Author: Joan Bauer
Reading Level: 5th – 8th
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Edition: Hardcover, 2000
I can see that, maybe, some readers will find parts (especially toward the end, when most things turn out exactly right) of this story a bit too good to be true, or even sappy, but I definitely ate it all up! Joan Bauer has the talent to capture many different personalities as only an observant writer would: they are just your every day ordinary people, they sound real, they act not that out of the norm, and yet, each single one of them also carries a little spotlight around that makes you, the reader as audience, see the details defined much more clearly and each of them shines with a glow that makes them a bit larger than life. Reading Hope Was Here, like reading its twin, another excellent book by Bauer, Rules of the Road, inspires the reader to examine the every day life and people with a special lens that captures what’s just below the surface that makes every thing and every body that much more special. We become less lazy about what we do and how we feel. I’m surprised that no one has offered a movie deal to turn this into one of the core American Spirit (dare I say Value???), feel-good, summer family movie! It has all: quirky, interesting characters, a mystery to solve, some very witty internal monologues (and food metaphors,) lots of hope and courage, and some romance, too. It’s a bit like Sideways, only it deals with the philosophy of Diner Food, not red wine, and it’s about a 17-year-old girl, not a middle aged man, of course!
As I read this book that has been quite popular with my 5th graders, I was constantly amazed in wonderous puzzlement: why do my girl readers, who are mostly from well-to-do families, and who has lived the city life all along would find this book so irresistable that they excitedly recommend it to their best friends all the time? What do they see and feel in it that speaks to them so much? The interesting and witty main character (Hope) alone cannot carry the weight of the entire book… what else? I’ll have to remember to investigate that one when school starts in a couple of weeks.