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Review: Finding Hope (Nelson)

AUTHOR: Colleen Nelson
SERIES: none
PUBLICATION DATE: April 12, 2016
ISBN: 9781459732452
PAGES: 200
SOURCE: SLJ review copy from NetGalley
GENRE: realistic fiction
SETTING: Lumsville, Ohio and the nearby “city”
GIVE IT TO: mature readers who love Ellen Hopkins

SUMMARY: Alternates perspectives between 15-year old Hope and her 18-year old half-brother Eric. Eric is a former teen hockey star who is now homeless and addicted to meth. Hope is trying desperately to help her brother but doesn’t know how. She is a poetry-writing wallflower who observes life but doesn’t really live it. When Hope gets a chance to move to the city and attend Ravenhurst Academy, she jumps at the chance to reinvent her life. At first, things at Ravenhurst are going well: Hope finds a new group of friends and even an online boyfriend. But things at Ravenhurst aren’t as they seem, especially when Eric shows up at the school gates, looking for Hope and his next fix.

REVIEW: This book will be popular with mature readers who loved Beatrice Sparks’s Go Ask Alice and Ellen Hopkins’s Crank series. Hope and Eric’s alternating chapters are believable and heartbreaking. I really liked that Eric’s chapters give us a glimpse into Eric’s thoughts and behaviors while he is high on meth and while he desperately seeks his next fix.

I loved both Hope and Eric, and I felt for both of them. Eric’s addiction stems from a life-changing event, and Hope’s naivete makes her vulnerable to some of the most disgusting cyberbullying I’ve seen. Unlike many YA stories of addiction, the parents are not the cause of the problems, but they do unwittingly help enable them. The dad really made me mad in his hard-nosed stand, and the mom wrings her hands and worries but doesn’t really know how to help. I kept wondering why no one tried to get family counseling or, instead of kicking Eric out, put him into a treatment facility. I get that he is 18 now and an adult, but Eric’s addiction started when he was 16. Why did no one think of getting him treatment then? Or at least some family counseling for Hope and the parents after they kicked Eric out?

I also love how, though the story is dark and incredibly sad, it stays true to its title. It’s dark, but it’s not all gloom and doom. For teens in Hope’s situation, with a drug-addicted sibling, Finding Hope just might help them see that they are not alone and that there can be a happy ending if they search out professional help.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Don’t miss it. The themes–drug abuse, sexual abuse, bullying, suicide–are very mature, so I do not recommend this title for middle school.



  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5–very mature content
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5


  • Language: moderate–includes 30+ F-bombs; sh**
  • Sexuality: high–sexual abuse (described in some detail); sexting nude photos
  • Violence: moderate–Eric is violent while he is high–punches innocent people, commits burglary
  • Drugs/Alcohol: high–it’s about a meth addict, and he gets high many times in the story. Also alcohol drinking in dorms.

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