Hope is a Dangerous Place
Published February 5, 2020
About Hope is a Dangerous Place
Seventy-five years ago, fifteen-year-old Hope McCormick disappeared. To remember her, the newly incorporated town was named “Hope.” When high school friends Kelsey and Harmonie begin looking into this unsolved mystery, they discover that someone will do anything to make sure the town’s secrets never come to light. Which neighbors are allies, and which face masks a violent enemy? And what will it take for their struggling town to fulfill its original destiny of hope?
The thing that drew me to HOPE IS A DANGEROUS PLACE was the idea that the town is named Hope and the whole mystery of her disappearance and its affect on the town so many years later. I think I was looking for a kind of ON THE JELLICOE ROAD-slash-THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT kind of story? Or maybe, on the spiritual side, something reminiscent of Frank Peretti’s THIS PRESENT DARKNESS?
I liked that the story has multiple narrators that tell some of the things happening behind the scenes. Lots of the narrators are adults, though, and many times those characters take the actions that cause major events in the story to happen. The teen characters– Kelsey and Harmonie– often stay interested but passive players in the story that’s unfolding around them.
The town is interesting– it definitely has that closed-circle, small-town feel that reminded me of Ashton in THIS PRESENT DARKNESS. I thought the pursuit of the missing girl helped to keep the story moving forward, but sometimes things unfolded in a weird way. At one point a character discovers a death in her family while taking a walk past a relative’s house– I guess that could happen, it just seemed weird the way it played out. Sometimes deeply sad things would happen and it didn’t seem like they really had a lasting effect on the characters, which made them feel shallow to me.
The cast is fairly diverse, which was really nice to see. I don’t really have any expertise on representation being good or bad, but something felt weird to me in some moments. Like there are a couple moments where the black characters kind of stop everything and have this big gratitude response to the white characters. I don’t know. Something about it just felt… icky… to me.
Like, one girl discovers that in the town’s past, a white man broke up a lynch mob gathering to murder a black man, and then the black community starts gifting food to the grandson of the guy and talking about how they owe him a debt of gratitude. Breaking up a lynch mob definitely sounds like a brave thing to do, but it’s also the right thing? The response of the people seemed a little over the top. I don’t know. Again, I’m no expert on representation, but it felt weird to me.
I don’t think the author meant to create disparity between the white and black or white and Latino communities in the story, but I felt like there were some unequal relationships and situations. It made me wonder if the author had had black or Latino sensitivity readers? Maybe so, and maybe I’m off in my perceptions. I can only speak to how it affected me.
I wouldn’t really say that HOPE IS A DANGEROUS PLACE is young adult fiction, even though there are a couple of teen narrators. I think this is really adult lit. It’s got a lot of Christian content but some swearing and drinking, so I imagine it’s hard to put it solidly into one genre or another.
On the whole, there were some things I enjoyed about the story and some things I found problematic.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Harmonie is black. Kelsey and Harmonie’s teacher is Latina. Other minor characters are Latino and black.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used somewhat frequently.
References to a man who solicits a woman thinking she’s a prostitute.
Characters attend church and prayer services. Those scenes often relate the sermon being preached. Some discussions about the presence of angels and demons. One minor character offers to contact a dead spirit and comments on a girl’s aura.
Some references to abuse by a parent and by a law officer. An unknown person makes a creepy threat to the girls using a doll. Someone starts a fire in a building the girls are in. References to a lynch mob and a police officer who shot a man after claiming he tried to escape custody.
More than one adult in the story drinks a lot of alcohol. One character is a recovered alcoholic.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog. I received a free copy of HOPE IS A DANGEROUS PLACE in exchange for my honest review.