The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is an incredibly unique and, not a little, sad story of a young girl who, as she grows older, becomes forgettable to (almost) everyone around her. I found this a really fascinating concept.
I confess that going into this novel I had little idea what it was about other than that the main character, Hope Arden, after having turned sixteen gradually becomes more and more forgettable to everyone around her until eventually not even her family can remember who she is. I wondered if this was going to be more of a play on that concept, a look at people who never really stand out in society or perhaps even a look at those people in society who fall under the radar somehow. Anyway, it’s nothing like that. For some strange reason Hope Arden, as she reaches her mid teens literally becomes less and less memorable to people until basically, if she steps out of somebody’s sight for more than a minute, they forget who she is. Of course this has massive implications not least of which is that she is unable to form any relationships or attachments. She no longer lives at home because her parents forgot her, her school don’t know who she is and if she’s involved in an accident the doctors and nurses will forget that they need to return to her to give her the treatment she needs.
This obviously leads to a very lonely existence and one that eventually sees Hope turn to a life of crime. After all it’s easy for Hope to become a thief and in fairness she can’t really hold down a regular job can she! She may make a few mistakes at the start of her career but she can pretty much get herself out of any situation with the minimum amount of fuss. At the start of the story Hope is travelling among an elite set of people, basically weighing up her next job, and this is when we’re introduced to another thread that runs through the entirety of the story and becomes the central focus for Hope. This is the notion of an App called Perfection. People purchase this app and tap in their basic information following which the app helps them to identify what and where to eat and how much exercise to take, where to visit, what to wear, etc,. The whole system works on the basis of punishment and reward with incentives such as free shopping and travel for those whose level of perfection increases. I don’t really want to give away too much in relation to this aspect as it plays a major part in the story with Hope becoming a little bit obsessed with the app leading to a number of mistakes that almost lead to her undoing.
There are a number of things that I really enjoyed about this but also a couple of things that for me brought it down a little.
In terms of the positives, as I said above, this is a very original (to me at least) idea and one that was fascinating to read. The author doesn’t try to explain this strange phenomenon in a scientific way at all, we’re simply introduced to Hope and made slowly aware of her history and the life she now leads. I can’t deny that sometimes it would irritate me not to have some sort of reasoning applied but in this instance I think it works better rather than being provided with a convoluted theory. I also really enjoyed reading of Hope’s past and her current exploits. This idea certainly gave the author plenty to work with and the first half of the book was incredibly compelling and fast paced and I was gripped with Hope’s plight and her way of life. Which in turn leads into my slight criticisms. The book definitely feels like it changes tack in the second half, which isn’t in itself a problem other than I didn’t find the focus nearly as entertaining. The writing style also changes and becomes almost like a stream of conscious thought that becomes a little bit frantic. I can appreciate why the author changed the style slightly but I just simply didn’t enjoy it as much and in turn it made the pace slow down for me.
Overall, I certainly wouldn’t discourage anybody from picking this up. It’s an intriguing story, it has moments of outright suspense, it’s also quite sad and it’s basically a very thought provoking and fascinating idea to read about. The change in style didn’t quite work out for me personally but I can see what the author was aiming for. I would certainly pick up more by Claire North and in fact I have a copy of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August which I’m really looking forward to reading now.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher though Net Galley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.