Thursday, March 18, 2010

Review: The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter

Tags: YA, death, grief, suicide, family, sisters, socioeconomic status

Rating: 3 out of 5


Lately, people have been doing a good job of leaving Lainey Pike’s life. A few months ago, her stepfather Carl was killed in a motorcycle accident. Then her beloved maternal grandmother died of avoided terminal illnesses, and then her mother hanged herself several days after Lainey’s high school graduation, leaving her with her adopted 5-year-old brother, Colin. Lainey’s older half-sister, Vallery, moves back in with them, but Lainey still feels her life spiraling out of control. Her relationship with her perfect long-term boyfriend Riley hits the rocks, and she starts seeing another, totally different guy. What will it take for Lainey to begin to feel more like herself again?


THE SNOWBALL EFFECT is an endearing debut novel that explores the different types of enduring—and finite—relationships that are necessary in life. Its wonderful characters are hindered by a plot that seems to move around in circles with no satisfying closure, but on the whole it is an enjoyable read with a unique moral.

Lainey is a relatable, though not always likable, protagonist. Her no-nonsense narration flows smoothly and never feels forced in the shadow of all the tragedy and hardships that have befallen her. THE SNOWBALL EFFECT is a character-driven novel with a memorable cast of characters—even if not all of them have been thoroughly developed in the text. Besides Lainey, her boyfriend Riley is the strongest character, albeit a static one. His consistency and domestic intelligence is an assuring light in the alley of Vallery’s pouty tantrums and Colin’s inexplicable development problems.

I would have liked THE SNOWBALL EFFECT to have more of a distinguishable plot arc. Lainey works through her stages of grief in the changing ways she deals with her interpersonal relationships, but her life is mostly stagnant, and the “revelation” event near the end of the novel is never fully satisfying as a resolution-forming climax.

THE SNOWBALL EFFECT is refreshingly different from your typical “coming to terms with grief” YA novel. If you have a pragmatic outlook on life, like your contemporary YA readable, and don’t mind dealing with a circling plot for those characteristics, then you’ll really enjoy your book. THE SNOWBALL EFFECT should be a book that finds its ways into the hands of girls with so-called unprivileged backgrounds, for socioeconomic status is strong in this novel and fills a sorely underrepresented bracket in YA lit.

Similar authors
Jillian Cantor (The Life of Glass)
Emily Giffin (Love the One You're With)

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 1 out of 5 - Um... NO!!! This looks like it was pieced together out of a number of low-quality clipart pictures. The fake "blue-screen" background, the girl's awkward expression and arm posture, the completely unrealistic way in which she's still stupidly concentrating on placing one more cup on top of a pyramid that's already fallen down. Come on. I can't believe this got past a teen advisory board...did they even run it by a test YA audience? Shame on you, art director, for this mess of a cover. Do-over.

HarperTeen / March 23, 2010 / Hardcover / 368pp. / $16.99

ARC won from author's blog giveaway.


  1. I read the first 2 chapters on Browse Inside from HarperTeen website and kind of liked the narration. Definitely wanna read it and see how the whole story goes. Thanks for the review

  2. I like this post..definitely looks like an interesting read.

  3. Very nice review! This is the first time I'm seeing this book. From what you said, it sounds like an amazing read. I'll keep an eye out for it!

    from Une Parole

  4. The Snowball Effect sounds like it would be right up my alley, I'm so sick of reading about rich kids, lol, and I do feel like there's not a lot of YAs about teens with low socioeconomic status, so kudos to the author for incorporating that within her book!

  5. This sounds pretty unusual, which I generally think of a good book trait. I'm not entirely convinced this is one for me, but I won't rule it out. And yes, that cover is fugly. Thanks for such a well-balanced review.

  6. Great honest review as usual Steph!

    Also, Happy Birthday :D

  7. This book reminded me of a darker version of a Sarah Dessen novel, and some parts of it were so painful to read that I had to take time away and read the novel in slow bites...but I am so glad I did.

  8. This does sound like quite a fresh take on the whole greif plot line, and its a shame that it seems it didn't quite hit the nail on the head. I don't know what it is about books that deal with grief, but I think because its already such a sensitive subject, its difficult to get it just right. Maybe because most people can relate to someone trying to deal with the death of a loved one, but this plot line is something thats either done perfectly or not very well. Hmmmm, I think too much.

    And that cover, yes, what was the designer thinking. Plastic cups? really? Maybe It would have worked better with dominoes? thats what I think, dominoes have more meaning than paper cups, especially with a book thats about a sensitive subject

  9. Hmm, I might skip this one. Thanks for the honest review!


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