Abbi has lived trying to hide from her fame. Having been captured in a photo that everyone seems to be obsessed about, Abbi just wants to live a normal life—one where she is not known as the girl in the 9/11 photograph. When she begins working at a summer camp, she thinks her time known as “Baby Hope” is over—until a boy changes everything. Simultaneously tragic and hilarious, Julie Buxbaum tells a unique, moving story about two very different teens recovering from their own bruises and pain—all centered around the horrific events of 9/11.

Hope and Other Punchlines begins with Abbi as she starts her summer job, looking to meet people and forget who she is—or at least the icon that everyone at home sees her as. She wants to redefine herself and blend in with the other counselors at the camp.

Then she meets Noah, a quirky boy who has a mission he so desperately wants Abbi to embark on. However, she wants nothing to do with either Noah or his quest to reveal the others in the famous “Baby Hope” photograph. But as time goes on, Abbi must decide either to hide from her past or to take Noah’s hand and follow him through the pain and recovery of coming to terms with the truth. Both a coming-of-age story and a testament to the long-lasting effects of 9/11, Buxbaum writes a searing, potent novel that is both complex and all too relatable. This a truly brilliant novel.

My first thought while reading this book: Is it wrong that I’m laughing audibly while reading a book about 9/11 and death? Julie Buxbaum expertly connects with the healing quality of humor and the levity found even in the darkest of moments. Both of her main characters, Abbi and Noah, feel so real and provide such an excellent sense of humor—casting joke after joke, innuendo after innuendo—and it really works. I expected Hope and Other Punchlines to be a sad, teary read, yet it was just the opposite. For anyone looking for a novel that brings light to dark places and explores the profound beauty within pain, this is a novel that cannot be passed up. Julie Buxbaum’s latest is challenging, refreshing. and one of the funniest books I’ve read.

Abbi and Noah are very different, yet their lives are consumed by a single, horrific, monumental day. Both in search for various answers to the questions that haunt them, the two will not only gain clarity about 9/11 but also about themselves and their relationship. Told both authentically and with a wicked sense of humor, Hope and Other Punchlines is a novel that is equally gripping and painful to read—with a dash of wry humor, of course. Julie Buxbaum’s previous novels may have been enjoyable, sweet romances, but her latest raises the expectations of sophistication for YA novels—telling one of the most profound and challenging novels in the genre.


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