If you like your YA gritty and realistic, you’ve come to the right place because today’s book, Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren shines a light on the diversity of modern Australia and the changing face of the typical Aussie neighbourhood. We received our copy from Allen & Unwin for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
We all love someone. We all fear something. Sometimes they live right next door – or even closer.
Kane will do everything he can to save his mother and his little brother Sam from the violence of his father, even if it means becoming a monster himself.
Mrs Aslan will protect the boys no matter what – even though her own family is in pieces.
Ada wants a family she can count on, while she faces new questions about herself.
Mr Bailey is afraid of the refugees next door, but his worst fear will take another form.
And Gugulethu is just trying to make a life away from terror.
On this street, everyone comes from different places, but to find peace they will have to discover what unites them.
A deeply moving, unflinching portrait of modern Australian suburban life.
There’s a certain grittiness wrapped in dry humour inherent in many Australian stories and Living on Hope Street is no exception. The book opens on a shocking scene of family violence, that deftly introduces the protagonists, Kane, Sam and their mother Angie and sets the scene for further conflict later in the story. Chapter by chapter, the reader is introduced to the other characters who live on Hope Street and the ways in which their stories are interconnected.
There’s Mr Bailey who has lived on Hope Street with his wife Judy since the distant past, and who struggles with the brown faces that seem to populate his space. No matter how hard he tries, he always seems to say the wrong thing to his Indian son-in-law. Mrs Aslan is Kane and Sam’s Turkish widower neighbour, who provides support to Angie, the boys’ mother, even as she mourns her own estrangement from her daughter and granddaughter. Ada, Mrs Aslan’s granddaughter, comes to play a role in Kane’s life later in the book and we are also introduced to Gugu, a young girl from a family of African refugees, whose presence and friendship provides stability for Sam. Along with these main players, Kane and Sam’s violent father is an ever-lurking presence, while the Tupu family across the road, a group of friendly Arab young men and Mrs Aslan’s daughter (and Ada’s mother) play bit parts to round out the experience.
The constantly changing narrators and the fact that some of these narrators, like Mrs Aslan and Sam, have idiosyncratic ways of “talking” in their particular chapters, might be off-putting to some, but I found it enhanced my experience of the story because each character contributed a new perspective to each situation. The chapters aren’t overly long either, which means that you are never more than a few pages away from a fresh voice and a new take on what is going on. I was impressed with the way the author managed to give each narrator an authentic voice and clear motivations and back story.
Overall, I found this to be one of those books that you can’t help but read one more chapter and one more chapter until you are thoroughly sucked in to the lives of the characters. With a dramatic ending that hints at a renewal of hope for many residents of Hope Street, this book really has everything you could ever want in a realistic contemporary YA tale.
I can see this one being up for CBCA nominations next year, that’s for sure. Living on Hope Street is flying the flag for an inclusive, diverse community and shows that this is possible, despite cultural differences.
Until next time,