Book Review: Hope Was Here

Hope Was Here
Published By: Puffin
Publication Date:  September 11, 2000
Page Count: 186
Buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or IndieBound
Source: library
Middle Grade - Contemporary Fiction

Hope Yancey has not had an easy life.  She was born prematurely, she had problems breathing as an infant, and her mother, Deena, gave Hope to her sister (Hope's aunt).  Hope has grown up in, around, and slinging hash for the various diners where her aunt cooked.  When the Blue Box diner goes out of business, Hope and Aunt Addie move from Brooklyn to rural Wisconsin to take jobs at the Welcome Stairways diner.  Before long, Aunt Addie is shaking up the kitchen and Hope is helping the diner's owner shake up the town by working with his election campaign against the crooked current mayor.

Naturally, hope itself is the main theme of this novel.  At birth, Hope's mother named her Tulip.  But on her twelfth birthday Aunt Addie allowed her to choose her own name.  She chose Hope, despite the pressure that comes with an attribute name and despite the drama surrounding her young life.  Getting involved in the political life of the small town she moves to fuels her hope for better things to come.  I don't think you can ask for a better message in a book for young people than that being involved in your community leads to better outcomes for all.

One of the things I loved about Hope Was Here is the way food and waitressing permeate the book far beyond just the scenes that take place in the diner.  Hope relates many things back to lessons she has learned from waiting tables, handling rude customers, and interacting with other waitstaff and cooks in high pressure situations.  Even the bright spots in her troubled relationship with her birth mother, Deena, center around waitressing.  Hope keeps all the tips Deena gives her in a notebook she titles "Best of Mom." Aunt Addie keeps the focus on the food and how good food softens the edges of discontent and brings people together.  I find myself now pondering the meals I cook for my own family and thinking about which ones tend to bring us closer together and reinforce our relationships.

Hope Was Here is a delicious morsel of a book, and I'm so glad my mother recommended it to me.


When Hope and her aunt move to small-town Wisconsin to take over the local diner, Hope's not sure what to expect. But what they find is that the owner, G.T., isn't quite ready to give up yet - in fact, he's decided to run for mayor against a corrupt candidate. And as Hope starts to make her place at the diner, she also finds herself caught up in G.T.'s campaign - particularly his visions for the future. After all, as G.T. points out, everyone can use a little hope to help get through the tough times... even Hope herself.

Filled with heart, charm, and good old-fashioned fun, this is Joan Bauer at her best.


  1. I love the cover! This looks like the perfect book to take on vacation.


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