Allison's Book Bag

Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

Posted on: March 5, 2014

Hope. Remember the name. It’s important to both the main character and to those whom she meets in the realistic novel Hope was Here by Joan Bauer. This Newbery Honor book is about sixteen-year-old Hope, who seeks a permanent place to call home. It’s also about the townsfolk Hope meets, whot need hope in the face of political corruption.

Stories of parent desertion are not uncommon in the world of literature for young people. What sets Hope was Here apart is the quirky details. For example, Hope is the new legal name chosen by the main character to replace her birth name of Tulip. Hope’s mom had seen a movie in which an actress was running happily through a field of tulips. She decided that she wanted to remember her daughter this way, happy and free. Also, while there might not be a dad in the picture, Hope has faithfully created a scrapbook for each year of her life to show to him when he does finally swoop in to rescue her.

Hope was Here also contains its own unique twists. For example, after bestowing her daughter with the questionable name of Tulip, Hope’s mom made an even more serious choice. She leaves Hope with her older sister, Addie, and then takes off to find her own life. Addie’s presence, therefore, provides Hope with a mother figure, something not always seen in the typical parent desertion fare. Also, although Hope’s mom deserted Hope when only a baby, her influence remains–partly through the waitressing tips she passes onto Hope. That, and her unexpected visits, which causes disruption to the normalcy that Hope both seeks and needs.

Political corruption might not seem like an exciting topic. Bauer makes it work because of sympathetic and pivotal characters whom Bauer puts in the campaign arena. Addie has dragged Hope from state-to-state all of her life, seeking stable employment. Now, as Hope turns sixteen, they’re headed to a rural diner in Wisconsin where they discover their boss, G.T., is looking for new workers because he’s dying of cancer. This medical diagnosis has given G.T. a different perspective on life, including the desire to change his town, which he plans to do by running for mayor.

Bauer juggles two major subplots and it’s a marvel to watch her intertwine them. Hope gets involved in the campaign, as well as in the lives of G.T.’s workers. One young man not much older than Hope owes his livelihood to G.T., and continues to speak out even after being assaulted. He also becomes Hope’s confidant. Another worker, a waitress who is initially jealous of Hope, finds herself reliant on G.T. when in need of a place to bring her baby during the day. Hope begins to use her free hours to care for the baby. Then there’s G.T. He and Addie squabble over food preparation and choices. At the same time, G.T.. becomes a male constant in her life, which is scary because he’s terminally ill.

Joan Bauer tends to write about characters who are down on their luck but who serve as positive role models. For example, Hope deliberately chose her name knowing that others would turn to her for a smile and comfort. And she managed to live up to her name even in the face of being deserted and facing job loss. Bauer’s plots are also fast-paced and fun. Discover her today!

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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