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Something Like Hope Hardcover – December 28, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–Shavonne, who has gone from one juvenile detention center to another since junior high, will be moving out of the system on her 18th birthday. Fury and frustration are huge obstacles she must conquer by coming to grips with a drug-addicted prostitute mother; abusive foster parents who allowed her to be raped; a father who died in jail; giving up her own baby to the foster-care system; and forgiving herself for an accident that injured her beloved baby brother. Her personal challenges are compounded by troubled and desperate fellow inmates; several cruel, manipulative, corrupt guards who beat and taunt them; and youth counselors without a clue, who hurt more than help. Luckily, the last embers of hope deep within Shavonne's soul are flamed by one kind guard and an empathetic and straightforward counselor who successfully reaches through to her at the 11th hour. Shavonne's first-person narrative captures readers' attention and never lets go. Short, compelling chapters keep up the tempo as her shocking and sad past and present are revealed and her desire for a better future takes center stage. Readers will forgive the slightly pat ending, reassured that Shavonne is finally on the right track. Language and situations are appropriately coarse and startling for the setting, and those teens who applauded the urban survivors in Sapphire's Push (Vintage, 1998) and Coe Booth's Tyrell (Scholastic, 2006) will do the same for Shavonne.–Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, CO. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Smart, angry, and desperate, Shavonne, 17, is in juvenile detention again, and in her present-tense, first-person narrative, she describes the heartbreaking brutality that she suffered before she was locked up, as well as the harsh treatment, and sometimes the kindness, she encounters in juvie. With a mother who is a crack-addicted prostitute, and a father she never knew who died in prison, she was sent into the foster-care system as a young child. One foster mother needed money for drugs, so she forced Shavonne, 11 at the time, to go with a man who raped her. While she was locked up, Shavonne gave birth, and she is glad that her daughter is now in a kind foster home. As the title suggests, the story leaves room for something like hope; with all the pain and sorrow Shavonne endures, she is never broken. Not only does the African American teen survive, but she also nurtures needy fellow inmates, and she bonds with her counselor even as she tries to escape a vicious, racist supervisor. More than a situation, the story builds to a tense climax: What is the secret Shavonne cannot even think about? Shavonne’s voice—witty, tender, explicit, and tough—will grab readers. In the tradition of Walter Dean Myers’ and Jacqueline Woodson’s novels, this winner of Delacorte’s 2009 prize for best YA debut gets behind the statistics to tell it like it is. Grades 9-12. --Hazel Rochman
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Top Customer Reviews
It's the voice of Shavonne which resonates. Angry and confused by what has happened to her, Shavonne lashes out in violence against those who come close to her secrets. As her 18th birthday approaches with imminent release into a harsh world, she begins to open up to a sad-eyed middle-aged white male counselor. He lets her come to terms with giving birth to a baby delivered straight into the system and her own crack-head mother who deserted her. He lets her see it isn't her fault; but what comes next for her will be of her own choosing. He lets her discover these things herself.
The connections between her low self-esteem and self-destructive path lead her to the weight of guilt from the secret she keeps. The guilt she has carried for the role she played in her brother's childhood accident builds like emotional thunderclouds. Letting go of the blame and shame for not being a mother to her brother, or a mother to her own infant, is only possible when she begins to recognize she has been a motherless child. Only now is she becoming an adult and will be responsible for her own self from now on and Shavonne discovers something like hope.
It doesn't get in your face to make its points. The characters are real, engaging, and thought-provoking. In addition, the journey the protagonist, Shavonne, takes is realistic and sincerely portrayed. The supporting characters don't save her or take her down, she wouldn't have that, but rather travel with her as she figures out how to make her way.
Her situation in the book is what some could never even imagine and others have lived through. The author put her experience in front of us in such a way so no matter where we come from we can meet the protagonist where she is and be there with her. The reader understands the choices Shavonne makes and the thoughts she has about her life because they are real not sensationalized.
Writers of teen fiction need to understand that teens don't need to be hit over the head and shocked, but rather they need writers who can be real with them. Shawn Goodman understands that.
I could not put this book down, and the ending brought me to tears. It was so powerful, I had to go back and re-read the last few chapters. And I cried a second time. So many scenes--like Shavonne's desperate telephone call to her daughter's foster mom, and her unexpected encounter with a kindly woman on the Greyhound bus--are hauntingly touching and superbly rendered. Goodman's gritty-yet-poignant tale offers a glimmer of hope that genuine care and concern still exist in the harshest corners of this world, while underscoring their immutable power to repair even the worst emotional and psychological wreckage from a childhood beset with unthinkable ruthlessness, indifference and despair.
Although Something Like Hope is a quick, young-adult read, it is one of those rare books I would characterize as "required reading" for all adults--young and old alike. Both revealing and inspired, it should serve as a reminder to every spoiled, apathetic teenager lucky enough to have a stable home and loving parents (and every adult entrusted with the task of caring for and raising their own smart-mouthed offspring) just how blessed they truly are.