Book Review: Radiate

By Marley Gibson
April 3, 2012
Ages 12 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Reviewed: ARC (from publisher)

Author’s Website
Paperback | Kindle

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.


RADIATE was a title that I looked forward to checking out as soon as I’d read the book description. After reading a number of cancer books in the past year, it was life a sigh of relief to read one that not only focuses on the disease, but also focuses on hope and overcoming the odds. Boy, am I glad that I read the book description, though, before simply overlooking Radiate as yet another cheerleading novel. In the end it is so much more than that, about how family, friends and cheerleading helped one girl beat the odds in one of life’s most perilous situations. What’s makes the book even more poignant is the fact that it is based on the real life experiences of the author herself.

Plot: 10

As I said above, Radiate should NOT be written off as just another cheer leading book. Yes, Hayley is a cheer leader. She is in many way an average girl who just wants MORE from her high school experience. More excitement, more experiences, more… just MORE. Little does she know that, almost immediately after being accepted to her high school cheerleading squad that “more” would come in the form of a large growth on her leg. A growth that would turn out to be cancer. It is how she deals with her discovery and how this discovery affects her life from that point on that makes up the bulk of the novel. More than anything else, what this novel has going for it  is the voice of Hayley and her story, which is more “real” than anything I have read in cancer fiction recently. Sure cancer brings tragedy to many lives, but it is the stories of hope that we need to hear every once and a while. It is THOSE stories that will bring hope into the future.

Characters: 8

Hayley is at once a very likable teenage girl who is entering her last year in high school. She is focused, she has a good head on her shoulders, and she has some very high morals that are hard to find in many teenagers these days. Is she too much of a “goody-two-shoes”? That’s up for the reader to decide, but for this reader she is simply refreshing. How she deals with her discovery – at first trying to hide it, then finally caving in when the weight of the situation becomes too great – is so realistic yet so extremely gut wrenching that you can’t help but want to cheer for her. I love how Hayley never lets the disease define her. The way she interacts with her family and friends is sweet and at times hilarious… Oh and tear jerking. Let’s not forget that. You will feel the emotions of these characters – trust me.

The people that Hayley encounters as she deals with her disease are also inspiring in their own little ways. I found myself laughing and crying along with them. Multiple topics and themes are touched upon that will get you thinking; some related to Hayley’s disease, and others not. But all are in some way involving either Hayley and her family or her friends. The only item that I questioned while reading was the inclusion of the two potential “love interests”. Maybe I am just tired of the whole “love torn” plot device… At least it was dealt with in a well plotted way, so in the end I was alright with it.

All in all, this is Hayley’s story about how her disease, her perseverance and those around her help her to overcome.

Setting: 9

Hayley’s world is what you would expect for any teenager in high school. Keep in mind, Hayley’s world is based on the world the author experienced as a teen. I am happy that she shared with us what is likely to have been the lowest point of her life. Otherwise, there is not much to say about the setting.

Pacing: 8

It doesn’t take long for Hayley to make the discovery of her disease. The book starts off with her acceptance into the cheering squad, then it races forward to her squad training and the discovery of the disease at near breakneck speed. It is after the discovery that time seems to slow down a bit. But this slowdown is, for the most part, fortunate as we are allowed to explore the interactions between the characters and experience their joys and heartaches. Could the book have been cut back a few pages? Sure, but I doubt that the experience would have been as profound. There are a number of procedures that need to happen and a lot of obstacles to overcome for anyone dealing with cancer. Marley does a fine job of sharing these experiences with the reader. And she does this all while covering us with a blanket of hope that helps both the reader and the characters involved to stick through it to the very end.

Style: 7

Marley Gibson is a very talented writer. This shows in the stories that she weaves together through her characters, her ability to portray the emotions that one experiences in such a situation and in the way that she uses these emotions to draw you, the reader, into the story. The only area where I found even the slightest bit of fault is in her dialogue, which is as times a bit too wooden and comes across like she was trying a little too hard to sound like a teenager. This made some of the conversations a bit distracting. Otherwise, I think Marley told her story as perfectly as possible. (Oh, but I did take an additional point off for the occasional -not often- use of swearing. I had to since the book is rated 12 and up.)

I am honored to have had the opportunity to read the story of Hayley and her battle with cancer. I am thrilled that Marley is still around today and has had the opportunity to share this story with us. I hope that she has many more stories to share with us in the future. I look forward to reading more from this skillful author!

Four well-deserved cheers for RADIATE!

Grade: 92


About Jenna (Does Books)

Working momma of a little pink princess and reader of all things YA. I'm an artist, writer and avid reader who swears that she's having a hard time letting go of the childish things... Let me read your latest YA book and let's see if it makes the grade!

Posted on April 20, 2012, in Book Review, Four Star and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great review. I agree that it was refreshing to read Hayley’s character.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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