Hope in the Mail: Reflections on Writing and Life

Knopf. Jan. 2020. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781984894663.
Gr 7 Up–Van Draanen offers readers and future writers guidance, laughter, and depth in this lighthearted writing guide. She shares difficult memories such as the tragic fire that impacted her family’s business and explores the challenges of living in a rough neighborhood. Her storytelling abilities will inspire writers of all ages. Fans will also appreciate that her advice revolves around key elements found in her books. The short chapters are appropriate for younger readers but have enough of a narrative hook to appeal to older students as well. Within the seven overarching sections that organize the chapters, Van Draanen focuses on a specific writing technique in a practical and approachable style. In the chapter about dialogue, she recommends that writers listen, create a signature phrase, and avoid adverbs.
VERDICT Van Draanen’s memoir can serve as a guide to embracing the creative life. Recommended especially for libraries with readers of the author. A good addition to collections that carry Jack Gantos’s Writing Radar and Gail Carson Levine’s Writing Magic.

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