Monday, August 19, 2013

Something Like Hope

                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.

                I don’t normally read books like this. That is the understatement of the year. After all, who mostly reads about messed-up teenage girls in juvenile detention facilities? Anyway, I digress. The characters were amazing. Even though I have no personal experience with this, Shavonne’s voice captivated me. She was a really strong protagonist, and the side-characters were good as well. I empathized greatly with several of the characters; when you’re in there, everything can, and probably does, seem hopeless. The plot wasn’t predictable, and it was a page-turner. Also, for a middle-aged white guy, he writes black teenage girls really well. The voice was completely accurate. (I assume his background as a school psychologist helped.)

                This isn’t an easy book to read. There’s a lot of swearing, and they all had pretty rough pasts. The characters were so real.  This is a book that makes you think. If you like contemporary or books about detention centers (or even if you don’t), I’d highly recommend it. SOMETHING LIKE HOPE gives an amazing glimpse into the struggles that people nationwide face every day.

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