Thursday, July 3, 2014

Push Girl by Chelsie Hill and Jessica Love

push girl\noun

1. A fierce, fearless woman who doesn't let life's challenges get in the way of what she wants.
2. Anyone who overcomes adversity with a never say die attitude and sense of humor.
Senior Kara Moore is a dancer who loves to perform. She's been dating the captain of the water polo team, Curt Mitchell for the past eight months. Kara's upcoming senior year is going to be amazing; she has a new set of friends thanks to Curt and among other things, Curt's water polo club has nominated her for Home Coming Queen. Although Kara finds Curt very handsome she doesn't feel like she can be open with him about the difficult things in her life. One of those difficult things is her home life; her parents are constantly fighting.

After Curt picks her up from the dance studio they plan to meet later on in the evening at Rob Chang's home for a party. Being part of Curt's life has meant that Kara now gets invited to parties she otherwise would not ever attend. When Kara arrives home she tells her mother that she is going to a movie with her best friend Amanda, because she knows her mother would never allow her to go to Chang's party. Although Kara tries to take a nap, she overhears her parents having a terrific argument. After her father leaves the house, her mother tells Kara that they are going to get divorced.

Angry and very upset, Kara leaves for the party. When she arrives, she discovers that Curt is more interested in a drinking game than spending time with her. Wishing to talk to him about what's going on with her parents, she waits for Curt to meet her outside. When he doesn't show after twenty minutes of waiting, Kara returns to the house to find him with another girl in his lap and very drunk. At this point Karla decides to leave and drive to Taco Bell to have something to eat. But she never makes it to the restaurant; her car is struck by a drunk driver who runs a red light.

Kara awakes two weeks later in hospital to discover she has a broken back and is paralyzed from the waist down. Most of Karla's friends from high school do not visit her in the hospital. Conspicuously absent is boyfriend Curt. However Amanda and Karla's ex-boyfriend, Jack Matthews, do visit.They offer her support and continue that support and friendship when she returns home and when she begins school again.

When Kara returns to school she has to confront the attitudes of staff and students as well as physical obstacles. Kara finds students view her with a mixture of shock and pity and she finds a school unprepared to integrate a student with a disability into the classroom. Even more difficult, Kara decides to confront Curt Mitchell's over his treatment of her after the accident. She finds Curt to be heartless and insistent that he has broken up with her because of how she reacted at the party. Speechless at his betrayal, Kara is devastated.

However, Kara soon finds that she has lots of support from the two people she was drifting away from prior to her accident; Amanda her best friend and Jack her ex-boyfriend. Jack drives her to school every day and Amanda is always ready to help Kara and support her in any way she can.

Kara struggles to come to terms with being a paraplegic and the loss of her identity as a dancer. She hates the way people look at her with pity, ignore her paralyzed legs like they aren't there, or  A careless remark by her English teacher, Mr. David infuriates and depresses Kara even more and she decides to withdraw from the Homecoming Queen competition.  As the reality of her situation begins to sink in, Kara first strikes out in anger at those closest to her - Amanda and Jack.

As Kara continues to act out at school she finally realizes she needs help to deal with her situation and a change in medications. Despite her outburst to Jack and Amanda, they stick by her.  And Jack comes up with a plan that just might help Kara work through some of her feelings and give her the motivation to get her life on track again.

Push Girl is an inspiring novel that deals with the sensitive subject of disability and coming to terms with a life-altering event. Kara's struggles to find meaning in her life are realistically portrayed.

"But how could I be fulfilled in my life without dancing? It was tied in to the core of who I was, and who I'd been for as long as I could remember knowing myself. Is this how people felt when they lost a loved one? My grandma died when I was younger but she was sick for a long time before that. Ihad time to get used to her passing. This was different. This was the sudden and absolute murder of the one thing that made me who I was. Kara Moore was a dancer.....
Until I wasn't anymore."
Kara realizes that she is mourning the loss of the person she was - Kara Moore - dancer. Her anger is a normal part of the grieving process in any loss. Eventually as she moves through this process, Kara begins to see positive aspects to her life, even though she can no longer dance. Her journey through the sadness and anger lead to her gradually accepting her life and finding more and more moments were she can truly be happy. A larger part of her successful transition to her new life is her boyfriend Jack, who is a complete opposite of the self-absorbed Curt. Although the reader learns later on in the novel Curt's reasons for his terrible treatment of Kara, they merely reinforce his poor character and immaturity. It's no surprise that Curt's new girlfriend, Jenny Roy, is just like him - shallow and mean. In this respect the characters are somewhat cliched and overly typical, but Hill and Love use them to emphasize the difficulty Kara has in fitting back into life in high school.

Push Girl mirrors the experiences of co-author Chelsie Hill. Hill was seventeen years old when she became a T-10 parapalegic as a result of a drunk driving accident. Chelsie had been a competitive dancer before the accident and her world was changed forever. Undaunted by the loss of the use of her legs, Chelsie began speaking around America about what happened to her and how the choices we make can impact those around us. The Walk and Roll Foundation was started by Chelsie and her father to educate teens on distracted driving which now kills more people than drunk driving. Chelsie is also a cast member of the Sundance Channel's reality show, Push Girls and a member of a wheel chair dance team. You can learn more about her at

Push Girl is a quick read that will appeal to fans of the Push Girl series and also those who would enjoy a quick read. It's well written and doesn't become bogged down in sentimentality. Kara is a likeable heroine, a strong young woman who doesn't believe she is "inspirational" because she is simply doing what she has to do now that her life has changed.

Book Details:
Push Girl by Chelsie Hill and Jessica Love
New York: Thomas Dunne Books      2014
227 pp.

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