Hope is a decision... but it is a hard one to make---or even recognize---in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and---in some cases---even hopeless. But in trying times, words have power. Some of today's most popular YA authors come together in this revealing, personal collection of essays, each a flame that offers light in the darkness. Together, just like us people, these hard-earned words of wisdom become even stronger when united.Hope is the uniting theme of the collection of essays but each deals with different topics: reacting to the current political climate; disfigurement; self-esteem; LGBTQ issues; rejection; abuse; racism; and finding one's voice are all included. As with most collections of this type the writing isn't completely consistent. How could it be? And my interest or need to hear words of hope of the various topics varied. But overall the whole was very good and I didn't find myself feeling impatient to move on or be done with the book, as has happened before when I "got" to the purpose and message and didn't need to be beat over the head with it.
My two favorites from the collection happened to be the first two. The first was a short story written by David Levithan, an author I am fairly familiar with. He attended the Women's March in January after the inauguration of Donald Trump. He, like I, was hurting but found hope and peace in the process of marching with others. His short story was written after he had time to reflect on the day's events after the march. There was a lot to love in the story but here is one of my favorite lines:
"We strangers are all smiling at one another. We are so much louder together than we are on our own. I knew I was here to protest; I knew I was here to unite. But what I didn't know was that I was here to remember why I am so in love with this world" (28).My second favorite essay was written by Libba Bray, another favorite author. If you haven't read anything by her most of her books are very funny or contain a lot of humor mixed in with the poignant bits. What I didn't know about her was she was in a serious, nearly life-threatening, disfiguring accident right out of high school. She had a really hard time with her recovery and learning to love herself again. Writing/journeling saved her. What a powerful message to teens struggling with self-acceptance. The last line, repeated three times, "You are not alone" (58).
Some other gems were found dispersed throughout the other essays. Jeff Zentner says he is hopeful about the future because of "book people." He goes on to describe that Book People have empathy brought about by reading about other people, people different than self. He goes on to encourage Book People to stand up for the rights of others when they see discrimination happening. James Dashner tells teens, "If life is rotten, then go and find those people who will accept you and love you and join your quest to change the world. I promise you they are out there" (268). Both of these authors are speaking directly to bookish students. These students often feel like misfits in their high schools. But here they are reminding these teens that there are like-minded folks who will understand them and LIKE them. Once again very hopeful words.
All together twenty-four authors have messages of hope to share with the readers of this book. It is a very good collection and I hope it finds its way into the hands of the readers who need it.