Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer (2000)

Named Tulip at birth by the mother who abandoned her, Hope Yancey chose a new name for herself when she was twelve years old. Now sixteen, Hope tries to live up to her name when she and her aunt Addie arrive at the Welcoming Stairs, a diner in Wisconsin in need of a short-order cook because the owner, G.T. Stoop, is fighting leukemia. Not long after Addie begins work as a cook, and Hope as a waitress, they learn that G.T. isn't just sick; he's also running for mayor against a corrupt local politician! Hope realizes quickly that G.T. is the kind of candidate who can be trusted, and even though he may not live long enough to institute his proposed plans, he is willing to literally die trying. To get the word out about Stoop's candidacy, Hope teams up with Braverman, a recent high school graduate who also cooks at the diner, and other teens, to help with his campaign, resulting in some unexpected changes in her own life and outlook.

Hope Was Here is a sweet and wholesome novel, which focuses on a black-and-white struggle of good against evil. Corruption and cancer are the clear villains, while those who trust God, tell the truth, and don't hide behind pretenses are the heroes, even if they don't always win every fight. Joan Bauer quickly builds up the world of the Welcoming Stairs, and its many interesting employees and customers. These include a local pastor, a young single mom whose daughter may have special needs, G.T.'s corrupt opponent, and many more. While the story is ultimately about Hope's own journey, the fate of her new hometown and G.T. himself are strongly connected to hers, so the book is just as much about the setting as it is about the characters. 

Because the main character is sixteen, I consider this to be a young adult novel, but its uncomplicated plot and straightforward writing style make it feel more like middle grade, and there is really no reason kids in the upper elementary grades could not enjoy it just as much as teen readers. All kids can benefit from learning about elections, voting, and the responsibilities that come along with being a good citizen - not just in this election year, but any time. There is also much to learn from this book about justice, truth, and, of course, hope. 

1 comment:

  1. Bauer is one of my favorite middle-grade/YAish authors. All of her novels are similar in style, tone, and theme. I love this one and Rules of the Road best.

    Thanks so much for linking up!