Tuesday, April 10, 2012

[Blog Tour] Hope's Journey by Stephanie Worlton

Today it is my pleasure to be part of the Hope's Journey blog tour. Read on for my review!

The moment that I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. I don't completely recall how I came across Hope's Journey; just that I ended up on Stephanie's website and that I left her a comment saying that I would be delighted to read it and write a review. What I didn't realize until after I'd left the message was that the post was seeking people from the U.S. I was not offended, but being from Canada I put this out of my mind and got back to doing other things.

Imagine my surprise, then, what I was contacted by Stephanie and asked to be part of this tour. Can you tell I was (and still am!) excited? This book was a bit personal for me. I had friends in my late teens and early twenties who attended the LDS church and I often went with them. I have a great deal of respect for their beliefs, and even al these years later it was a bit surprising how simply reading this brought back such a flood of memories for me.

But let my spare you the walk down memory lane. You're here to find out what I thought of Hope's Journey, right? Well then, read on and hear what I have to say...

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Sydney is a straight-A student heading to college on a scholarship, and Alex is a quiet jock preparing to serve an LDS mission. But their dreams are shattered on the eve of their high school graduation when they find out that Sydney is pregnant. Separated, they must both trust in God as they search for the worth they once found in each other.

The overall concept of the plot for Hope's Journey is pretty straight forward. But the way that it plays out, the fact that we get a double narrative, and the fact that that we get to see how the characters change and grow over such a large stretch of time kept the story from ever getting boring for me. 

I like the fact that Stephanie took so much care to show how what has happened has effected Sydney and Alex both in their hearts as well as in how their lives are going practically. There is no denying that finding out you are pregnant as a teen is going to be a life altering experience no matter what you choose to do, and this was an aspect of the story that was developed extremely well and in great detail. 

I also liked the fact that we get to see the impact that the situation has on the characters community, and how various people within that community respond to what has happened. For those who are not familiar with anything involving the LDS this book might be a little confusing, and some of the behavior might seem questionable. However, within the context of the book, where the characters are all deeply connected to the church (which makes total sense since this does take place in Utah) I found it very interesting to see how it effected everything in this regard. I think that it was good that Stephanie showed both the warmth and strength of the community, as well as how much we, as humans, can struggle with being too eager to judge rather then to step forward to ask "How can I help?". 

My only major gripe about the plot overall is that certain things either got dropped off or not explained / concluded fully. Why did Corbin decide not to go on his mission? What happened to Becca once Alex made his decision? It also somewhat jarred me that the POV for the epilogue was who it was. I feel it would have been more poignant from Sydney's POV. However, doing it that way might have brought up issues and problems that would not have been appropriate for this particular book. 

The Characters:

This is where Hope's Journey most vividly shined, the thing that gave it that "I can't put this down!" factor that made me stay up until the wee hours of the morning in order to finish it. (Seriously, I read the book in a day. I didn't just not want to stop, I *couldn't* stop. It drew me in that strongly.)

Sydney was a likeable heroine who seemed to have a lot going for her. I like the fact that she seems to have a lot of drive and that even when things were difficult -- wondering what would happen between her and Alex, wondering what she should do with the baby, dealing with people's reactions -- that even if she was sad or confused for a while she would always gather up the strength to keep going. I found her extremely relatable and real, someone I would want to be friends with if she was someone I met in real life.

Alex was interesting and complex. On one hand, there were parts of the book that showed very well why Sydney wanted to be with him and the dynamic the two seemed to have built. At the same time, though, Alex also came across very real -- the good and the bad. The range of emotions that Stephanie showed him experiencing as the story progressed, and the amount of growth that we get to see him go through, is amazing.

I liked the fact that Sydney and Alex's friends were all equally unique and interesting, and that they all reacted to the things that were going on in their own ways. These characters successfully walked the line between having enough to show varying opinions, while not having too many that they all got jumbled together. I especially liked parts of the book where Damon and Gabe were present. They both added interesting situations to Sydney's situation, since they had been around prior to it and they both stuck with her through it. Considering the way Alex behaved at times, these two were a major help.

The Romance:

While actual romance was definitely not the focus of this book, that doesn't mean it was not present. I think that Stephanie did a great job of showing us how Sydney and Alex were together, both the good and the bad. I think this was really important since one of the things Sydney seemed concerned about was whether Alex would stay or not as she decided what she was doing. It was good to see that while she still clearly loved Alex, that she was not going to stop living if he didn't decide to be part of the future, and that the baby's future was not going to be reliant on his approval.

Remember I talked about Damon and Gabe? Well, apparently there are other guys who like Sydney and she has been so wrapped up in Alex that she never realized this. I like how each of these character's stories were completely different and that, although not every guy could be the one who ends up with Sydney, every guy who *wanted* to was equally a worth while consideration. Truthfully, I was personally very fond of Damon by the end, to the point where I wasn't actually concerned about Sydney and Alex (but still about the baby, obviously.)

My only real complaint about the romance is that there really didn't seem to be any consequences for how Sydney and Alex treated each other (especially on his end -- the message that if a guy gets you pregnant and he didn't mean to things are gonna get ugly fast was very clear here.) Plus there was the whole issue with the way that his mother treated Sydney and the fact that this was never resolved. Considering the way that Alex behaved and (in my opinion) the fact that his behavior and hers were both not covered, the fact that he ended up with Sydney was actually a little concerning, perhaps even disturbing. I wonder if this was intentional?

This is definitely an aspect of the book where I had trouble buying what happened and being happy for the characters because it made me wonder how their future would go. If the focus of this book was a love story, this would be a deal breaker for me. But that's not the focus here, and while the ending did do things that left me questioning, that was in the best 'truth' of the characters in this book. Because there lives during this whole thing were not easy and for it to suddenly change at the end from Alex making a single decision would have seemed unbelievable.

In General:

I really enjoyed Hope's Journey and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to read it. If you are looking to read a book about a young woman dealing with the joys and sorrows of pregnancy, this is likely a good choice. The depths of emotion that this book caused me to experience were very strong, because the characters seemed to be capable of feeling very deeply and they drew me into their world with ease.


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