Things Hoped For
by Andrew Clements
This short novel is the sequel to the teen invisibility caper Things Not Seen, published in 2006 by the author of Frindle and some fifty other books for children. This time the narrator is seventeen-year-old Gwen Page, a violin prodigy living in New York City while she prepares for some big college auditions. In the midst of her final weeks of feverish rehearsal, Gwen must deal with her grandfather's disappearance, an uncle with anger issues, a creepy criminal mastermind, and a boy with a cute smile. It all adds up to a test of one girl's confidence in the face of an uncertain future, a demanding art form, a big and fast-paced city, and a spooky mystery.
One day after her violin lesson, Gwen comes home to a message from her Grandpa saying she has to take care of herself for a while. He urges her not to worry about anything. But how can she not worry when she doesn't know where her grandfather has gone or why? How can she not worry when Uncle Hank keeps coming around, loudly demanding that Grandpa sell the brownstone they jointly own? How can she keep up the charade that Grandpa is still there while practicing for an exacting violin teacher and the crucial performances of her young life?
Well, it helps to have friends. Enter Robert, whom readers of Things Not Seen know as Bobby Phillips of Chicago. Three years after his month-long invisibility ordeal, Robert has become an outgoing young man, a fine classical trumpet player with a passion for jazz, and (yes) the owner of a nice smile. If he didn't keep bringing up his blind girlfriend back home, Gwen might develop a thing for him. As it is, they become good friends just when each of them needs one.
Together they don't feel quite so alone in the big city. And with all Gwen's hopes and dreams riding on the next few weeks, she needs a resourceful friend like Robert to help her dodge Uncle Hank, restore confidence in her musical ability, and deal with the mystery of the missing grandfather. Plus there's an even bigger threat that I won't tell you about, because I don't want to spoil the surprise...
Fans of Clements' school-kid adventures will be intrigued by this book's insights into a very specialized educational track. Having been a music geek myself, I can vouch for the authenticity of Gwen and Robert's studies and the quality of the music they perform. This would be a great book to package with a CD of selections from the music the characters play and listen to. Think about that when you buy it for a musically gifted kid, or even to read it yourself.
Apart from everything else, it is a moving and uplifting book, with a message of hope for young ones nerving themselves to leave the nest and take wing on their own. Biblically literate readers may be especially interested in the book's references to Hebrews 11:1 and another verse which, again, I don't want to spoil for you. Whether your interests lie in music, religion, the "invisible man" concept, or all things New York, this slim book delivers the goods. As a bonus, this is the middle book of a trilogy continuing with Things That Are.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 14+
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