Hope Is a Ferris Wheel is the story of Star Mackie, who is struggling to find friends and her place in a new school following a move to California from Oregon. Star appears to be the only one at school who lives in a trailer park, and her "layered cut" is constantly misidentified as a "mullet" by the other kids. She decides to start a club at school to help her find friends. After a false start with the Trailer Park Club, she finds limited success with the Emily Dickinson Club. With a mom who's often distracted by her own issues, a sister who attends a school for delinquents, a father who's missing, and a teacher who thinks she's not capable of much academically, Star innocently and honestly navigates her way through the school year.
Star Mackie is such a likable character that you can't help rooting for her from the first paragraph. She tends to see the best in everyone, even those who might not outwardly seem to have many redeeming qualities. Star is definitely naive, but it comes across as genuine, not cutesy. There were two events in the book that really made Star an authentic character for me, the first was when she fell in love with the first Emily Dickinson poem she heard, and the second was a tragic reveal of information that I don't want to spoil. Star radiates honesty in every emotion depicted, confusion over being spurned by her sister, feelings of betrayal by her mother, hope for a relationship with her father, devotion to her beloved Emily Dickinson poems. As a side note, the cover art is pretty great as well. I loved the vintage look of the ferris wheel and the carnival typeface.