My teenage daughter bought A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson in the summer holidays, and quite enjoyed it. She published a blog post on here about it. She recommended it for my primary school library, and I decided that I ought to read it too, just to make sure that it was suitable.
Dan Hope is a bit of a dreamer. Mostly he dreams that his dad, who walked out on him, his mum and his sister four years ago, will come back, or at least make contact with him. After seeing him on the local television news as a reporter, he is even more determined that this dream will come true. Now that his dad is famous, surely he won’t go on ignoring his son?
Dan’s best friend Jo, who is obsessed with religious memorabilia, gives him a medal with Saint Gabriel on and tells him to tell Saint Gabriel the things that he wants, and Saint Gabriel will make them come true.
Dan is not entirely sure that this will work, so combines his saintly wish list with an action plan based roughly on the mantra: ‘What would Sherlock Holmes do?’
Dan gets into all sorts of scrapes trying to track down his dad. There are interwoven story lines about his teenage sister and her no hoper boyfriend, his best friend Christopher, and his mum and her new boyfriend, all of which entwine with each other and cause Dan problems when his inability to read between the lines of grown up interactions gives him grief on more than one occasion.
I think this is quite a sweet novel, and would work well for confident readers aged 8-14. It would work well for girls and boys. The male protagonist makes it accessible for boys despite its rather Jacqueline Wilson style narrative and plot. There are some nice, humorous touches that lift the otherwise quite deep and sometimes emotional plot and make it more readable.
As an adult reader I found some of the plot twists frankly implausible and felt that the biggest let down was the story line about Dan and his dad. It at least has the benefit of not being open ended, but I did find myself about three quarters of the way through being slightly stunned by what happens and wondering why on earth the author decided to do what she did. I make mention of the fact that I am reading it as an adult however, as I’m not sure that child readers will have the same issues with it that I did.