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Hope Was Here

by Joan Bauer
186 pages, General Fiction
Reviewed by Lily A.

Hope & Addy build a new life with love, politics, & foodservice in Wisconson.

Plot

Hope Yancey knows a thing or two about facing change, but the change in her life right now is a big one. She and her aunt Addy are leaving New York City, where their restaurant job just fell apart, to work in a little diner in Wisconson. She'll be dealing with a new job, new crowd of friends, new school, a terminally ill boss, and a small town that doesn’t know what a parade looks like and where nobody eats sushi. And that’s before we factor in love and politics!

Morality

Friendship and family are lauded. Hope and some of her friends have had difficult family situations—Hope was given up by her mom, a co-worker was abandoned by his father, another co-worker is a single mom and her baby has medical needs—but their commitment to watch out for their families shines.
Much of the plot revolves around trying to get a good and honest man into city government in place of a more questionable one. In some cases, evil is repaid by good.

Sometimes, stressed characters have verbal fights. Hope longingly imagines her biological father taking revenge for her on a man who’d wronged her and Abby. Antagonists can be deceptive, and at times also quite violent. Someone hires a hearse to stop in view of a very sick man to rattle his nerves.

Spiritual Content

A local pastor and members of his congregation frequent the diner. Characters sometimes use exclamations which might double as loud prayers. Hope and Addy’s new boss had close relatives who were Quakers, and remembers them fondly. Passing comments are made, sometimes light-heartedly, about miracles and souls.

Violence

In the course of the political campaign, people who back the incumbent candidate intimidate opposing campaign volunteers, break into a home to damage equipment being used for campaign promotion, and brutally beat one of the campaign’s most vocal supporters. (We see the victim with an arm in a cast and severe facial bruising after the fact.) Hope wishes a particularly unkind past employer would come to harm, and relates how she used to punch things when she got very angry. Some characters are ill, and one dies. A policewoman is described as crushing badguys underfoot.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A beer truck is mentioned in passing.

Sexual Content

One of Hope’s New York friends invented a rating scale with which to express the perceived cuteness of boys, and Hope sometimes references it in her mind as she assesses a coworker. A customer tries to convince Hope to date her son. Hope’s biological mother seems prone to short-term romances. A couple of bullies hit on a character, and are stopped by a policewoman. Various key characters enter into relationships. We see what a character thinks of a kiss. A couple weds.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

One or two uses of the Lord’s name in vain.

Conclusion

Hope Was Here is a modern slice of life story. It is happy with running streaks of sadness, conversational while still eloquent, and placed in a sleepy small town which sometimes gets an unpleasant amount of action. Also, it will make you hungry! Hope & Addy have been in the foodservice career for all of Hope’s life, and they are passionate about what they do. They talk about texture and flavor and cooking and serving and inventing new recipes with the kind of interest and care which people give to a full-time hobby, or to their most beloved fandom. While the protagonists here aren’t perfect—they can get angry and argumentative, and make mixed-quality decisions—they seem to mostly be good people, like I might enjoy meeting, and their author writes them with as much affectionate detail as they themselves indulge in their food.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 13+

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