What happens when a saucy, optimistic teenager and a terrific short-order diner cook head to Mulhoney, Wisconsin? Great apple pie, a killer mayoral election, and a heartfelt story about life in a rural town.
Readers will immediately fall in love with 16-year-old Hope. She has bounced from place to place, serving plates of meat loaf and frittata specials to diner patrons cooked up by her aunt Addie, with whom she lives. Since changing her name from Tulip to Hope, this protagonist always tries to live up to her name, offering readers an uplifting look at politics, love, friendship, and, literally, life, as a waitress at G. T. Stoop's Welcome Stairways diner.
G. T., who is battling leukemia, decides to run for mayor of the town, so his diner, which is perpetually crowded with customers, becomes a hotbed of political activity. It is there that Hope shines as she runs around refilling coffee mugs, soothing customers whose orders have been screwed up, and fielding questions from curious voters. And it is in this small town's diner that she finds what has been missing from her life.
Hope experiences love for the first time with junior short-order cook Braverman. Unlike the brainless relationships found in the Sweet Valley High series, this relationship is more in tune with first romances that real teenagers experience. At first they banter back and forth, but Braverman's winning pork-chop sandwich and his deep compassion for Hope when her mother comes to visit culminate in a passionate relationship built on friendship and trust.
This friendship and trust is also at the heart of G. T.'s mayoral battle. Hope and Braverman, among others, rally together, fighting initially to get G. T.'s name on the ballot and later on, as the corrupt incumbent mayor will do anything (planting a mouse in an entrée at G. T.'s diner) and everything (having Braverman beat up because he is involved in the campaign) to get reelected. And just when the politics get really dirty, Hope Was Here gives readers a reason to believe in the political system.
An underlying thread in Hope Was Here is Hope's secret desire to one day meet her estranged father. While her father never does appear in Hope Was Here, she does get the next best thing -- a father figure in G. T. She fosters a relationship with G. T., who praises her waitress skills and serves as an inspiration to not only Hope, but also all of the people in the town. At one point, the two are strolling outside in back of the diner and looking at the trees that G. T. has planted. G. T. says, "I like thinking [the trees will] be here long after I'm gone. All those fine memories pushing up to the sky."
To which Hope replies, "I hope you're here for the longest time possible, G. T."
It is at that moment, Hope gains a father and a home in this rural town she thought she would loathe. Once accustomed to writing "Hope was here" on an old window ledge or on a wall before she departed from one of the countless places she lived, Hope, as well as her aunt Addie, form roots in this town of good people and finally stay put. Hope Was Here offers a refreshing outlook on being a teenager and gives readers a little hope of their own.