Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hope was Here by Joan Bauer

The author describes one of the characters in this book as having a "smile that takes over his face." Here, you have a story that will take over your heart. Only gifted writers can achieve the creation of such an endearing protaganist as Hope who keeps you charmed at her wit and insights until the last page.

Hope is a young waitress. She lives with her aunt, a short-order cook. They had to leave New York when the owner of the diner they worked at ran off with a waitress and all the money.

They get jobs in a small town in Wisconsin. The man they work for now (G.T.) has leukemia and is also running for mayor against the current, corrupt mayor. Soon, you'll be rooting for G.T. along with Hope and hoping she can help him win his campaign. The shenanigans of politics, the well-portrayed romances, and the interaction of all the characters is a world you won't want to put down until you read the last page. My 13 year old kept disappearing with this book, under the threat of lost computer time (sure proof the book's a winner.)

Hope's had some blows in life: her mother abandoned her; she doesn't know her father, and she experienced the death of a loved one in the book. While parental abandoment as a theme may not sound appealing for tweens, I think tweens already know about this issue (or will soon) and are not unduly disturbed by it. The key is in how the author handles it. I consider the following 3 mistakes to disqualify a book: 1. Treating irresponsible parents lightly or glossing it over as a non-issue.
2. Conveying an unbalanced or subtle criticism of males (or females, but it's usually the males), or 3. justifying it. This author does none of these.

We watch this character come to terms with abandonment as the tragedy it is. She learns to heal honest emotions of anger without being destructive. Best of all, a man steps up to the plate and admirably acts as a father-figure. The ending is sad but satisfying. As the book says, "When hope gets released in a place, all kinds of things are possible...."

Rating: 3 Vatican Flags


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