Seventeen-year-old Sarah has come to New York City for the first time in her life, accompanying her father on a business trip. They have a deal—she’ll wander around and take pictures while he’s in his meeting, and then they’ll have lunch together before heading home. Sarah is thrilled to be loose in the city, watching people, taking their pictures, soaking up an atmosphere completely different from what she’s used to back home. When her dad calls to say his meeting is going late and he can’t meet her for lunch, she’s not too disappointed—they’ll have dinner together, and in the meantime, she can continue to explore …and people watch.
One person in particular.
A young man caught her eye, or rather, her camera’s viewfinder. He’s wearing a hoodie with the name of her favorite band, and there’s something else about him too—something fascinating. She can’t explain what it is, but she follows him to see if she can figure it out. When they meet, she learns that his name is Sam, and he’s a finder. That’s his job—he locates things for people that they really want. He takes Sarah with him on one of his jobs and she finds herself with a job of her own—to find an amazing piece of artwork for a spoiled starlet, or suffer the consequences. Sarah rises up to the challenge and begins searching for this elusive decoration, and she and Sam begin their adventure together.
Along the way, they make discoveries about life, about family relationships and loyalty, and most importantly, about themselves.
Lisa Mangum is a beautiful writer. She has a way of putting words down on paper that is like a feast for the eye. Every sentence is carefully constructed, and even the most simple actions performed by the characters becomes something to study. As an author myself, I’m in awe of how she does this, and as a reader, I appreciate the time she puts into it. Lisa has worked for Deseret Book as an editor for years, and her knowledge and understanding of the craft are evident in her final product.
More than that, though, Lisa shows us that young adult literature can also be literary. I definitely would call this a literary novel for young adults, and I love that she’s done this—she has paired beautiful writing with an interesting teen storyline, and we aren’t relying on typical adolescent angst or racing hormones or dark plotlines to hold up the book. This isn’t to say that the book doesn’t address difficult topics—Sarah and her father must overcome some misunderstandings and relationship glitches along the way—but these things are handled realistically and respectfully, and I appreciated that.
I’m not a young adult anymore, but I loved this book. Then I handed it off to my teenage daughter, and she loved it as well. She said it was very original, and I agree.
The take-home message for me was that the human spirit is strong, but it needs nourishment to thrive. We can get that nourishment from friends, from family, from our passions and our hobbies, but then we turn all those nutrients into food for our spirits, which allows them to grow and develop and become all that they’re supposed to be. I’ve pondered on this and on the book itself several times since I finished reading it, and that’s the hallmark of a great book, in my opinion—when you can’t stop thinking about it.
Well done, Lisa.
Purchase After Hello here.