Saturday, June 8, 2019

Review: "Hope and Other Punch Lines" by Julie Buxbaum

Julie Buxbaum is one of my go-to YA fiction writers when I'm looking for something that has a little more depth. (Don't get me wrong—I enjoy a fluffy romance, obviously, but every once in a while I'm in the mood for something a little more serious.) She's also become an "auto get" for me, so when Hope and Other Punch Lines came up for review, I pounced 😉.

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?

Hope and Other Punch Lines gives a sensitive look at the ongoing impact of 9/11. I was in college at the time of the attacks, and I still remember the confusion, devastation, and uncertainty of those days. So the book synopsis immediately drew me in (though I'll admit I got the book based on the author and gorgeous cover alone). Most of the people in this book's target demographic have only lived in the "after," the time following 9/11, so its impact on most of them has been indirect and probably not something they've thought much about. What this book does beautifully is show how the events of nearly 18 years ago do still have a hold on many people.

The story centers around Abbi and Noah. Abbi is "Baby Hope," a child who was photographed while a daycare worker fled with her from one of the towers. Now nearly 17, Abbi wants nothing more than to just be Abbi and leave Baby Hope behind. But Noah, one of her coworkers at a day camp, won't let that happen. Due to 9/11's impact on his own life, he's on a quest to find and interview the people from the Baby Hope photo ... and Baby Hope herself just dropped into his lap!

Abbi begrudgingly agrees to help Noah, and as they work together to interview survivors, they also grow closer to each other, and a romance (predictably) ensues. They also uncover some secrets that have the potential to devastate them both.

This book is written in short chapters that alternate between Abbi's and Noah's perspectives. It's a fairly quick read (though the first half does drag on a bit). Because of the subject matter, the book is fairly heavy; it's not a light beach read, but it is thought provoking and enjoyable. 3-1/2 stars.

Content note: Though not pervasive, the book does contain some swear words, including three or four uses of the f-word. There's also some teenage drinking, talk of sexuality, and a few crude jokes. I would not recommend it to anyone who lost someone in 9/11, as it would probably hit too close to home.

Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Buxbaum's Tell Me Three Things (4-1/2 stars) and What to Say Next (4 stars).

1. Julie Buxbaum is the author of the critically acclaimed The Opposite of Love, After You, and Tell Me Three Things, and her work has been translated into twenty-five languages.
2. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two young children, and an immortal goldfish, and once received an anonymous email which inspired her YA debut.
3. You can visit Julie online at and follow @juliebux on Twitter where she doesn’t list everything in groups of three.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...