February 18, 2018

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Hope in the Holler by Lisa Lewis Tyre | SLJ Review

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redstarTYRE, Lisa Lewis. Hope in the Holler. 224p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Jan. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399546310.

Gr 5-8 –When her mother passes away from cancer, middle-schooler Wavie B. Conley comes under the care of Samantha Rose, the cruel aunt she’s never met. Samantha Rose and Wavie’s extended family are crude, verbally abusive slobs, and their run-down Kentucky neighborhood of Conley Holler is the opposite of the quiet life Wavie enjoyed with her mother. Wavie learns that Samantha Rose has taken her in for the sole purpose of frivolously spending Wavie’s mother’s social security checks. Wavie immediately knows: she can’t stay in Conley Holler—known to the locals as Convict Holler—a second longer. With help from her new friends, the rough-and-tumble Gilbert and the super-student Camille, Wavie discovers a secret her mother kept from her…one that might rescue her from Samantha Rose’s clutches. This is a masterpiece of middle grade fiction, at once summoning the timelessness of life in rural America while blending in modern elements, such as cell phones, Wal-Mart, and the Internet. Wavie’s sincere narration and upbeat optimism carry her through the dark mysteries surrounding Conley Holler, and her close friendships with Gilbert and Camille are reminiscent of the young leads in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding novels. Meanwhile, Samantha Rose is a devious villain worthy of a Roald Dahl novel. Though the book’s conclusion is both satisfying and hopeful, the genuine nastiness Samantha Rose inflicts upon Wavie along the way may not sit well with more sensitive readers. VERDICT With well-written prose, a masterfully realized world, and characters that linger long after the novel closes, this is a must-purchase for any middle grade library collection.–Matisse Mozer, County of Los Angeles Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

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