The difficulty sometimes with sitting down to a young-adult themed meal when you’re pushing forty should be obvious. If I need to spell it out, well, it’s the fact that you aren’t the age the meal is flavored for, so you may not always be able to enter that mindset. I almost fell into that trap myself when I starting digging into Lynne & Hope, but I managed to pull myself out before I went too far astray. Does that mean good things or bad things for the quality of the meal?
Before we find out, let us open up the rules of the Starving Reviewer:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
To start with what I implied, my inability to enter the mind-set of my storied youth at the start looked to spell trouble for my critical thoughts of Lynne. No matter what you might say, that all meals are equal and should be judged on the same merits, different styles of cooking have different benchmarks. They seek to appeal to different things, different tastes, and different cultures. So, once I got my head back into the game and resampled the dish before me with my youthful tastebuds screwed in tight, I wound up with a very pleasant taste in my mouth.
You see, despite some of the garnish of a mystery thriller, Hope is almost entirely a character drama focused around a teenage, disabled girl and her decade-older sister. Their dysfunctional relationship, as well as their generally strained family life, form the real, driving conflict and story of the meal. The mystery and crime elements are purely there to help fuel and stress the relationship dynamic to the point of real resolution. My early mistake had been focusing on the more ‘mature’ crime plot, you see, and not the more critical and teen-focused relationship drama.
When Lynne focuses on these relationships and the two main characters, reinforced by the book’s framing device as the diaries of the two girls, it is at its best. Outside of the these two characters, the rest of the cast is a bit thin, especially outside of the two parents. While I would have enjoyed a bit more substance to the rest of the world, with so much of the real story focused on the sisters, this isn’t a real problem.
That isn’t to say this is a perfect meal, no matter the tastebuds screwed into place. Sometimes the author hews a bit too precisely to the diary device, forcing sections of repetition when the two sisters have dialogues with each other. Sometimes these sections do reveal new insights, while others are literal repetition and so wasted space. There may also be some initial confusion as to setting (the events of the book take place in Great Britain), something that I figured out fairly quickly but could have been easily corrected with one sentence at the beginning.
In summation, Lynne & Hope uses a dash of mystery to forge a heart-felt drama about the relationship of two sisters. If you love relationship dramas or love young adult books in general, this is a real treat! If you have a hankering for a pure mystery, though, this isn’t the book for you.
FINAL VERDICT: **** ( A dash of mystery spices up a heart-felt drama about the relationship of two sisters!)