Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Arty -- Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
Hope Was Here is such a treasure. It has a simple premise: Hope Yancey, a sixteen-year-old with no father and an absentee mother, has been raised by her aunt Addie for as long as she can remember. They travel the US, working at different diners and restaurants - Addie is a short-order genius, and Hope has plenty of experience waitressing.
The story opens with another move, to small-town Mulhoney, Wisconsin and the little diner called the Welcome Stairways. This town and this diner, however, are ever so slightly different.
There's Lou Ellen, the single mother with the disabled baby Anastasia; there's Braverman, the diner's teenage griller who had to stay home from college because of family financial issues; and, most of all, G.T. Stoop, the Welcome Stairways's owner, the effervescent older man with leukemia who also up and decides to run for mayor.
It's a good thing Hope is skilled at hope, because it appears Mulhoney will need it.
Good grief, this book was good.
The characters are what make it. Hope is what makes it. I've never read a better genreless heroine. (Sammy Keyes is under the mystery genre - she's more fun but Hope is right on her tail). She's not whiny or annoying, and she's not a Pollyanna - she knows life is tough and she's okay with that and she knows it's still worth it.
CAN I GET AN AMEN FOR THE MOST REFRESHING HEROINE SINCE EVER?
Sorry. I get really excited when I find a female MC I love this much. Seriously. This girl danced around a diner in a red clown nose to lift her spirits. You cannot dislike Hope Yancey.
The other characters are amazing, too. I thought Addie would be another cliché brash-but-lovable aunt; she turned out to be an opinionated, stubborn, frightfully intelligent, warm, loving, oh-my-gosh-can-I-be-her-niece character. (Also a can-you-come-cook-for-us character - her food sounds divine.) Braverman was actually an interesting love interest - you could see it from a mile away, but still. He and Hope were cute.
G.T., however, turns out to be the second driving force of the novel, after Hope. This guy... I'm not even going to try to sum him up because it's late and I'm tired and besides - one does not simply sum up Gabriel Thomas Stoop.
Basically, he's one of the most amazing old guys ever. Any Adventures In Odyssey listers - ironically, he reminds me a lot of Tom Riley. (Without the Richard Maxwell issues. Mainly because there's no Richard Maxwell figure in Hope Was Here. But that's beside the point.)
The subplots - the political side (which was amazing), the diner/short-order cook/waitressing side (which was amazing and made me hungry), the personal, girl-wishing-for-family side (which was amazing) - it all worked so well together. So well. And even if the ending was a little easy... it was worth it.
Hope Was Here is like comfort food. You sort of know what you're getting, but at the same time it's sort of a surprise how good it is, and it makes you happy the whole way through.