on March 21st 2016
Hope is dying.
Hope Jackson has lived her short life to the fullest, but her four closest friends are dangling on the brink of disaster. Right before dying of a rare heart condition, Hope sets up a scavenger hunt across New York City using her graffiti art. The directions she leaves her friends are simple: Solve the clues hidden in her art, and they’ll solve the problems haunting their lives.
Hope is dead.
Two days after her heart fails, Hope’s friends are thrown together:
Aiden, her best friend, whose plans to attend college have been scattered by his OCD.Kali, her foster sister, whose last ties to sanity are as razor-thin as her anorexic waistline. Erik, her high school crush, whose success as an athlete is based on a lie with no end in sight.And Sam, her online pen-pal, whose perfect life exploded into chaos in the aftermath of a school bombing.
Together, the four teens take to the streets of New York to complete Hope’s scavenger hunt and fulfill her dying wishes. But in order to unravel the clues hidden in Hope’s graffiti, her friends will need to confront their personal demons head on.
Hope is within reach.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This book absolutely blew my expectations out of the water. In the Hope of Memories follows four teenagers with only one thing in common: they all loved, and were loved by, Hope Jackson. The story is told through alternating POVs of the four main characters, and it follows the group as they go on a scavenger hunt through Philadelphia and New York City that Hope set up for them as one of the last things she did before she died.
The synopsis of this book kind of gave me Since You’ve Been Gone (one of my favorite contemporaries) vibes, but In the Hope of Memories is much more poignant and reflective. Which is not surprising, since the entire premise revolves around a group of four strangers processing the loss of one of the people they loved most in the world. It expertly shows the different ways in which people deal with grief, and, additionally, showcases the variety of feelings that come along with the loss of a loved one. Loss does not always equate to grief; in reality, it’s much more complex and messy. These characters all processed the loss of their friend in their own unique ways, feeling everything from anger, to confusion, to denial, to hopelessness.
In the Hope of Memories is a masterclass on writing a diverse cast of characters. Those of us who advocate for diversity maintain that writing only white, cis, straight, neurotypical characters is not only exclusionary, but also just plain inaccurate, because that’s simply not the way the world looks. Rivers clearly understands that we all come from vastly different backgrounds and experience life in different ways. Nearly every character in this novel, even the side characters, is marginalized in some way. This was so, so refreshing to read, because again, that’s how the real world is. It felt true to real life (yes, diversity haters, DIVERSITY IN FICTION IS REFLECTIVE OF REAL LIFE.). However, the characters didn’t simply feel like an arbitrary *~diversity checklist~* thrown in as an afterthought; all the characters are complex and multifaceted, and they all seemed to leap off the page. I recognize that I am not the best person to judge the accuracy of much of the representation in this book– I am white, cis, and able-bodied; I am not visually impaired; I have not been diagnosed with an eating disorder or with OCD; I have not been in the foster care system; and I am not on the autism spectrum. Rivers herself is disabled, so that makes at least one of the perspectives in this book #ownvoices in that regard. Additionally, of the reviews I have read from people who share the same marginalizations as these characters, the representation was done quite well.
Speaking of characters, let’s talk about them! We first meet Erik, a jock who worked with Hope for years but never had the courage to tell her his feelings for her (or acknowledge hers for him). Next, we meet Aiden, a brilliant rule-follower who went to school with Hope, and whose reliance on logic and compulsions due to his OCD sometimes get in the way of his living life to its full potential. Third, we meet Kali, Hope’s younger foster sister, who’s battling depression, self-harm, substance abuse, an eating disorder, and a general feeling of worthlessness that causes her to lash out at those she loves. Finally, we meet Sam, a computer programmer and Hope’s best internet friend. I truly fell in love with each of these four characters. Their perspectives were so unique, and their individual voices were so strong. I loved seeing them grapple with the changes in their lives, the uncertainty of it all. They were relatable, and witty, and funny, and each of them underwent impressive personal growth over the course of the novel.
Then, of course, we have Hope herself. Though not a POV character in the novel, she is present throughout. All four of the characters view Hope with the reverence we reserve only for the dead. Though it’s plain to the reader that Hope’s methods throughout the scavenger hunt can be misguided at times (forcing someone with both anorexia and bulimia to eat is not a valid or ideal solution), it’s clear her intentions are pure and that she was universally adored by everyone who knew her.
I really enjoyed the scavenger hunt aspect of the book! It’s difficult to fully flesh out a dead character without using their flashback POV, but Rivers did it brilliantly through the scavenger hunt clues. I thought Hope’s clues gave the reader an excellent sense of who she was as a person and what her relationship with each character was like. They were also just immensely clever, and I enjoyed each character’s contributions towards deciphering them. Plus, the growth all four characters undergo as a result of participating in Hope’s scavenger hunt is remarkable and beautiful. I also loved the incorporation of Hope’s art into all the clues!
In short: I smiled, I laughed, I cried, and I learned through reading In the Hope of Memories. I will be meditating on this gem of a novel for a very long time. And, as a final shock to me upon finishing this book, I read the author’s bio and discovered that SHE IS A TEENAGER AND COLLEGE STUDENT. This tidbit made me all the more in awe of her writing skills! I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially if you enjoy contemporary that focuses on heavier subject matter.
Have you read In the Hope of Memories, or do you plan to read it?