BY: JENNIFER GIBSON
Jessie has managed to defy the odds, overcoming a severe hearing loss and achieving a Black Belt. She seemed to have it all, a handsome and devoted boyfriend, success as a karate instructor…until now.
On the cusp of graduating from high school, a shocking injury changes her life. With her heart shattered and her faith destroyed, she finds herself headed in a new direction all alone. As she leaves for college, she needs to find the courage to conquer her self-doubt and rediscover hope before it’s too late.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Hope by Jennifer Gibson, Jessie is now in college. But before she leaves for school, she and Ethan have a fight, and Jessie breaks up with him. Heartbroken, she heads for school, leaving behind Parker and Serna, her two cats, as well as her family and Ethan. But Jessie’s heartbreaks aren’t over, and life takes her down new paths that she is not really prepared for. Her new environment and experiences are difficult, due to her hearing loss. But she struggles through with the determination and courage that we have come to expect. A brave girl indeed.
This book, like the other three in the series, is a heartbreaking, heartwarming tale of courage and determination in the face of obstacles that would defeat most of us. Another star in the crown of this talented author.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Hope by Jennifer Gibson is the fourth book in her Jessie McIntyre series, and as in the first three books, the plot revolves around a hard-of-hearing teenager and her struggles to survive in a hearing world. As the story opens, Jessie and her boyfriend Ethan are sparring and Ethan hits her a little too hard, seriously injuring her and changing her life forever. Furious at Ethan’s lack of control and insensitivity, Jessie breaks up with him and moves away to college. There, she has to struggle to keep up with her hearing classmates and adapt to the changes happening in her life.
Gibson excels in her character development, making Jessie both realistic and endearing. You just can’t help but root for her and feel her pain. It’s a book that I think every hearing person should read, as it can open your eyes to the obstacles facing those with disabilities.
I drew in a long and deep breath, gathering what was left of my dwindling strength. At the blast of the whistle, we both darted at each other, delivering a flurry of punches and kicks. I could feel the sweat pouring down the side of my face and back of my neck. He was moving fast and hard. I threw a series of kicks then jumped away. He did the same. It was like fighting a mirror. My strikes weren’t getting through. He did a roundhouse kick to the side of my head and I raised my arm to block it. The force of his kick was enough to slam my arm into the side of my face. I stumbled a little, caught off guard by his strength, then regained my composure.
He kept going, faster and harder with his hits. Next, he attempted to kick me in the mid-section then rapidly changed direction and aimed it at the side of my head. I raised my hand to block it, but it was too late. His foot collided with my helmet, and I felt the impact. I could swear I heard a loud clang, like a bell going off. The room suddenly spun around. I momentarily staggered. The figure of Ethan swayed in front of me. I dimly heard him calling out my name. The room began to fade from my vision. I fell heavily to my knees and everything went black.
He bolted toward me, driving a punch to my face. I ducked to the side and slapped it aside. Unfazed, he quickly delivered a side kick toward my ribs. I stepped back and pushed it away then followed up with a back fist strike to his head and a reverse punch to his solar plexus. When my fist came into contact with him, I shouted “hiya!”
“Halt!” bellowed Sensei Jonas from my left. He raised on open palm at me and exclaimed, “Point for Jessie.”
“Oooh!” I said with an impish grin. “The score is now tied.”
Ethan narrowed his eyes at me, pointed two fingers at them, then toward me, his sign for I’m watching you.
Sensei Jonas placed his hand between us. “Go into your fighting stance.” He watched us take our positions. “Hajime!” he said, releasing his hand.
Ethan lunged at me with a flurry of kicks, first to my ribs then high up at my head. He nearly caught me off guard with his aggressiveness, and I had to move quickly out of his range. I dodged his moves, slapping away his strikes. We both dove at each other with a hard punch to the solar plexus, yelling upon impact. I cringed as his fist made contact with me.
“Halt!” Sensei Jonas yelled.
We scrambled back to our starting positions that were marked on the floor with red tape. I was panting hard and felt the sting of his hit with every breath I took. Sweat was rolling down Ethan’s face, and his chest was heaving with exertion.
“Judges call!” Sensei Jonas looked at the corner judges, they all shook their heads.
“No score. Ready?” he asked as he cast a glance at both of us. When we nodded, he yelled, “Hajime!”
I darted at Ethan, eager to finish this fight. He delivered another strike at me. I jammed down my arm to protect that side of my body, and he ended up hitting my biceps instead. I proceeded to snap out a front kick at him. He immediately thrust his elbow downward on top of it. The sharp pain of his impact shot up my leg.
My focus wavered, and I limped away from him, giving myself room and a momentary break. He did the same thing, prowling around the ring like a tiger deliberating its next move. I gulped back the rising panic. I was determined not to lose this match. My eyes followed Ethan as he circled around me. He suddenly snapped out a kick, and I barely blocked it in the nick of time. He changed positions and quickly did a back fist to the top of my head. At the same time, I lunged toward him with a punch to his solar plexus.
“Halt!” exclaimed Sensei Jonas.
We went back to the red line and waited anxiously. My hands were shaking, and I was beginning to feel the exhaustion in my body.
“Judges call!” Sensei Jonas looked at all of the corner judges, two gestured at Ethan and the others toward me.
It was a tie again. Only he could break that tie if he added his vote. He closed his eyes for a moment, replaying the events in his mind. After what seemed like an eternity, he opened them and gestured at Ethan. He grabbed his hand, raised it upright in the air, and exclaimed, “Winner!”
I was vastly disappointed, but I had to remind myself that he was more experienced than I was at sparring. We bowed to each other then to Sensei Jonas.
Ethan walked over to me and did a fist bump with his gloves against mine. “You did a great job, Jessie. You’re becoming more confident and faster with your sparring. You are getting much better at anticipating my strikes.”
“I am? Oh, thanks,” I said.
He grabbed my hand and pulled me into a hug. I leaned into him, wrapping my arms around him. When we broke apart, he placed his hands on my shoulders, looked into my eyes, and asked, “You doing okay?
I nodded. “Feeling a bit tired. You made me work hard.”
The corner of his lip rose up into a sly grin. “Good. Someone’s gotta keep you on your toes.”
“Ha! No kidding. Did you have to elbow my foot so hard?” I said, limping slightly.
He grimaced. “Sorry about that. Shall I carry you?”
“Ethan!” I squealed with surprise as he grabbed me.
He carried me over to the wall where my gym bag sat and put me down beside it.
“Here you go,” he said wearing a playful grin. He pulled off his helmet and gloves, placing them in his bag.
I looked over my shoulder and spotted Sensei Jonas watching us, giving Ethan a bemused stare. Then he looked at me, raising his eyebrows.
I mouthed at him, “Sorry!”
I hope Ethan wasn’t going to get into trouble for that little prank. Feeling somewhat embarrassed, I quickly took off my sparring equipment. My hearing aids squealed as I took off my helmet. I instantly felt frustrated when it did that. I settled them back on to my ears, and adjusted the volume. I stuffed the rest of the gear into my bag and hurried over to the front of the class to line up.
I looked down the line and had to admit that it was nice to finally be at the end with the other black belts. It felt right after training for so long to get where I was today. It was a good reminder that this was where I was meant to be, that I earned this spot.
Both Ethan and his father stood at the front of the class and bowed us out. When I bent down to snag my gym bag, Ethan came over to me and touched my shoulder.
“Hey, are you sure you’re doing okay?” he asked, his eye brows creasing in concern.
I knew Ethan and that his concern was genuine. “I’m fine.”
He reached up and brushed a stray lock of curly hair out of my eyes. Then he rested his hand on my shoulder, a warm and comforting presence. “I know you’re still scared after your last head injury. There’s no shame in that. You’re just being cautious.”
I sighed and looked at him. His short blond hair was tussled from the helmet. It suited him well, giving him a more relaxed and casual air about him. His face still had a sheen of sweat. I could see specks of gold in his hazelnut eyes. He had a strong jaw line and sensual lips. I reached up and held on to his arm. I could feel his strong muscles beneath my fingers and gave it a squeeze. “I know. It’s always in the back of my mind, though.”
He placed both palms on the sides of my face, resting them against my cheeks. I could feel the intense heat radiating from them. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I will try to pull my punches and kicks.”
“That’s a testament to your strength, knowing when to stop. It’s the true mark of a black belt, having that ability to control our strikes and when to use it.”
“I know, it’s all about timing. So, when are you going to stop jamming my elbow?”
He raised his eyebrows at me, giving me a sly grin, “When are you going to stop kicking me there? Don’t you know that it hurts to do that?”
“Oh! You cheeky monkey!” I said, giving him a playful slap on his arm.
“Ow! Hey! You’re a black belt, where’s your sense of control?” he said, skipping away from me.
I chased after him as he ran over to the door and bowed out.
As soon I walked in the door at home, there was a rich aroma of gingerbread. It filled the house with the scent of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mom had been busy baking today for her clients. Her home business, Paige’s Pastries, was really taking off this year, especially her cookies.
There was a large envelope waiting for me on the kitchen table. I picked it up, noticing the return address. It was from Sheridan College. My stomach suddenly felt very watery. I pulled out a chair and sat down. With nervous anticipation, I opened it, sliding out the contents. Holding my breath, I read it. “After much consideration, we are pleased to announce that you have been accepted for the Illustration program.”
My eyes froze at that sentence. Relieved, I blew out my breath and brought trembling fingers to my lips. I couldn’t believe it. When I filled out the college applications, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that my marks were okay, even though they were not outstanding in any way. I decided to take a chance and submitted my portfolio of sketches and artwork. I was taking everything one step at a time, especially after everything that happened in the last couple of years. Sustaining a concussion and going completely deaf in one ear was traumatic enough for me. I was still trying to process these new changes in my life. I was working harder than ever to listen to people, particularly my teachers.
I stared at the letter in disbelief. A myriad of emotions ran through me. I was excited at being accepted, since this was such a prestigious program and allowed only a limited number of students. Then I suddenly became very scared at the thought of being on my own for the first time in my life. I felt a sharp pain of sadness for Parker and Serena and my parents.
Just then, Parker jumped up into my lap and exclaimed, “Purrup?”
I laughed and gave me him a hug, holding his soft fur against my chest. His fur was a rich shade of brown with distinctive black stripes. I could feel his purrs rumbling beneath my fingers. He looked up at me with his bright green eyes, scrunching up his cheeks that made him look like he was giving me a big smile.
“Thanks, Parker. Funny, I was just thinking about you.”
He said, “Purrup,” a cross between a purr and meow.
I loved that about him, and his ability to comfort me with his sweet personality.
I began to worry about what I would do without him. My chest felt hollow as I thought about that. Parker reached up and touched my cheek with his paw. He leaned his head against me while I rubbed his fur.
Serena came into the kitchen, carrying a felt mouse, She plopped it down by my foot and gave me a squeaky meow, announcing that she had a treat for me.
“Aw! Thanks, Serena. That’s so cute,” I gushed at her.
Parker was the one who insisted that I bring her into the house during a particularly bad winter storm a couple of years ago. When I brought her in, she was a scrawny and tiny cat, less than a year old. It was obvious that someone had abandoned her. Today, she was a healthy and happy cat. She was virtually inseparable from Parker. The two of them were always together. Her fur was a beautiful shade of silver with hints of darker stripes in some places. She had a crooked tail which appeared to have been damaged at one point. It wagged sideways like a dog.
Tears began to well up in my eyes when it truly hit me how much I was going to miss everyone here. My throat suddenly felt very tight. Mom came out of the large walk-in closet carrying several plastic containers and placed them beside the tray of decorated cookies. Her red apron was covered in flour, her strawberry blonde hair fell in curly wisps around her face.
She gave me a warm smile when she saw me. “Hi, Jessie. Did you find the letter that arrived today?”
I nodded and held it out.
She gave me a curious look, walked over to me, and picked it up. As she read it, her face lit up. “This is great news, Jessie! I’m so proud of you!” She bent over and gave me a kiss on the cheek and a quick hug, being mindful of Parker.
“So why aren’t you doing a happy dance right now?”
“I just realized I won’t be with Parker and Serena or you and Dad,” I said, reaching down and patting Serena’s fur.
Mom kneeled down beside me. “Oh, honey. I know it’s not going to be easy. You will be coming home on the weekends and during the holidays. It’s not that far away.”
“Do really think so?”
She nodded. “I’ve been through this, too. You will be very busy with school and homework.”
“More than what I have now?” I asked.
“Oh, yes. It won’t get any easier, but it’s worth it,” she replied.
“Great—now you’re scaring me. What if I wasn’t meant to do this?”
“Jessie, the fact that you were accepted to such a high-ranked and renowned college speaks volumes about your talent.”
I stared at the letter for a long moment. My mind swirled with so many turbulent emotions. “It’s such a big step for me.”
Mom rubbed my arm. “It’s okay to be scared. There will be lots of changes and most of them will lead to great opportunities.”
“Okay,” I said softly.
“Mmm! It smells good in here,” Dad said as he strode in and plunked down his leather satchel.
He took off his jacket and sat down with a huff, raking his fingers through his hair. I noticed that his fingers were stained with ink. I’d surmised that he had a long day at school with his students.
“Guess what? Jessie got accepted into college today!” Mom exclaimed, waving the letter at him.
He promptly got up and read it. “Ha! I knew it,” he said, beaming, raising his finger skyward.
“You’re not surprised?” I asked.
He came over to me, giving me a squeeze on my shoulders. “Of course not. You work just as hard as everyone else. Why wouldn’t it be any different for you?”
I shrugged my shoulders and stammered, “I—I guess because of everything that’s happened lately.”
He sat down, crossed his legs, and leaned back, looking very much like a professor, which is exactly what he was. “That makes it even more impressive, considering how much you’ve had to overcome.”
I just had an unnerving thought that sent cold chills down my spine. “Um. That stalker is not going to follow me to college is he?” I asked nervously.
When I worked at the hospital as a volunteer last year, a strange man had followed me home and hid in the treehouse.
Both Dad and Mom exchanged worried glances. “They’ve already arrested him. You don’t have to worry about that.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Are you sure? I’m still looking over my shoulder and checking to make sure no one is following me.”
“Why didn’t you tell us that this was still bothering you?” Mom asked.
“I didn’t want to worry you guys and I thought I was being too paranoid.”
Dad leaned his arms on the table. “There’s nothing wrong being cautious, particularly after that episode. To have someone lurking around on our property was extremely disturbing, even to me. It affected all of us. I’ll tell you what. I’ll give the constable a call.”
“So what should we do to celebrate this momentous occasion?” he said, eagerly clapping his hands together.
“We should ask Ethan and his family if they want to join us for dinner,” I remarked.
“What a lovely idea, Jessie. Ooh, I’m already coming up with a list of recipes to try,” Mom said, dashing over to the fridge, grabbing the magnetic notepad, and writing down her thoughts. She loved cooking and enjoyed spending time Ethan’s family.
© 2017 by Jennifer Gibson
Jennifer Gibson’s new book, HOPE is the kind of story that is good for all ages. Jessie, the main character, shows us how life with a hearing loss can make everything you do a real challenge. Jessie has a lot ahead of her as she enters college and is out on her own for the first time. All of these new obstacles make Jessie stronger and fight harder. Loved this book, well done Jennifer! Reviewer ~ M. Blanchard
I can picture Jessie and the other characters interacting as I am reading. You are terrific in writing relationships. Great writing and interesting to an “much older” reader as well. Wonderful accomplishment, Jenn! Congratulations! Reviewer ~ S. Nelson