Allison's Book Bag

95 Pounds of Hope by Anna Gavalda

Posted on: October 17, 2012

Cover of "95 Pounds of Hope"

Cover of 95 Pounds of Hope

The jacket flap to 95 Pounds of Hope by Anna Gavalda says, “Gregory’s problems will be familiar to anyone who’s ever felt like a square peg in a round hole.” Unfortunately, while I have always felt like “a square peg in a round hole,” I didn’t relate to Gregory. Worse, I disliked him.

Gregory’s first sentence in 95 Pounds of Hope did catch my sympathy: “I hate school.” As a teacher, I have met my fair share of students who express that sentiment. Actually, despite my current chosen profession, I used to be one of those students. Yet it’s one thing to hear that sentiment in the first chapter, it’s another thing to hear it again and again down to the very last chapter. If Gavalda had made clear why the smell of chalk “sends his heart into the pit of his stomach,” I might have felt more sympathy for Gregory. Yet I never could discern a good reason for Gregory’s hatred school. Does he find schoolwork hard? Does he find it difficult to make friends? What’s the real deal? The best I can tell is that school doesn’t simply interest Gregory. Well, there are lots of things that don’t interest me either but they don’t make me sick. Moreover, there are lots of things that bore me too, but that doesn’t give me license to act rude to adults, refuse to take any responsibility for my actions, or engage in a self-pity party year after year.

For all these reasons, I disliked Gregory and felt little compassion for his disorder. The doctors diagnosed him with Attention Deficit Disorder. In Gregory’s words: “You have to be kidding! I know exactly what’s wrong and it had nothing to do with concentration. I have no problem. Not a single one. It’s just that school doesn’t interest me.” Of course, it’s always possible that Gregory is in denial. We even see glimpses of that from his memories of kindergarten. He writes of how having to write his name brought him to tears and reciting a nursery rhyme was torture. In contrast, building and creating made him happy. It’s possible that Gregory does suffer from ADD but doesn’t want to admit it. However, beyond these examples, Gavalda doesn’t really explore that angle. Instead Gregory experiences success only in those moments when he himself wants something. When he wants to get into an alternative school, he takes the time to properly fill out an application. When his grandfather gets sick, he throws himself into schoolwork to make his grandfather proud. To me, those examples show that apparently he is capable but is only going to try when it suits his purpose. In that case, Gregory is right that his problems have nothing to do with concentration.

I picked up 95 Pounds of Hope because it fell under the category of learning disabilities. It was a disappointing read. Not only did I find Gregory whiny and (despite his compassion for grandfather) mostly apathetic, I didn’t learn anything about learning disabilities. Actually, if I were to listen to Gavalda, I might think Attention Deficit Disorder isn’t a real disability.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

2 Responses to "95 Pounds of Hope by Anna Gavalda"

I thought the book was good. The book is about a boy that didn’t like school. The boy reminds me of me. B/c I hated school to when I was little. That’s why I like the book. The thing I like the most was when he was climbing the rope and asked for help from his grandfather. That part reminds me of my grandfather. The thing I can see in the story is: The boy climbing the rope, sweating, and having a hard time climbing.

Thanks for sharing your perspective! It’s good to hear different viewpoints.

You’re right. That moment when Gregory struggles to climb the rope IS a good one. It kind of captures how everything else in Gregory’s life has been until that point. Yet he perseveres. And that is key to any struggle.

Although I didn’t connect with 95 Pounds of Hope, everyone has different experiences with books. I’m glad you related to it, even to the point of being reminded of your grandfather.

Anyone else like 95 Pounds of Hope. Why?

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