Hope Was Here

Book: Hope Was Here
Author: Joan Bauer
Cover Illustrator: Wendell Minor
Publisher: Puffin, reissued in 2005
ISBN-13: 978-0756957773 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 075695777X (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0142404249 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0142404241 (Paperback)
Related website: http://www.penguinputnam.com (publisher)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com .

Bauer, Joan. Hope Was Here (published in 2000 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers of the Penguin Group, 345 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). Sixteen-year-old Hope Yancey has lived a very nomadic life. Her mother Deena, a waitress who originally named her Tulip, didn’t want the responsibility of raising a baby, left her with her Aunt Addie, Deena’s older sister and a cook, and went off to live on her own. Hope remembers seeing her mom only three times. Addie and Hope have worked in Atlanta, GA, where Hope was a girl scout for three months; St. Louis, MO, where she changed her name from Tulip to Hope; the Rainbow Diner in Pensacola, SC, where Hope moved from bus girl to waitress; the Ballyhoo Grill in South Carolina; and the Blue Box in Brooklyn, NY, where Addie was a partner with owner Gleason Beal. In fact, Hope has lived in five different states and gone to six different schools. However, Gleason has run off with Addie’s money, along with the night waitress, for parts unknown, forcing the restaurant in Brooklyn to be closed down.

So now, Addie and Hope are headed to Mulhoney, WI, on the outskirts of Milwaukee, to work at the Welcome Stairways diner, owned by Gabriel Thomas (G. T.) Stoop, a 54-year-old man whose wife Gracie had died a few years before and who himself is being treated for leukemia. Addie and Hope have their hands full when G. T. decides to run for mayor against the unscrupulous incumbent Eli Millstone. A romantic interest develops between Hope and the eighteen-year-old Eddie Braverman who also cooks at the diner, as well as one between Addie and G. T. But will G. T. recover from his illness? Who will win the election? And what will happen to Addie and Hope? The possible objectionable elements in this book are not too many. Aside from a few common euphemisms (gee, kick butt), the terms Lord. God, and Jesus are frequently used as interjections, but there is no actual cursing. In one scene, Hope is accosted by the Carbinger brothers, but nothing really happens as she is rescued by Deputy Sheriff Babcock.

My major concern with the overall theme of the book is the picture of family. Hope has never met her father and doesn’t even know his name. In fact, her mother says that she doesn’t know who he is either. Addie’s no-good husband Malcolm left her for a thin-lipped dental hygienist. Braverman’s daddy walked out on the family. One of the other waitresses, Lou Ellen, has a baby Anastasia, who “doesn’t have a daddy either.” I know that these kinds of situations do occur, but reading modern children’s and youth literature, you might get the impression that they are the norm. Why do today’s writers feel that they must present nearly every family as dysfunctional? Thankfully, everything turns out nicely in the end, but there’s a lot of baggage to deal with along the way to get there. If one is willing to wade through all that, there is actually a good story in Hope Was Here, and I think that I can understand why it was a Newbery Honor Book in 2001 with its messages of needing “hope,” the importance of character, and having vision for the future, but it is definitely a story for teens and not for younger children.

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