Named A 5 Under 35 pick by the National Book Foundation.
"Ali’s caustic, unapologetically self-centered voice is strong and well-developed, and the secondary charactersespecially Ali’s parents, but also her tutor and her pregnant cousinoffer both thematic reinforcement and opportunities for humor." Publishers Weekly
"...the book soars in its descriptions of figure skating, capturing its strange and brutal beauty and achieving a beauty of its own in the process." Kirkus
“Tracy O’Neill is a brilliant and bold new literary voice, and The Hopeful is destined to be one of the most exciting debut novels of the year.” Julia Fierro, author of Cutting Teeth: A Novel
"The Hopeful is a fine debut, smartly exploring the costs of obsession and trauma, the wages of daring to chase your boldest dreams. Tracy O’Neill’s gift for precise and surprising detail reveals her page after page to be a smart and compelling storyteller, whose gripping first novel is sure to thrill readers.” Matt Bell, author of In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods
“In her hypnotic debut, Tracy O’Neill has created an indelible character in Alivopro Doyle, a young woman trapped in an anguished tangle of identity and fierce ambition. Though Doyle fights to keep us at arm’s length with crackling comebacks, we can’t help but notice, and want to protect, her tender brokenness as she struggles to break free from a body that has failed her.” Karolina Waclawiak, author of How to Get Into the Twin Palms
O'Neill's debut novel tracks an aspiring figure skater's journey of obsession, triumph, failure, and addiction. In a psych ward in New Hampshire, 17-year-old Alivopro "Ali" Doyle tells her doctor, "In the beginning was skating, and skating was everything…." At one time, Ali was an Olympic hopeful training for the regional championships, until a fall on the ice caused neck trauma and ended her amateur career. As the narrative weaves through sessions with her psychiatrist and a recounting of her training as a figure skater, what emerges is not a predictable story of loss and hope but a complex family drama. While Ali's father, Alvin, embraces her ambition as a distraction from his own depression, her mother, Lou, is more disturbed by Ali's single-minded desire to be a champion at any cost. Further complicating this dynamic is that Ali is adopted, born to a Native American mother. For Ali, her ethnicity and unknown heritage bring up insecurities about her body as she tries to keep herself in "Olympic condition," and her adoption often becomes a sticking point in arguments between Ali and Lou. After her accident, the family that was tentatively held together by a common goal begins to fall apart. Ali becomes addicted to amphetamines, determined to lose weight and start skating again, with predictably disastrous results. The entry into this novel can be difficult. The chronology is often unclear; many chapters are almost exclusively unmarked dialogue between Ali and her therapist; and sometimes the reader is not given enough context to fully understand a scene. But the book soars in its descriptions of figure skating, capturing its strange and brutal beauty and achieving a beauty of its own in the process. For fans of figure skating, this book is edgy and serious enough to not feel like a guilty pleasure.