Hang On In There, Shelley
by Kate Saksena
Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2003, 219 pp., $16.95
Fourteen-year-old Shelley lives with her mother, known as mom, and her eight-year-old brother
Jake, in a flat in south London. There, she writes religiously in her diary about her life and her
fascination with the hit pop group,
. What she admires most about her rock group is
the lead singer, Ziggy, and “the honesty that he portrays of himself” in the many fan magazines
that she reads. Impressed, she decides to write him for advice, and to her amazement, she
receives a postcard reply—from Italy, of all places.
Elated, Shelley corresponds regularly, telling Ziggy about her daily trials and triumphs, and to her
delight, Ziggy responds—usually with the telling phrase “Hang in there, Shelley.” Gradually,
Shelley’s fascination with her favorite rock star turns to hesitancy and doubt, as she begins to
wonder if Ziggy is really reading her letters. Soon, though, reassuring clues—the mention of her
brother, her mother’s troubles, and her equal frightful adventure—give her assurance that rock
star Ziggy is really penning replies.
Gradually, Shelley’s mother’s problems become too much to bear. She is a down on her luck alcoholic,
and Shelley must cope both with her drunkenness and her brother’s insolence and fear.
This is a good read for young people, particularly middle school students, who long for realistic
fiction with an edge and a sense of place and time.
Jeffrey S. Kaplan