Did we “fall in love with hope”? Signs point to no.

by Smriti Vijay (’25) and Katherine Winton (’25) | February 3, 2023

Art by Katherine Winton (’25)

The world of literature has undoubtedly been altered by the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, influencing the reading choices of a new generation of young readers belonging to virtual subcommunities like “BookTok.” 

I Fell in Love with Hope, a self-published novel by author Lancali, was largely marketed on TikTok through its early writing stages, from which the author gained an eager following in anticipation of her debut novel. It has seen immense success—as of January, the novel has received over 5000 ratings on Goodreads, averaging out at 4.3 out of 5 stars. Still, I Fell in Love with Hope has received both incredible love and hate from the reading community, making it unsurprising that the Saint Francis Book Club chose it as their book of the month. I Fell in Love with Hope follows five friends, Sam, Neo, Sony, Hikari, and Ceour, as they venture through struggles such as illness and loneliness.

Before diving into the negatives of the book, we would like to preface this section with a disclaimer: knowing full well that the author has based this novel on her personal experiences, our following critiques are merely gripes with the novel itself and not the author. We respect the author’s struggles and in no way intend to demean her personally with any remarks.

That being said, reading this book was an infuriating masterclass in pretentious writing. If we consumed a grain of salt every time a confusing, unnecessary literary device appeared on the page, we would develop fatal heart conditions. Every single sentence is painfully quotable and perfect for Pinterest boards, but also perfect for an excruciating reading experience. Angsty teenagers everywhere held their breath when this novel gained popularity on TikTok, eager for more of the excessive pseudo-poetry in this book. At several points throughout the novel, we had to fight our sudden drowsiness and reread because the prose genuinely read like a foreign language. Literary devices are important to any story, but their egregious overuse in I Fell in Love with Hope drains the text of all importance and value, rendering the remaining piece of literature lacking in substance.

Speaking of substance, we would pay good money for someone to explain the plot of this book. Reading this novel felt like a fever dream, and the flowery prose didn’t help. No matter how deep and introspective the writing may be, it’s useless if it overshadows the actual plot. There were countless times when we had Goodreads open while reading, to check just one more time that this novel was actually fantasy and not a part of the contemporary genre.

Needless to say, the more pages we read, the less hope we held that it would improve. Next, we cover the characters. First of all, there are way too many. Second, we can’t differentiate between them or attempt to define their significance. No teenager will ever stop in their tracks, spout out a perfectly crafted piece of poetry extemporaneously, and casually continue on with life as if nothing happened. The characters’ general relatability faded as more and more of these instances appeared on page, leaving us craving more colloquial characters. More characters that trip up with their words and make mistakes. We wanted real characters.

However, despite all of the negative feedback we had for I Fell in Love with Hope, there are some redeemable aspects to Lancali’s work. First, the book was notably diverse, featuring people with illnesses (physical and mental), people of color, queer people, and so much more. It allowed the book to be relatable to wide audiences, though we feel the execution was a failure. Indeed, when we asked the SFHS Book Club for their opinions on the novel, several people enjoyed it. 

Although there is much criticism of the novel’s prose, Sonia Quinonero Koch (’26) said that they “enjoyed it and think that it worked for the tone of the book.” However, despite liking the prose, Quinonero Koch didn’t like the way the author conveyed the message of the book, as it felt like the book was “an outlet for the author to pour their grief and trauma into.”

Arisa Gallagher (’25), who recommended the book to the SFHS Book Club, called the book “encouraging, devastating, and truthful.” She enjoyed the poetic feel of the novel and the message, which she took to be that “just because things ended, and people die, it didn’t mean that it wasn’t worth it and that their lives were meaningless.” Also, Gallagher liked that, unlike many other books, I Fell in Love with Hope had elements of fantasy rather than maintaining a completely serious tone because of the content.

Gallagher recommends the book to “anyone who feels lost and isolated, who is going through a tough time, needs a good cry, or [loves] metaphors and poetry.” she added, “I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone.” Koch said, “The only people I would recommend this book to are people who have read through the extensive list of trigger warnings. Other than that, you might find it interesting if you want to become a nurse or work in psychology.”

Overall, we recommend this book to people with particular tastes in literature, such as Lana Del Rey’s poetry collections. We will not disclose our opinions on Lana Del Rey’s poetry collections.

Categories: Column, Entertainment, Features

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