By: McKenzie Welch
‘I Fell in Love With Hope’ by Lancali, which is a pen name that the author writes and promotes under, is a book about learning how to hope again in a setting clouded with doubt and despair. It is a realistic fiction novel with moments of magical realism tied in. The novel itself is representative of many different types of people, such as disabled people, gay people, and non-binary people, to an extent.
The book takes place in a hospital, and the five main characters are either always in and out of the hospital, or have lived there for the majority of their lives. They all have differing chronic illnesses that affect their way of life, but they find the strength to make it through difficult situations by sticking together. Their names are Sam, Neo, Sony, Hikari, and Coeur, and their personalities are very unique, which makes it so many different readers can see themselves reflected in different characters.
The novel itself is very character-driven, and does not have a plot that is substantially controlled by climactic events. Because of this, the words have to be laid on the page in a way that is captivating to the reader. The sentences themselves are beautifully written, shown in the line, “Our words fold over each other, dance together as our hands mimic them, act them out, that comfortable, ruinous distance the only thing keeping her mine, ghostly, unreal” (Lancali 64). However, nearly every sentence is written in this style, which inevitably takes away from the impact a line like this should have had.
Also, because the plot is so character driven, you would imagine that the characters would be easy to connect to. I imagined that, and I was proven wrong. I had difficulty connecting to any of the characters in the novel, which made the novel pass incredibly slow at times. The characters do not have much depth, or if they do, the depths of their personalities are not well explored.
Next, the representation within the novel is done well for the most part. Four of the main characters have disabilities that affect their quality of life, and Lancali writes about both the good days and the bad. The author does not make an attempt to sugar coat something that shouldn’t be sugar coated. There is also a relationship between two male characters, and a relationship between a female character and a non-binary character.
The only thing in the novel that lacks in representation is the non-binary aspect. As I was reading, I did not know that the narrator was non-binary until the last quarter of the book. They are never referred to in the third person until that point. Because the book is largely advertised as being representative of non-binary people, I think that aspect could have been better executed.
All in all, I give ‘I Fell in Love With Hope’ 3⁄5 stars. The novel has a very good concept, and even an unexpected plot twist at the end, but the base of the story. and the story itself. could have been structured differently in order to make it easier to read. I also believe that the writing could have been less extravagant at times in order to make the well-thought out sentences more impactful to the story. However, I do believe that if you value representation in novels and enjoy character-driven stories, you should give this novel a try.