Series: Untitled #1
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Meet Hope Roberts. She’s 11 years old, and she wants to be an astrophysicist. She loves swimming, Galaxy Girl comic books, and her two rescue dogs.
Hope believes it’s always a good day to champion a cause, defend an underdog, and save the future. And most of all, she believes in dreaming big. That’s why she’s enrolled in all of the advanced classes at her new middle school. She’s smart and confident in her abilities. But though Hope seems super strong on the outside, there’s another side of her, too. She’s just a regular girl trying to survive middle school.
This first book starts with the beginning of sixth grade, and Hope’s BFF Sam made some new friends over the summer. Hope doesn’t know how to handle it. She and Sam have always been inseparable! Then Hope meets her new lab partner, Camila, and they get off on the wrong foot. And even though Camila is great at science, she doesn’t want to join the science club. The club is all boys, and she doesn’t feel welcome.
When Hope hears that, she’s determined to recruit more girls into the science club, including Camila. Hope knows that sometimes changing the world starts small. So now Hope has a mission! Can she turn the science club into a place that’s welcoming for everyone — and make some new friends along the way?
Hope’s relatability, kindness, empathy, and can-do attitude will inspire a generation of do-gooders. This new series is a response to the very palpable feeling that not only can young people save the world — they will!
Hope is a quick, feel good middle grade story about a budding scientist and activist (Hope) starting her first year of middle school. The general idea is very on trend (girls in STEM!, dealing with bullies!), but the actual writing was not to my personal taste. The narration and dialogue are both casual and approachable, but the kids all sounded like adults to me, and the message(s) of the book frequently overshadow the story.
Frankly, the book feels preachy. Hope encounters a number of social issues she has to find ways to work through, such as committing microaggressions against her classmates and having to deal with the girls in the science club being interrupted and talked over by the boys. There are lengthy speeches about many of these issues, and there is even a several page argument about the invalidity of astrology, which the book seems to have a vested interest in debunking for reasons I don’t entirely understand. (I agree astrology is fake; I just didn’t see how inserting a lesson on this was integral to the story in any way.) Basically, Hope teaches readers to be sensitive to racial issues, feminist issues, real science vs. fake science, and more, which is all good; it just does it in a way I found heavy-handed. I think young readers, as well, can tell when they’re trying to be taught a lesson by a book, so this might not hit the mark with all of its target audience either.
That said, the preachiness is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Hope is herself a fairly flawed character. She doesn’t just witness microaggressions; she commits them. She doesn’t just show everyone girls can be as good as boys at science; she gets so caught up in her own messages that she messes it up. She also struggles with other run-of-the-mill middle school problems like learning to share her BFF with new friends and dealing with bullies. This part is fine; it just feels like a lot of other middle grade books that deal with the exact same themes, and it’s here where I get cynical and think about how any celebrity can walk up to a publisher and say, “Hey! I’d like to write a perfectly average middle grade story about *gasp* friendship and bullying; isn’t that just a great idea for kids!” and they get a book deal as if it’s a novel idea.
Overall, the book is average. It had just enough interest and unique characterization to keep me going, in spite of the fact I felt constantly preached at. The sequel is set up to be about Hope and her family doing good deeds to save an animal shelter, which sounds fun if you’re into animals but, well, also has a lot of potential for insertions of Good Morals and Lessons for Kids. I won’t be continuing with the series.
(Also a shout-out to the illustrator, Eric S. Keyes, for really fun and emotive illustrations, though I did find it hilarious the characters seem to wear the same clothes in every scene, like cartoon characters rather than book characters!)