Shawn Goodman Something Like Hope
193 pp. Delacorte Press (Random House) 2011 ISBN: 978-0-385-73939-9
Full Disclosure: Received finished copy from the author
Summary (From the publisher): 17-year-old Shavonne has been in juvenile detention since the seventh grade. Mr Delpopolo is the first counselor to treat her as an equal, and he helps her get to the bottom of her self-destructive behavior, her guilt about past actions, and her fears about leaving the Center when she turns 18. Shavonne tells him the truth about her crack-addicted mother, the child she had (and gave up to foster care) at fifteen, and the secret shame she feels about what she did to her younger brother after her mother abandoned them. Meanwhile, Shavonne’s mentally unstable roommate Cinda makes a rash move, and Shavonne’s quick thinking saves her life—and gives her the opportunity to get out of the Center if she behaves well. But Shavonne’s faith is tested when her new roommate, mentally retarded and pregnant Mary, is targeted by a guard as a means to get revenge on Shavonne. As freedom begins to look more and more likely, Shavonne begins to believe that maybe she, like the goslings recently hatched on the Center’s property, could have a future somewhere else—and she begins to feel something like hope.
This is a brutally honest, but hopeful story of finding yourself and moving beyond your past.
I’ve read quite a few books recently that teachers and librarians should have in their libraries, but Something Like Hope is the first book I’ve read in a while that, if I had the money, I’d buy for all of my teaching friends to read and include in their libraries. Some of us may not have a student like Shavonne right now (that we know of), but who’s to say we won’t in the future. Shawn Goodman wrote this poignant novel in response to his experiences working in juvenile detention facilities. Unfortunately, many people across the country have had experiences like Shawn. This is why it’s so very important for people to know about Something Like Hope. I hope that many readers (teens, parents, educators, etc) will read this novel.
Shavonne’s exterior tough attitude reminded me of some of the students I’ve had. She’s suffered from all types of abuse from when she was living with her mom, living in foster care and living in the detention center. It’s no wonder that Shavonne has built up this wall to protect herself; she’s constantly preparing herself for fight or flight. The abuse she suffers at the juvenile detention facility is the most haunting of all. Any time something happened to her or to another character, I wanted to bust through those doors and have someone arrested! Thankfully Shavonne finds some solace in Mr. Delpopolo. He’s straight-forward and honest with her, which both throws Shavonne for a loop, but is also something she desperately needs. Mr. Delpopolo shows Shavonne compassion, which so many teens–troubled or not–crave. The therapy Shavonne receives from talking to Mr. Delpopolo allows her to feel. She feels more than just pain and fear. She starts feeling sympathy and love and concern for her new roommate Mary. She starts feeling trust for those in the center who have helped her. Like the summary says, Shavonne starts feeling hope.
Knowing that Shawn has experiences like Mr. Delpopolo boggles my mind. I’ve listened to some of my students’ heart-wrenching stories, but I haven’t heard anything like Shavonne’s story. I had a difficult time not crying while I was reading Something Like Hope. Shawn deserves high-praises for the work he’s doing with troubled teens and for writing such a powerful and tragic, yet hopeful novel. It’s my hope that Something Like Hope gets the attention it deserves and consequently more troubled teens get the help they so desperately need. This is a five-star debut novel without a doubt!