Gwen Page has a life many musically talented teens would give their sheet music for, but it isn’t an easy one. The 17-year-old West Virginian is attending New York City’s Latham Academy of the Performing Arts on scholarship. As Andrew Clements’ new book, Things Hoped For, opens, graduation is nearing for Gwen, and if she wants to fulfill her dream of becoming a concert violinist, she’s going to have to be positively amazing at her upcoming auditions for three prestigious music schools. The pressure doesn’t let up at home, either; she lives in a brownstone with her 84-year-old grandfather, whose younger brother Hank has been showing up on a regular basis arguing and asking for money.
It’s hard to believe that things could get worse, but they do when her grandfather disappears, leaving behind a cryptic voicemail instructing Gwen to tell no one and to put Hank off until after her auditions. As the days slip by, Gwen begins to lose her musical focus worrying about her grandfather and Hank’s agitated visits.
That’s when a boy with a trumpet appears at her coffeehouse table and introduces himself his name is Robert Phillips, and he recognized Gwen from a summer program at the Tanglewood Institute that both attended. He’s flown in from Chicago to audition like Gwen, and Robert quickly proves to be a friend, cleverly putting off Uncle Hank so the two of them can practice for their respective tryouts. Robert is keeping a secret though (and fans of Clements’ previous novel, Things Not Seen, know what that incredible secret is), and Gwen’s already complicated life will soon take an unbelievable turn.
Clements is a compelling storyteller, and he has a real knack for creating realistic, believable characters. Gwen’s actions and reactions to both her everyday experiences and some admittedly incredible situations ring totally true. And while Things Hoped For is a sequel of sorts to Things Not Seen, it stands on its own as a novel well worth the time of any young reader. James Neal Webb is a copyright researcher at Vanderbilt University.