Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Boy Called Hope

A Boy Called Hope
Lara Williamson
London, Usbourne, 2014, 288p

A Boy Called Hope feels like it amalgamates a load of subjects that have been cropping up in my recent reading, from father-son relationships, to Sherlock Holmes-esque adventures, to novels generally exploring the internal monologue of an optimistic yet disappointed child. And yet, despite seeing these themes recur in almost every book I read, I was not bored or put off by Lara Williamson's debut novel.

Dan Hope is a quirky, imaginative child. He lives with his mother and moody elder sister, his dad having left them four years ago. So when he sees his dad on TV, presenting the news, Dan borrows a saint-like charm from his friend, who promises him that St Gabriel will heel his wounds and grant his wishes, and he sets off to be reunited with his father.

Dan doesn't tell anyone else about his plan, which immediately made me nervous as a reader. He is a naive and big-hearted boy, innocently believing that as soon as his father sees him he will want to come back home. In his head, he lists all the possible justifications for his dad's behaviour, unwilling to see the bad in people. Dan is such a likeable main character - he isn't overly good, and lands himself in trouble more than once, but his determination and willingness to try anything, despite the odds, is uplifting.

He is also very funny. He names his sister Ninja Grace, due to her ability to use words against him, whilst he takes everything quite literally. Seeing the world through his eyes, adults are rather perculiar creatures - designed to be sensible and mature but in fact as unsure and ridiculous as children.

A Boy Called Hope is one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year - I breezed through it on the magic carpet that is Dan Hope's imagination. It is realistic, not a fantasy of teenage life in which it's all happy-ever-afters, but a story about family and friendship and love.

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