Book Review: Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum

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.

GENRE: 

Young Adult, Contemporary

PAGES:

304 pages

PART OF A SERIES?:

Standalone Novel

RELEASE DATE: 

May 7th 2019

PUBLISHER:

Delacorte Press

SOURCE:

Physical Owned Copy

YOU CAN FIND THE BOOK AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE/LIBRARY OR THE FOLLOWING LINKS:

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Author’s Website

GOODREADS SUMMARY: 

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?

MY REVIEW

I don’t know if its a product of being a teenager when 9/11 happened, but most people I know my age either don’t want to talk about it all OR they’re cynical about it. I have never been that kind of person. I am emotional so when it comes to events where a lot of lives are lost, like the Holocaust or the sinking of Titanic or school shootings or, yes, 9/11, I feel it so much and I find myself constantly surrounding myself with the stories because I don’t want it to be forgotten. I would’ve read Julie’s book regardless because I adore her but I was even more intrigued when I read the premise.

The book is emotional, period. Its hard to read a book about something like this without it being emotional. Honestly, I can’t imagine it. That being said, it didn’t feel like a downer book. It didn’t feel like it existed to be sad, to make me cry. I think it touched on a lot of the aspects of 9/11 and its legacy that we sometimes forget about when we’re being cynical and talking conspiracy theories and such. Children lost their parents. There are people who still don’t have answers. There are thousands of people who are STILL dealing with health problems. And this book manages to touch on all of that in very genuine and real ways.

I think Julie’s story’s strength lies in her main character, Abby. This is a person who has no choice except to constantly be enveloped in the memory of 9/11 because of the picture of her and its hard for her to deal with. She was a young child so she has very little memory of it and she doesn’t always have the same feelings as those that were there with her and yet everyone is constantly reaching out to her. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a person, a young person, and I think Abby’s struggle to balance the person she wants to be and the person that Baby Hope is expected to be makes for a really great story. I think its strengthened every more with the fact that she’s sick, she knows she’s sick but she doesn’t want to face it, she doesn’t want yet another thing anchoring her in that moment as Baby Hope. Abby is a very real, human character and I loved reading her story.

I also super liked Noah as a character. I think he was such an important part of the story and such a huge reason why this book is more than just a 9/11 book. Yes, he is kind of exploiting Abby to find out about a mysterious man in the Baby Hope photo and the more you read the book, the more you understand his obsession. But honestly, its his comic relief, his striving to find humor in all situations, even in 9/11, that’s what keeps you going, what keeps a lot of the characters going. I feel like humor is a huge thing in anyone’s life to keep going even when you don’t want to. I really appreciated the humor from Noah.

At the heart of the novel though, beyond the tragedy of 9/11, is a teenage girl who wants to fit in, who wants to reinvent herself, have friends, fall in love and live her life without all the other pressures and I think in any circumstances, this is not only a relatable story, but just a good one. Watching Abby grow over the course of a summer felt like privilege and I keep thinking of her, hoping but also sort of knowing that she is going to be okay.

RATING:

5 out of 5 Stars

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