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? Show More Show Less
When I found out Scholastic was releasing a book about this topic, I had to read it. As an elementary teacher and also a parent of a tween, I wanted to know more about this frightening new trend.
Choke shows us Windy and her best friend Elena. They're not popular but they're also not in the out-crowd either. Then Nina shows up. Nina is pretty and very confident. She starts hanging around Windy. Nina also mentions how much she misses her breath sisters from her old school. Windy is intrigued and also flattered that Nina wants to be her friend. Then she finds out what a breath sister really is and has to decide whether fitting in is really worth it.
I really loved Windy. For one she's Latina and from a very supportive home. Her parents love her and are there for her too. As a former bilingual teacher I taught girls like Windy who wanted to be more Anglo in their appearances. They'd bleach their hair and wear blue contact lens. Windy's father's attempt to do this very same thing as he feels it will help him land a TV weatherman position is something I actually did see. One of the teachers I used to teach with, wore blue contacts and even spoke French, denying her Latino heritage.
What I loved about Choke is the author shows us two very real characters and their struggles with trying to fit in. Elena is very quirky but she's the one who seems more grounded on who she is.
Windy at first is excited that Nina wants to be her friend. Then others start wearing scarves to school too. Windy looks past some signs that not all is right with Nina as she craves being in the in-group. What teen hasn't been through this?
The scenes on the choking game are intense. I remember being an eighth grader and how I would do just about anything to 'fit' in. The author shows what happens during the choking game without being over the top or preachy. What would you do if you knew a friend was playing this game? Would you laugh it off, join in, or report them? Those are hard questions.
I think this book should be in every middle and high school library. Also I feel it would be a great book club selection that can lead to great discussions on what you would do in Windy's situation.
2. Multi-dimensional characters
3. Positive Latino family portrayals
I felt for Nina. She really stood up for Windy and Elena, which warmed me to her, but I could tell that something wasn't quite right with her. I just wondered what was brewing under the surface, and Diana Lopez peeled back her layers slowly. Obviously she has the problem with the choking game, but you have to wonder what her motivations were.
Elana is the best friend that is awesome. She is so nerdy and that completely appeals to me, as does her loyalty and ability to forgive.
I also really appreciated the idea of finding yourself and looking for what you love and how to incorporate that into your career. We got to see it with Windy and her relationship with her parents as well as in her own life, working at the nursing home with Mrs. Vargas. By the way, I appreciated so much the well written and close family relationships as well as the presence of Mrs. Vargas, Windy's adopt a granny.
Diana Lopez writes with fluidity that got me lost in Windy's story and feeling for her as I read about her self discovery and journey into the dangerous. She also handles such a difficult subject with finesse.
The ending is heartbreaking but a wake up call, and I couldn't really expect much different, although she did surprise me some by the end results.
Bottom line: Important subject, handled well. Great MG read that can appeal to older readers as well.