4.4 27
by Diana López

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A heartfelt novel about the disturbing "choking game" trend -- and one girl's struggle for self-acceptance.

If she could -- if her parents would let her -- eighth-grader Windy would change everything about herself. She'd get highlights in her hair, a new wardrobe; she'd wear makeup. But nothing ever changes. The mean girls at school are still mean, and Windy's

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A heartfelt novel about the disturbing "choking game" trend -- and one girl's struggle for self-acceptance.

If she could -- if her parents would let her -- eighth-grader Windy would change everything about herself. She'd get highlights in her hair, a new wardrobe; she'd wear makeup. But nothing ever changes. The mean girls at school are still mean, and Windy's best friend Elena is still more interested in making up words than talking about boys.

And then one day, Windy gets the change she's been looking for. New girl Nina -- impossibly cool, confident, and not afraid of anyone -- starts hanging out with Windy! Nina even wants to be "breath sisters." Windy isn't sure what that means, exactly, but she knows she wants to find out. It sounds even better than a BFF.

Windy is right, at first. Being a breath sister gains her a whole new set of friends, girls she feels closer to and cooler with than anyone else. But her inclusion in the new crowd comes at a dangerous price. Windy wants to change everything about her life ... but is she really willing to give up everything in the process?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Windy longs to be part of the "in crowd," so she is thrilled when pretty, confident Nina transfers to her middle school and takes an interest in her. But the popular new girl has a dangerous secret: she likes playing the choking game, in which a girl strangles a friend until she passes out. "That's what makes us breath sisters—we put our lives in each other's hands. Can you think of a better way to prove your friendship?" Nina asks Windy. The game is not only about trust but also, Windy learns, about getting high from oxygen deprivation, and Nina soon has many girls participating. Windy is conflicted, but plays along until things go too far. López (Confetti Girl), a former middle school teacher writing from personal experience, weaves facts about the choking game into her story and includes a list of online resources. Secondary story lines add little, but readers will relate to Windy's struggle, which is honestly related. An educational, issue-driven read that could be a useful discussion starter. Ages 12�up. Agent: Stefanie Von Borstel, Full Circle Literary. (July)
From the Publisher

“Diana López has written a novel that is sure to touch readers with its simplicity and sincerity. A beautiful story that is as important as it is moving.” – Heather Hepler, author of The Cupcake Queen

“Surprisingly real.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Urgent and necessary … a realistic portrait about the pressures of belonging.” – El Paso Times

Children's Literature - Janice DeLong
Eighth-grader Windy sees herself as a GP, one of the "general public," in social evaluation by her peers, and wants more than almost anything to belong to the "in-crowd." Having a BFF like Elena who cares little or nothing about what others think of her really does not help, and perhaps it is even a road block to the direction Windy wants to go. With her braces, glasses, and naturally too-curly hair, acceptance into the upper level seems out of reach until Nina breezes into school. The insults and snubs from the bullying "with it" girls do not touch Nina and she mysteriously takes Windy under her wing. As might be expected, soon the two girls are excluding Elena. Although Windy misses Elena, she feels that she has finally arrived when, with Nina's coaching, she begins to get the attention of the guy of her dreams. The pinnacle of happiness is reached when she and Nina go shopping together, even buying matching scarves. Then, Nina introduces Windy to the concept of "breath sisters." Secrecy, lying, and a dangerous addiction follow in the wake of this new relationship. This compelling novel should be on the shelf of every middle school, high school, and public library. Although publishers recommend marketing this title to children as young as eight, this reviewer finds that age too young for some of the disturbing scenes. Diana Lopez has moved into chilling waters with a message for teens, parents, guidance counselors, and school nurses. The conclusion packs a punch that will not soon be forgotten, as realistic as it is unexpected. Bravo Lopez! Reviewer: Janice DeLong
VOYA - Karen Jensen
Windy would like to change everything about herself: her hair, her glasses, and her position as a part of the GP (general population) in her middle school. Nina comes blowing in like a storm; she is mysterious, beautiful, and confident, and speaks of being a "breath sister." As Windy draws closer to Nina, she learns that Nina plays something called the choking game. She says it is about trust, but in reality, it is a dangerous way to get high. Soon, Windy finds herself under Nina's spell and questions everything about who she is and the people around her. In the end, Windy realizes that who she was and what she had was not too bad after all—a point made even more clear when Nina's life is forever changed when the choking game goes too far. Choke was inspired when the author, a former middle school teacher, noticed that her students were coming in with bloodshot eyes. At first, she thought they were doing drugs but she later learned that they were involved in a game known by many names, most notably, the choking game. In the choking game, teens choke self or others until they pass out and they awaken with a buzzy, high feeling. Windy is a naive, insecure character with a strong mother figure and an awkward, but fully-developed, best friend. Nina is the romanticized "it girl" who turns out to be a troubled girl and a bad influence. Many teens will relate to Windy and her inner voice as she struggles to navigate middle school, friendship, and self. At times the voice of the novel is somewhat didactic and it is clear that this is a YA novel with an intended message. It does not resonate as fully, nor is it as richly nuanced, as other problem novels such as Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Penguin, 2009/Voya April 2009)or Cut by Patricia McCormick (Boyds Mills Press, 2000/Voya February 2001), but it does get its point across while still being a fairly entertaining read and tackles a topic not covered much in teen literature. Reviewer: Karen Jensen
School Library Journal
Gr 6�8—Eighth-grader Windy isn't in the in crowd or the out crowd at her socially stratified San Antonio school; rather, she is relegated to the "general public" with the other nondescript students. Her friend Elena is happy to pursue her own interests (from figure skating to science experiments) without worrying about what others think, but Windy longs to climb the social ladder. She sees her chance when Nina, the cool new girl, befriends her. The girls bond over crushes and trips to the mall, but although Nina initially seems like a positive influence, raising Windy's confidence and encouraging her to stand up for herself, she eventually convinces Windy to become her "breath sister." This involves playing the choking game, in which one participant chokes the other until he or she passes out, achieving a sort of dizzy high in the process. Parts of Choke read like an afterschool special, and this lack of subtlety may be off-putting for more mature readers. However, the book does raise important issues, and many readers will sympathize with Windy as an everygirl who must make difficult decisions in the midst of intense social pressure.—Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
Kirkus Reviews
A tale of friendship and trust intersects with a problem novel about dangerous behaviors among middle schoolers. Windy Soto is solidly GP: "general public." She's neither a loner nor popular, neither a brain nor a failure, and she spends her days happily making Top Five… lists. When charismatic new girl Nina appears and completely upends the school's social hierarchy, Windy sees her chance to jump into the in-crowd. Brushing off her dorky and lovable best friend, Windy joins Nina at lunch tables and secret bathroom conferences. Nina invites Windy to be her "breath sister," surely Windy's ticket to the in-crowd at last. But being a breath sister requires Windy be willing to play the choking game--a.k.a. "sleeper hold" and "suffocation roulette"--and she comes to realize with horror that the scarves Nina always wears around her neck cover the bruises from this dreadful pastime. Tragedy strikes, and a character is left disabled. In the absence of alternate representations of disability, this damage--portrayed lavishly through the eyes of more virtuous characters--turns disability into punishment for bad behavior. What had been a touching story of honesty and self-discovery devolves in the final pages into an over-the-top public-service announcement, and Windy's final Top Five… list reads like a brochure from the school nurse. Though pegged by the publisher for ages 12 and up, both writing style and Windy's age argue for a preteen audience. Surprisingly real, until the mawkish Afterschool Special finale. (author's note, resources) (Fiction. 9-11)

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
640L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

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