Published by Delacorte Press on May 7, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Blog Tour
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some drinking, Themes of death and illness)
The New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things and What to Say Next delivers a poignant and hopeful novel about resilience and reinvention, first love and lifelong friendship, the legacies of loss, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.
Sometimes looking to the past helps you find your future.
Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka "Baby Hope") wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.
Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She's psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.
Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it's a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?
Buxbaum is a genius at contemporary storytelling, and this book is no exception. She manages to pack so much into 300 pages without ever making it feel overwrought or unrealistic. You would be hard-pressed to read this book and not come out of the experience thinking about 9/11 differently.
What Fed My Addiction:
- Opposing goals. Abbi wants to move on with her life and get past the one thing that has always defined her. She wants to ignore the possible repercussions of that day (which I can’t talk about because it would be a spoiler). Noah wants to understand the day that took his father away–he needs to know what happened to him. I ended up loving both of these characters so much that I was rooting for both of them. But these two opposing goals are impossible to reconcile and they make for a great conflict.
- 9/11. I’ve only read one other book about 9/11, and it was a middle grade that tackled the subject in a more classroom-type setting. This story was fictional (the picture that the book is based on and the characters portrayed are not real) but the scenario that Buxbaum creates is intensely personal, which makes the tragedy of 9/11 itself more personal. This isn’t a discussion of the motives behind the attack but instead examines the lives of those left behind. I did learn a few things about 9/11, though—I didn’t realize that so many people suffered from illnesses due to the chemicals in the air. For most of us, 9/11 is a bad memory (or, for teens, not even that), but there are still many people living with the repercussions today.
- Fleshed out secondary characters. Buxbaum is amazing at this. I felt like I knew every single character in this story, even if they were very minor. Each person was three-dimensional and knowable (and likable, at least in some ways–even those you weren’t sure about). From Jack, Noah’s best friend who plays a key part in the story, right down to Brenden, Jack’s love interest with a tiny role in the book, you learn details that made you feel like you know them!
- Noah’s comedy. How to write a book about 9/11 that isn’t depressing? Make one of your main characters love comedy. Noah and Jack were a hilarious duo, and Abbi herself managed to be funny when she was around Noah (a fact that surprised even her). Who doesn’t love snappy banter? (Without having snarky characters–a balance that’s unusual and hard to achieve.)
- Slow-burn, adorkable romance. The romance in this book doesn’t develop overnight. No love at first sight here. Instead, Abbi and Noah have some definite friction at the beginning. The other thing I LOVED about this book was that Noah and Abbi aren’t all suave and passionate–they felt like two real teens, and often their relationship was strained and awkward and goofy. Such a breath of fresh air!!!
- Family! Abbi’s relationships with her parents and grandmother are center stage in this book (and they’re SO positive). Noah’s relationships are slightly more complicated, but they’re not full of the usual YA angst, and we get to see his parents as real people. The family relationships in this book are perfect! (Well, okay, they’re imperfect, but they are portrayed perfectly.)
- Subplots. I don’t usually specifically note these, but Buxbaum manages to infuse so much into one story without making anything feel ignored or maudlin. Beyond the plotline regarding 9/11, we’ve got a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s, a serious illness, a best friend relationship that’s faded away, and a few will-they-won’t-they romances for the secondary characters. And that’s just what I think of off the top of my head! I have no idea how all of these things are woven into the story so seamlessly and perfectly—it seems like witchcraft!
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- Bad decision with few repercussions. Abbi makes a very poor decision about her health that just gets a tiny response. I was expecting a bit more consequences—or at least a stern talking-to.
- No information? There were a couple of times when I wondered why Noah couldn’t find the information he was looking for, considering how much he’d researched things. When it all comes to light, it seems like someone would have talked about it sometime in their small(ish) town.
Honestly, I feel like I could just keep talking, but soon this review would be as long as the book. But that’s the type of read that I love—one that keeps me thinking about it long after I’ve put the book down. As you can see, my negatives for the book were tiny compared to the positives. Filled with humor and heart, Hope and Other Punchlines reminds us of the frailty of life and how we need to hold onto every precious moment, but it also reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Rockstar Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About The Author
Julie Buxbaum is the New York Times best selling author of Tell Me Three Things, her young adult debut, What to Say Next and the forthcoming Hope and other Punchlines (out May 7, 2019.) She’s also the author of two critically acclaimed novels for adults: The Opposite of Love and After You. Her work has been translated into twenty-five languages. Julie’s writing has appeared in various publications, including The New York Times. She is a former lawyer and graduate of Harvard Law School and lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two children, and more books than is reasonable.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of HOPE & OTHER PUNCHLINES, US Only.
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