11:30 am EDT, March 1, 2018

‘Hope Nation’ review: A beacon of light for tough times

Hope Nation is a collaboration of essays from YA authors that delivers inspiration and reminds us that we can find hope, even when life is hard.

About ‘Hope Nation’

Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and personal stories that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Angie Thomas, Marie Lu, James Dashner, Nicola Yoon, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Renée Ahdieh, and many more!

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and – in some cases – even hopeless. The teens of today are the caretakers of tomorrow, and yet it’s difficult for many to find joy or comfort in such a turbulent society. But in trying times, words are power.

Some of today’s most influential young adult authors come together in this highly personal collection of essays and original stories that offer moments of light in the darkness, and show that hope is a decision we all can make.

Like a modern day Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens, Hope Nation acknowledges the pain and offers words of encouragement.

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‘Hope Nation’ review

I’ve always loved edited anthologies — and Hope Nation was a particularly good one. I love so many of the writers who contributed to this book, whether from reading their books or following them on Twitter. Short stories and essays let you see a different side of a writer. Experiencing that with writers I already loved made me love them even more.

This anthology’s strength is its diversity. All of the authors have written YA books, but they come from a variety of genres and a variety of perspectives.

The book’s first essay is one of its best. David Leviathan chooses to tell a story instead of sharing a personal experience. That framework sets it apart from the essays where the writers share true stories from their own lives. It also lets it get at real events and real feelings more immediately.

Of course, what makes the book so powerful are the real-life experiences all the other writers share. Knowing these people had real moments of hope among difficult periods of their life makes me feel hope, too.

Libba Bray’s story was my favorite. She tells a wonderful story of overcoming an accident, but reminds us that before the hope there is struggle. Our lives don’t have to be perfect — or even going particularly well — for us to have hope.

There was an essay on how Harry Potter gives hope. Even with the Harry Potter fandom and canon where it is now, Nic Stone’s essay “Always” showed how we can find hope in the things we love and the things that connect us to others who might otherwise be unlike us. Julie Murphey reminds us to find the tiny hopes. Rose Brock, in her introduction to the book, declares that “hope is a decision.” There is so much hope to discover on these pages.

Jeff Zentner was one of the few writers in this book I wasn’t already familiar with. In his essay, he said that book people are the world’s brightest beacon of hope because they know how to be empathetic. That sentiment captures what this book brings to life. Our stories can impact people. If we keep sharing them, we can keep learning from each other.

Shortly after finishing this book, I was talking to my dad. He told me about his experience watching Black Panther. “It was really good, but…” That “but” made me nervous. My dad grew up in a small town in Utah. He wasn’t exposed to a lot of diversity there.

While I was growing up, there were times when he would say something racist. As I grew up and learned more about the world, I started to become uncomfortable with how he talked about people of color. I was worried that this comment would be another one of those times.

He finished his sentence and said, “…but it feels like superhero movies are over-saturated right now. It was a really good movie, though.” That’s it. It wasn’t a perfect comment, but it showed me how much he’s grown.

He recognizes his biases now. He doesn’t say things that make me uncomfortable very often any more. I know he tries to make sure that he doesn’t make anyone else feel uncomfortable, either. He knows how to listen and learn from those around him. He’s trying to do better.

The fact that my dad can change like that gives me hope. This book allowed me to see the goodness in that moment. Hope Nation was an excellent reminder of all the good things we have. It was also a reminder of how to find that hope when we feel blotted out by the darkness.

Editor’s note: James Dashner, who contributed an essay to this book, has been accused of sexual harassment by other writers. Earlier this month, he was dropped by his literary agent because of the accusations. Dashner has admitted that he has a problem and is seeking help. Why are we telling you this?

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