by Colleen Nelson
Sand running through My Fingers.
I lost you in the cracks. I keep digging.
But you are too
Dundurn Press, 2016
ARC e-Reader (978-1-45973-247-6)
Paperback: 232 pages (978-1-45973-245-2)
Genre: Young Adult/ Fiction / Drug Abuse / Bullying/ Sexual Abuse
Finding Hope tackles some heady subjects that would have been almost unimaginable when this dusty old librarian was an adolescent. That is not to say that drug abuse, sex abuse, violence and bullying are new to the adolescent scene. it was just not discussed and in my oblivious youth not on my radar. As sex abuse has soiled our faith in those that care for our children’s minds and souls we sometimes overlook the deep reach of each vile act. As is the case far too often in the real world, society and families fail their children by failing to recognize the trauma developing, failing to seek justice and mental health care when identified.
This story begins with the older brother, Eric, at age 17, a star hockey player and model student. Popular and one of the “in-crowd”; expected to have a bright promising future. His younger sister Hope does not have the limelight at school and feels left behind in her brother’s shadow at home. She is bullied and an outsider. Eric and Hope despite their differences of age and social development share a very close relationship probably born more out of a sense of isolation and lonesomeness at home.
Without explanation Eric begins to fall apart. The bottom drops out when his personality changes, he withdraws from academics and sports, and develops an insatiable meth addiction. His step-father is deeply affected by his collpase and bans him from the home in an act of tough love. Eric’s mother is unable to completely turn her back on her son but supports the father’s decision in order to maintain “family harmony”. Keeping to the objective of YA fiction, the story is narrated in Hope’s and Eric’s voices. Adult dialogue is more directive,angry and accusatory than engaging, interested and supportive. The parents, more concerned about themselves, are not responsive to their children and their issues; highly deficient parenting skills.
Hope is trapped between parents and Eric. She doesn’t condone his addiction and behavior. She feels that there is still hope for Eric and his future. She sacrifices her own babysitting money to give Eric money and supplies thus hoping to keep to continued contact with her brother. It might have deepened Hope’s character more if there had been more dialogue within the home at this point in the story. The step-father’s role in the story is handled by just not including him in the dialogue. I would like to see him developed a little more.
Her mother recognizes that Hope is in an unhealthy environment at home and enrolls her in a private school. Hope is not wild about going to a boarding school as it would make it impossible to help Eric but it would give her a chance to have a fresh start socially and get her out of the pressure cooker home.
As the story spirals on, Hope and Eric struggle to find themselves amid a toxic world without any sense of security or sense of direction. We eventually learn the background on Eric’s decline and we watch Hope agonize and suffer terribly at the hands of a trio of classmates before reaching deep inside to identity her own strength and moral compass.
One particular passage with Eric touched me deeply.
“What are you doing?” Like a keening animal, she’d asked that question too many times. When I came home hyped on meth, when I raged in my room for no reason that she understood…when I stole her bank card.
I never answered her Not with the truth anyway…”What are you doing, Mom?” I should have fired back. Letting me go off with a hockey coach we barely knew, letting him drive me and stay in hotels with me…” Hot anger pulsed through me.
One of the strongest features of the story is Hope’s poignant poetry. I found Hope’s poetry very emotional and revealing. I read that the author reduced the story through numerous edits; perhaps just a little more attention should have been spent on developing each child’s life before Eric’s collapse. Additionally I felt the failure of the school and community network was not explored adequately.
The concluding chapters are moving, dramatic and riveting. And the ending is satisfying yet acknowledges healing a fractured life leaves scars and cracks that can be forgiven but not easily forgotten.
I would not hesitate to suggest or recommend to interested in young adults. I don’t think it is a story that expands the genre to include adult interest.