2016 VOYA Top Shelf Fiction Selection
CCBC’s Best Books for Kids & Teens (Fall 2016) Starred Selection
Hope leaves her small town for a fresh start, but her plans are derailed by an online romance and the appearance of her brother.
Hope lives in a small town with nothing to do and nowhere to go. With a drug addict for a brother, she focuses on the only thing that keeps her sane, writing poetry. To escape, she jumps at the chance to attend Ravenhurst Academy as a boarding student. She’ll even put up with the clique-ish Ravens if it means making a fresh start.
At first, Ravenhurst is better than Hope could have dreamed. She has a boyfriend and a cool roommate, and she might finally have found a place she can fit in. But can she trust her online boyfriend? And what can she do after her brother shows up at the school gates, desperate for help, and the Ravens turn on her? Trapped and unsure, Hope realizes that if she wants to save her brother, she has to save herself first.
About the Author
Colleen Nelson is an award-winning YA author whose previous books include The Fall and Tori by Design , both of which won the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award from the Manitoba Book Awards. This is Colleen’s fourth YA novel. She lives in Winnipeg.
Read an Excerpt
Mom brandished an envelope above her head like a flag. “A letter just came for you.”
I’d been waiting a month for that letter. Hopping off my bicycle, I let it tumble to the grass. Dry and scrubby, it crackled from lack of water. The summer had stretched endlessly and only now, with the hum of bugs in the air, did it show signs of coming to a close. “It’s like someone didn’t get the memo,” Dad liked to say when the seasons didn’t follow his timetable. Last two weeks of August should have meant deer flies and cooler nights, a hint of the chill that would be coming with autumn, but not this year.
I took the sealed envelope from her. “It’s thick, that’s a good sign,” she said, her hands on my shoulders, not realizing how hard she was squeezing.
My hands shook. The tear I made was ragged and the letter got stuck. Finally, I pulled it free and unfolded it. “Ravenhurst School for Girls is pleased to inform you that you have been accepted for the coming school year.” I didn’t read past those words. Mom started screaming and hugging me.
I waited to feel something. A gush of relief or flood of emotion, but there was nothing. Instead, I felt more rooted to the ragged wooden planks on the porch. A stubborn will to stay.
“Congratulations, Hope!” Mom said and pulled me into another hug. The letter was stuck between us, my arm at an awkward angle.
Ravenhurst had been Mom’s idea. She’d done the research to find a school that took boarders in the city and then laid out her plan over dinner one night, peering at me with her fork hanging in mid-air. “Wouldn’t you want to go there?” she’d asked. I looked at Dad, head down, shovelling mac and cheese into his mouth. “Get out of this place.” She waved her fork around, as if “this place” meant nothing more than our house. Her eyes bugged out, begging me to agree with her.
“Uh-huh,” I said. I didn’t realize that my non-committal grunt would start a two-month long odyssey. Acceptance to a private school in the city meant letters from teachers, an exam, and then an interview. Mom had bought a navy, pleated skirt for me to wear and flat black shoes that pinched my toes. I’d hobbled through the atrium of the school, gazing up at a two-storey foyer encased in glass. Sunlight streamed in, reflecting off the marble floors. Our footsteps echoed, too small to fill the cavernous space.
I wasn’t kidding myself, Mom wanted this more than I did. As usual, I’d gone along with her plans, not wanting to be the one who upset the delicate balance that existed in our family.
Our splintered family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thank you to NetGalley and Dundurn for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This was my first Colleen Nelson book that I’ve gotten the chance to read. As always I went into this book with an open mind. This book ended up being okay for me. I felt like the story went by too fast. I felt like I needed more time to pass in the novel. Everything happened way too fast. The main character, Hope, moves to a new school and falls in love with some boy she has never met in person before immediately. The only correspondence they had was over email and text message. I knew from the start that the whole thing was going to end badly. I can’t say I blame her completely, I remember being young and stupid, but come on, Hope! How could you not see that coming? As far as the characters go, I couldn’t relate to any of them. The chapters are told form the POV of two characters, Hope and her brother, Eric. Eric is a meth addict constantly looking for his next high and taking advantage of his sister’s generosity to get it. Hope just wants him to get better but she keeps feeding into his addiction by giving him money. I thought the story was good, but I also thought that it could have been better. I need more to the story. It could have flowed better and given readers more information. I need Colleen to explain what exactly happened between Coach Williams and Eric. This novel had a lot of potential, it just lacked some very important details.
Desperation and commitment clung to the pages in this novel. The main characters are each trying to overcome the obstacles that have tainted their lives Eric is no longer a part of his family for his addiction has become the center of his life. His life is frantic, desperate and high energy as his drug addiction is the ups and downs of his existence. It only took a year for his life to be swallowed away, and Eric remembers what led him down this path. He had it all, it was in the palm of his hand and they allowed him the opportunity to succeed. His future looked bright yet Eric needed more than just freedom. Eric should have spoken up, he needed someone to stand with him and now, his future was crumbling. Hope, she fears for Eric’s future now that he was outside the confines of their family home. Hope is looking for her own place to land; somewhere safe among friends where she not labeled according to her brother’s past for her own identity has yet to be determined. Unfortunately, it’s her last year of high school and she’s being sent out of town to a private school, where no one including Hope herself, knows who she is. I worried about what might occur as she finds herself in her new surroundings. She was alone and not sure of herself and left to fend for herself. When she fell in love with Devon, her new online, never-seen-before-boyfriend, I knew this was not good. Devon says the right things, he always there for her and he is one perfect guy - I was cringing. I knew hell was going to open up and swallow her before this relationship was over but just how bad was this going to get? Eric was desperate to get his next high and now Hope is becoming desperate to find her niche in the world. Why must Hope feel like she needs to find someone to fit in? Why do individuals have to commit to others to fit in? Can’t they float around until they find the right niche and then try them on for size? This novel was a great fit for me as I was captured between these two characters. The author’s writing seizes the intensity and the anxiety as Eric tries to cope with his addiction. Its survival mode as his craving consumes him. He knows it all began with an event in his past but how can that help him now? His sister will do just anything for her brother but she needs to find her own identity. She seems so innocent and timid, can she handle being out on her own? Thank you NetGalley and Dundurn for providing me a copy of this novel to review. This review is my opinion.
I really enjoyed this book. Sad as it was, dealing with a meth junkie and bullying. I especially loved the poems that the character, Hope, wrote. This is definitely a YA book that I think all young adults should read. I, as an adult, appreciated it as well. There was some teenage angst but not so much that I gave up on the characters. I truly felt for these characters. Both trying to deal with common teenage issues in their own way. Eric, of course, had to have lots of help and I love the way Hope took matters into her own hands and dealt with hers. Thanks to Dundurn for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I would definitely recommend this book to all YA's and adults who enjoy them as well.