Monday, April 23, 2012

Middle School Pick: Choke

Choke
by Diana Lopez
Scholastic Press
2012
240 pages

Book available July 2012 (exact date not yet available)

Best friends Windy Soto and wordsmith, bookish Elena Sheppard have always been BFF's since elementary school, but when uber-cool and model trendy Nina enrolls in their middle school, Windy finds herself infatuated with her. Windy hangs on her every word and is excited that Nina sits with them at lunch. When Nina wants to go shopping with her at the mall, Windy grasps at the chance that she may become popular and part of the in crowd.

Elena can't go with them to the mall this time and she's jealous her best friend is suddenly far too busy for her. The girls have a great time at the mall and Nina buys make-up and matching scarves for Windy and herself. She explains that she can't wait until Nina can be her official "breath sister." It all sounds so cool and mysterious that Windy is excited a cool girl like Nina would want to befriend her.

The next day, Nina isn't in school, but does show up after lunch with bloodshot eyes. She explains she was in the nurse's office all morning with a headache. Ronnie, Windy's secret crush, suddenly seems to appear everywhere the girls are headed. Windy thinks Ronnie might like her.

Windy agrees to try the "choking game" with Nina. Nina explains that she will choke her with a scarf but that if she wants to stop at any time, Windy can pat Nina on the arm and she will stop the pressure. Nina explains that if Windy passes out, she will have a cool, floaty feeling like taking a drug. Windy is fearful but wants so badly to be a part of something cool and longs for Nina to like her. She taps Nina's arm before she passes out. This dangerous game frightens Windy and she vows not to try it again. It is believable that Windy would try something this serious and uncomfortable because the author sets her up as having no interests or hobbies; she's a blank slate and craves the friendship and ideas of other kids.

Soon, other girls show up at school wearing scarves and Windy knows that they may be part of the choking game circle. Ronnie begs Windy to tell Nina that he likes her, but Windy is crest-fallen. Elena wants nothing more to do with Windy and ignores her.

The bleak ending for Nina and her breath sisters was not a surprise. Windy finally finds her voice and passion and decides to help clean up the garden at the senior center and perhaps look into a career in physical therapy. Elena gives Windy another chance, but it's too late for Nina. I am glad Windy finally finds something that she's good at and an interest that can become a hobby and possibly a career. So much time early in the book is spent where she is wandering aimlessly without a clue.

Recommended grades 6-up. The choking game is still quite popular among middle school and high school students. Our tweens and teens need to know the dangers and the potential deadly consequences.



FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

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