Living on Hope Street is aimed at teenagers, but contains issues of domestic violence, racism, sexuality and intolerance that adults could and should read about as well.
It is told from the perspectives of various residents of, the in some ways ironically named, Hope Street. Young boys Kane and Sam are dealing with their abusive father, trying to protect their mother, and themselves. Their mum, Angie, gives her version of events.
Muslim woman, Mrs Aslan, lives next door and helps to look after the boys, but is not understood by all in the neighbourhood. She too has suffered loss. Her granddaughter also narrates her story through some chapters.
A refugee family is represented by nine-year-old Gugu who has come to the area, via a refugee camp, with her parents and older brother.
Mr Bailey spies on and barely tolerates his neighbours, longing for the good old days when ‘the world was simple and the only thing washing up on their shores was seaweed’.
Their experiences and how they deal with them are described with empathy, provoking thought and discussion, making it perfect for young adults.
The impact of domestic violence on families is represented in all of its horror, on children and adults alike. The threat of the menacing human services, and the inadequacies of the law to protect them reflect the reality survivors deal with.
The assumptions made about people of certain races and cultures are examined and challenged, as are the role of bullies in our society.
Ultimately there is hope, but the novel shows we still have a long way to go around domestic violence and acceptance of others. As Gugu’s Ubaba says ‘words had magic. A good story could change someone’s heart’, and this book has that potential.