Windy Soto is an average eighth grade student when she gets to hang out with the popular crowd for the first time in her life. It’s an opportunity that puts her life in danger.
In Diana López’s young adult novel Choke (Scholastic Press), Windy becomes intrigued by Nina Díaz, the new girl who stands up to the cool kids – and acts nice to Windy. Windy even neglects her dorky best friend, Elena. But Windy soon learns that Nina has her friends play “the choking game,” in which teens choke each other until they pass out.
Choke is an easy-to-read book, although the exposition takes a little too long. López, a former middle school teacher who wrote the book after seeing her own students play the game, captures teenage angst well, especially in the opening paragraphs of the book:
“My middle school has the ‘in-crowd,’ the ‘out-crowd, and the ‘GP.’ ‘GP’ stands for ‘general public,’ just like the movie rating. The in-crowd works hard to stay out of the GP, while the out-crowd works hard to get in. I’m definitely GP, general public in every way. … Sometimes I like being GP because not one expects me to run for student council or compete in the academic decathlon. Being GP means being invisible … Being invisible has its benefits, but it can be boring, too. … I want to be part of the in-crowd. I want the keys to their golden lockers, the ones that decorated with streamers and ribbons on Spirit Day. The ones with mirrors on the inside door, mirrors reflecting beautiful faces and surrounded by pictures of beautiful BFFs.”
The novel, which takes place in San Antonio, features mostly Hispanic characters and the occasional nod to Latino life – such as barbacoa meals – but it should appeal to all middle school students. This book could even save a few lives.
Diana López, who grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, is the editor of the Huizache literary magazine and teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Houston at Victoria. She also wrote Sofia’s Saints and the young adult novel Confetti Girl.
Source: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher.