SOMETHING LIKE HOPE isn't an ordinary book and it isn't about ordinary people. The protagonist, Shavonne, isn't ordinary (a 17 year old mother in juvenille prison), neither is her newest shrink (crass, comedic, lonely) and neither is his name (Mr. Delpopolo). Her guard is neither ordinary nor fair (Ms. Choi taunts Shavonne so she'll snap and Ms. Choi has reason to beat her). Her baby doesn't belong to her, her face is battered and bloody, and her deranged roommate is now obsessed with geese. Shavonne's future may be bleak, but she--like this book--is extraordinary.
Shawn Goodman's novel starts with Shavonne, trapped in her cell, after stealing her teacher's sandwich and then elbowing her in the face. Shavonne is already in deep trouble, has been for awhile, when she's forced to explain her most recent crime. Enter Mr. Delpopolo, a man with plenty of his own problems.
What follows is unflinching look at the flaws in a juvenile justice system that grants far too much power to guards and not enough support to its inmates. Shavonne may be not perfect--often times, admittedly, she' s violent, selfish, and uncaring--but she's real and raw and forgiving and unforgettable.
As a high school teacher with more than a few former students locked up at some point in their teenage years, I found this to be a truly fascinating read. I can't wait to share it with my students next year.