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Reviewed by Hilary Hawkes for Readers' Favorite
Cassie’s Hope is Sue Lloyd’s touching YA novel about a fourteen-year-old girl called Cassie who is in remission from leukemia, and an adorable beagle called Hope. Hope tests trials of a new improved drug for leukemia at Morton Animal Research Centre. In hospital, Cassie sees reporter Alice Anders visit and report for NOW! on TV and falls in love with Hope. She persuades her family to look into adopting her at the end of her trial. Alice is keen to help Hope too, and finds a way for Cassie and her family to visit the research lab to see her. Alice and the centre director, Herb, fall for each other and the story is as much about their unfolding relationship and love as it is about Cassie and Hope’s destiny to be together. When a fire breaks out at the lab with devastating consequences for the animals, Herb takes the chance to follow his heart and allow the re-homing of future post-trial dogs.
Cassie’s Hope is an inspiring and thought-provoking story that draws many issues together. Told from third person perspective, it is well-written with a plot that unfolds at a good pace. Cassie and her family – mom Taylor, Dad Greg who works away most of the time, younger sister Mallory – have had a grueling year as Cassie undergoes treatment and eventually goes into remission. I thought Sue Lloyd depicted her characters sensitively and realistically with the way she portrays the effects of life-threatening illness on each family member. Mallory’s need for closeness to her sister and parents (for example, wanting to sleep beside them in their beds) is often the kind of reassurance siblings of very sick children need. I love the little beagle’s name: Hope really is the theme of brave Cassie’s life and story as she looks forward to going home and getting back to school and friendships.
Hope and Cassie’s special psychic bond keep them both going – Hope needs a forever home and Cassie and her family need love and healing, and special pets so often provide this. “I’m not giving up on Hope,” she announces at one point, a poignant assertion that provides insight into her determination to get better as well as keep her promise to Hope. I also felt the author dealt carefully with the issue of testing drugs on animals and includes the views and feelings of protesters, making this a story that provides readers with much material for discussion and thought. This is a gentle but strong, brave and compassionate story that tugs at the heartstrings and brings sensitive, potentially sad or challenging issues to the reader’s attention. I recommend it and feel it deserves an award too.