I generally consider author Andrew Clements a middle-grade fiction author. He has written some heart-felt and incredibly funny books, most notably Frindle, which my whole family has enjoyed.
While the age listed for his book Things Hoped For is 10 and up, I might consider upping the age a bit – particularly for sensitive readers.
In Things Hoped For, Gwen is living with her Grampa in New York City, pursuing her dream to play violin. She is preparing to audition for the city’s top music schools, secure in the love she senses from her parents back in West Virginia, and her Grampa.
Then one day she receives a strange phone message from Grampa telling her not to worry. But he doesn’t tell her where he is. Gwen is 17, so she’s independent and used to being on her own much of the time.
But when her great-uncle shows up at the brownstone, ranting and raving, Gwen grows more concerned – which is quite distracting when trying to focus on auditions.
She meets Robert, also in town to audition, and the two become friends. Gwen doesn’t feel quite so lonely, though she’s still concerned about Grampa.
Then they make a startling discovery – and everything changes.
Clements is an excellent writer. He captures the preparation, practice, isolation and stress of musicians well. I think he also captures the drive for an independent 17yo to figure things out on her own, and not worry her parents. I’m thankful that these teenagers do decide to do the right thing when they make their discovery.
SPOILER ALERT: This discovery can be disturbing for sensitive readers. Gwen is making dinner and asks Robert to go downstairs to the freezer to get some frozen meat. He discovers Grampa’s body there. As I said above, the teens deal with this awful situation the right way – call the police, call Gwen’s parents. And Gwen eventually realizes why Grampa did what he did, as hard as it was for her.
Highly recommended for ages 12 and up.
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