: Out April 03, 2012
Publisher: Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Received: Received for Review

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.