Set in Melbourne, Australia, I Hope This Doesn’t Find You by Ann Liang features Sadie Wen and Julius Gong, two teens who are on a trajectory to future success. Having researched the highest-paying job and the most in-demand degrees, Julius plans to be a lawyer and Sadie a data analyst. Both young people attend Woodvale Academy, a selective high school for gifted students and populated predominantly by other young Asians. At Woodvale, “dreams, [like astronaut, playwright, and artist] are shattered and hobbies are traded for more stable, lucrative, practical careers” (130).

Sadie has perfect grades and is the MVP in every sports team she is on. An active member of the school community, a volunteer at the local library, and a helper at the family bakery, Sadie struggles to “chill out” because everything is a competition to her. Her best friend Abigail Ong teases Sadie about “[collecting] badges like a magpie” (2).

Sadie’s co-captain at school and her nemesis, Julius is equally driven and has the power to fill Sadie with “blistering rage.” Still, he’s “interesting, mysterious, effortlessly cool” (9), and talented in his own right.

In order to keep her emotions in check, Sadie vents and finds some measure of emotional healing by writing emails that she never sends to teachers and students who vex her. When these emails mysteriously get sent out, “Sadie the Model Student, the Perfect School Captain, is effectively dead” (53). With damage control and her reputation to resolve taking all of her attention, Sadie might lose her coveted position. She also has been thrust into a disciplinary situation with Julius, the target of many of these emails who publicly tangles with Sadie during a school assembly on responsible online use.

Sadie has always been a fixer: “fix the error in the math worksheet. Fix the seating arrangement for student council. Fix the gap in [her] family, the holes in her life, patch everything up, smooth everything over” (98). But she’s not sure how to fix this wildly out of control situation and believes her dreams are essentially shattered.

Forced into close proximity with Julius on various projects the principal has devised for punishment, Sadie oscillates between liking and loathing Julius, who admits that he finds her to be “intimidatingly smart.” She also discovers that Julius is under pressures of his own at home.

As she navigates her feelings and attempts to set right the harm she has caused, Sadie learns that not everything is her fault because not everything is in her control. Sadie further learns that if she’s quiet about the things that hurt her, people will only hurt her again. “I’m so tired of playing nice, of smiling as people walk over me. What I’m realizing is that if you’re quiet about the things that hurt you, people are only going to mistake your tolerance for permission” (287).

Liang’s novel takes readers on this roller-coaster ride, helping them to understand that a life carefully crafted can just as easily turn upside down.

  • Posted by Donna

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