Cover image for Hang on in there, Shelley
Hang on in there, Shelley
Saksena, Kate.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury Children's Book, [2003]

Physical Description:
217 pages ; 21 cm
Living in London, fourteen-year-old Shelley writes letters to a pop star which describe her life with friends and family, including her divorced alcoholic mother, and her struggles with a school bully.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.4 6.0 73955.
Electronic Access:
Publisher description
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Shelley's just turned fourteen, but her life has turned upside down. When her mother lost her last job, she also lost their home. Shelley begins writing to Ziggy, the lead singer in her favorite band, Arctic 2000. Ziggy "speaks" to her with his lyrics, so she chooses him to confide in, as she's afraid to keep a diary in case her mother reads it:a lot of what she needs to write about is her mother's drinking problem. She's elated when she receives a postcard from him in reply:from Italy no less! Inspired and encouraged, she continues her correspondence, telling Ziggy about her growing problems with her mother, as well as trouble with some girls at school. And Ziggy always answers, usually with the phrase "Hang on in there, Shelley," but sometimes with something more, just enough so she knows he's listening,and he cares.

A strong and endearing character, Shelley shines through the situations she's faced with and comes out on top.

Author Notes

This is Kate Saksena 's first novel and she is already working on her second. She is an educator and lives in London.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Inspired by a magazine interview that quotes pop idol Ziggy as saying that "you must be honest with yourself and at least one person you really trust," a 14-year-old Londoner decides to write directly to him. Shelley's journal-like letters describe her life, including her struggles with her alcoholic, divorced mother. In return, Ziggy sends her short, inspiring postcards and, ultimately, a longer letter. First-novelist Saksena creates a likable and realistic narrator, but puts Shelley in extreme situations that undermine the plot's believability. At the start, Shelley has just moved with her mother and eight-year-old brother, Jake, into a flat (her mother couldn't pay the mortgage on their house after losing her job), and is about to start a new school. Shelley looks after Jake as her mother loses jobs, stays out all night and even gets imprisoned on a charge of "grievous bodily harm." Readers may have a hard time understanding why the kids stay with her instead of moving in with their supportive father, aunt or grandmother, especially with the horrendous things their mother says to Shelley (" `You little bitch,' she spat, `You've even turned my little boy against his mother' "). It also seems bizarre when Shelley's ongoing feud with class bully Janice results in a hearing in which secret surveillance tapes are revealed. Unfortunately, Shelley's authentic voice gets buried beneath all the plotting, and there isn't a true resolution with her mother, despite the upbeat ending. Ages 10-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-On her 14th birthday, Shelley Wright of South London sends a letter to her idol, Ziggy, of the band Arctic 2000, believing she can trust him with "an honest account of my life." Heartened by his brief, postcard reply, the teen launches a series of semimonthly letters in which she pours out her life's ups and downs. Each chapter opens with lyrics from one of his inspirational songs and ends with another of his encouraging postcards. Shelley tells Ziggy that her black father has left the family and her white, unemployed mother, Liz, is plagued by alcoholic episodes during which she is sometimes abusive toward Shelley and her younger brother. She also relates difficult encounters with the Trio, three girls who harass her, especially Janice, the ringleader, who seems truly spiteful. With the support of her extended family, a couple of friends, and a new boyfriend, Shelley hangs in there, but she confesses to Ziggy, "-you have no idea how much confidence it gives me, knowing that you get my letters and send me your cards." The plot of Saksena's first novel is weakened by stereotyped portrayals of pathetic Liz, who is eventually sent to prison for bar fighting, and bully Janice, who frames Shelley by planting marijuana in her locker, nearly causing her expulsion from school. But Shelley is a survivor, and her clear narrative voice should find a receptive audience, especially among reluctant readers.-Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.