Author: Mark Zubro
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: unknown
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Coming out and family-not supposed to be a lethal combination.
Roger Cook and Steve Koemer have been dating. Their world is turned upside down when Steve’s father and mother find out he’s gay and throw him out of the house. Then the ugliness and fear begin to build. Steve’s father is murdered. The Church he was pastor of was in financial trouble, but the man was also involved in a plot against the two boys. A plot which was designed to destroy their relationship and which continues even after his death. The boys must race to find out who the killer is and who is plotting against them. When the whole world seems against them, they have the hope of their love to sustain them.
While I am not giving “Hope” more stars than I gave Mark Zubro’s first book in this series, “Safe,” I can say that I liked it even better. Roger, the kind-hearted baseball jock and budding journalist, is as interesting and complex a teenager as you’re likely to meet—not flawless, but not unrealistically good, either. Nerdy, quiet Steve, guerilla cartoonist and now Roger’s boyfriend, is revealed to the reader as a strong, tormented young man who is reeling from a trauma that no teen should ever have to endure.
Coming out is no longer an issue for Roger. Early on he comments that while “it’s gotten better for gay kids in general…I’m just not sure it’s always easier.” My sentiments exactly. YA books with LGBT characters make it pretty obvious that, for all the support that gay teens have today—something unimaginable when I came out forty years ago—negotiating real-world issues as well as entrenched anti-gay prejudice is still no walk in the park. And there lies the core of the action of this compelling novel. Steve is thrown out of his house by his right-wing-Christian parents, and seeks refuge with Roger. On the heels of that comes an appalling murder into which the boys are dragged against all apparent logic.
What I liked particularly in “Hope” is the fact that Roger’s parents (whose names we still don’t learn) become the solid foundation on which the boys build their hope, both for resolution of their problems and any possible future together. Although I do wish that Zubro had made them more vivid, Mr. and Mrs. Cook are right there, loving their son and embracing Steve against all opposition. It is their support that gives Roger and Steve the strength to fight back.
Other characters remain secondary but crucial in the action. Darlene, the Hermione Granger of the high school, is a supportive presence and a key player in unravelling the increasingly bizarre mystery. Jack, Roger’s best friend, is peripheral in this book, but reminds us that good straight friends are a gay teen’s first defense, defusing lots of potential hostility borne of ignorance and fear. Then there are Marty and Bryce, two much more flamboyant boys who are what they are because of Roger and Steve’s celebrity. Very different from Steve and Roger, they not only avow their debt to these boys’ courage, but make it clear to the reader that, in Roger’s world, there is room for all sorts of gay kids. Mary and Bryce don’t get much screen time, but they are lynchpins in the plot and expand the book’s embrace of variety.
An interesting little detail that I appreciated greatly is the idea that we get a good sense of what the boys are actually studying in school—something rarely given much presence in YA novels. With all the other stuff going on, Steve and Roger are still in school. “Dinner was normal. Homework got done. Chapters in Steinbeck got read.” The presence of schoolwork throughout the book is a nice detail, adding a veneer of reality to the surreal plotline that drives the story forward.
Throughout the book we get a lesson in the difference between love and lust. Roger is a marvelously introspective character. He thinks about things, and especially about his relationship with Steve. As a big strong athlete, he wonders at his attraction to the smaller, nerdier Steve and what it is that draws them together. “While doing sexual stuff with him was great, the best part was when we talked.” The relationship between these two boys is looked at with gentle thoroughness. Both Steve and Roger know that they’re young and still in high school; but something about their connection goes beyond starry-eyed romance and hormone-driven attraction. This is part of the hope of the title.
There is no cliffhanger at the end of this, but a door is clearly left open for another chapter in these boys’ lives. Let’s hope their next year is more serene than this one has been.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
|This post may contain affiliate links.
|Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews. The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.|