No Good

Young Adult - Action
144 Pages
Reviewed on 05/29/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

John Hope is an award-winning short story, children’s book, and middle grade fiction writer. His work appears in science fiction/fantasy anthologies and multiple collections of the best of the Florida Writers Association. Mr. Hope, a native Floridian, loves to travel with his devoted wife, Jaime, and two rambunctious kids and enjoys running.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

No Good is an historical Southern fiction novel written by John Hope. Johnny's twelve now, and he had long ago given up on the idea of a little brother. When he was an infant, his mom and dad had been in a car accident which left his dad with a limp and his mom with insides that couldn't bear any more children. So they were stuck with him, and his nickname, No Good, confirmed his feelings that he was somewhat superfluous to things, especially in his own family. No Good was floored one evening when Tommy J, the kid who had no family to speak of and lived with everyone in the small town of Sanford, let him in on the surprise his mom and dad had for him later that night. With little fanfare and less comprehension at all what the change might have meant to No Good, he was being presented with a brother, a fully grown brother who would be sharing not only his room, but his bed as well. His new brother's name was Josh; he was smallish and about the skinniest and hungriest kid No Good had ever seen.

John Hope's Southern fiction coming of age tale, No Good, transports the reader into Sanford, Florida, a sleepy little town where everyone knew each other, in the 1940s. He does so in this compelling and unforgettable tale about Johnny No Good, a twelve-year-old whose life and world would be forever changed when his orphaned brother Josh comes to stay. I especially loved those scenes where the neighborhood kids go exploring in the marshes and the interactions No Good and Josh have with the elderly African American man who lives on his own in the wild. Hope adroitly captures that twilight time between childhood and maturity as No Good and Josh form tenuous bonds and begin to explore each other’s world views. I was captivated by this book. It's beautifully written, powerful and intense, and the characters I found within its pages are raw, strong, and very very human. No Good is most highly recommended.

Heather Osborne

No Good by John Hope is a coming-of-age short novel set in 1947, after the end of the Second World War. Johnny “No Good” wakes up one morning to find that his Ma and Pa are going to foster an orphan, Josh, from the First Baptist Church. Although reluctant, No Good treats his new brother fairly and they head out on a number of adventures, including a daring interaction with Old Man Badeau, a Negro who lives by the river. However, when another boy turns up dead, secrets come out about Josh’s true parents. No Good must decide if he should keep his new brother’s confidence or tell his parents the truth.

Mr. Hope starts off with a very strong premise. I loved that the story was told from the perspective of the young boy, in his own words. Because of this, I was able to get sucked into No Good’s world rather quickly. I felt the story was rushed though, and would have liked to see more build up to the climax and eventual resolution. It was very interesting and I found myself disappointed when the last page came as I had expected some sort of resolution to the conflict. Aside from that, Hope does a good job of keeping the perspective simple. The world is seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old and the author works hard to make sure it is consistent. Overall, No Good is a straight-forward tale with a powerful lesson about family and friendship.

Jane Finch

No Good by John Hope tells the story of a young boy growing up in the backwoods of Florida in the 1940s. Life is hard, and most families struggle to make a living. No Good is the name of the boy although his real name is Johnny, but he has been called by his nickname for so long he has almost forgotten his real name. When Josh enters his life, everything changes. Not just within the family and home, but Johnny’s whole outlook on life and on the people around him. When tragedy strikes the quiet town, Johnny’s life turns upside down as a killer is sought, relationships are not what they seem, and an innocent child makes Johnny see the world in a different light.

This story is fast-paced and reminiscent of a gritty Waltons story, with its backwoods setting and the daily struggles of everyday life as each family tries to survive another day and parents strive to provide for their families. But there is also the horror of the extent of racism in those days and the intolerance and prejudice that prevailed. Follow a young child’s view of life as he comes to realise that the colour of skin or parentage is ultimately unimportant, but it is the person that counts. This book was excellently written with emotion and empathy and it is a story that will stay with this reviewer for some time. Certainly recommended and congratulations to the author John Hope for a well-crafted and stirring read.

Marta Tandori

No Good by John Hope is a wonderful, coming-of-age middle grade fiction that serves up a heapin’ helpin’ of post-war Americana – but most certainly not the genteel kind depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting. Twelve-year-old only child, Johnny “No Good” Emmerstaff, is shocked to learn from Tommy J, the pint-sized version of the town gossip, that he’s about to become a brother to an orphan boy being taken in by his parents until a permanent home can be found for him. When No Good meets his new ‘brother’ Josh shortly afterwards, he’s far from impressed. Although they’re supposed to be the same age, Josh is little more than a skinny runt who’s even poorer than they are. But with his mother promising him a beating that’ll leave him with a permanent limp, No Good reluctantly embraces his new role as a brother; a hard pill to swallow since he must not only share the few clothes he has with Josh, but even his bed.

The author, John Hope, takes a relatively simple plot and gives it incredible substance by providing us with characters who are both likeable yet flawed by flavoring them with the familiarity and prejudices of a bygone era. There is something especially likeable about Hope’s main protagonist, Johnny. Having lived with the moniker “No Good” for as long as he can remember, he actually begins to believe that there is very little good about himself. Josh, meanwhile, says very little yet still manages to convey a matter-of-fact resignation to his lot in life and a vulnerability that pulls at the heartstrings. The author does a wonderful job in conveying the resentment/protectiveness that No Good feels for his brother and his actions/reactions are genuine. The prose complements the impoverished setting perfectly and there are many times in the story where you’ll be left muttering that life simply isn’t fair sometimes.

This is a story every young person should read. No Good will leave you feeling gutted and teary-eyed, to be sure, yet it will also leave you feeling like you’ve gained a new perspective on your own life. Just how many books have the power to do that? Not too many, I’d hazard! The plain truth of the matter is that No Good is oh so very, very good!

Rich Follett

No Good by John Hope is a sensitive, poignant coming-of-age tale of acceptance and self-determination set in Sanford, Florida in the early 1940s. Twelve-year-old only child Johnny, known as “No Good” to his family, is informed that he is getting a brother about his own age - an orphan named Josh from the church home. As he struggles to accept his restructured family unit and learns about Josh’s darkest secret, No Good comes to understand himself and his place in the world as never before.

John Hope has written No Good in an authentic, rustic Florida dialect that delights with unexpected turns of phrase (at one point, No Good describes Josh as moving ‘slower than a monkey figurin’ out a telephone’). John Hope makes WWII Sanford, Florida come alive so completely that the reader feels like a character in the story. In addition, Hope has crafted this timeless tale at a reading level well suited to young readers. The result is a tremendously engaging and educational story. While No Good would be a gripping read for even the most discriminating adult reader, its messages and themes are also perfectly suited to an adolescent audience ripe for positive role modeling and values education.

No Good by John Hope is thrilling, amusing, and heartbreaking, often on the same page or even within the same paragraph. Hope’s richly drawn characters live and grow in the halcyon light of a bygone age, always attended by danger and the dark shadows of fear and racism. The messages it contains are as fresh and relevant today as they were 70 years ago - in the words of young Josh: “ …we all ridin’ the same train. You can’t change the rails, but you can help pull each other along.” No Good by John Hope is an important book with valuable life lessons for young and adult readers alike.

Lorena Sanqui

In No Good by John Hope, Johnny ‘No Good’ has just got a new brother and it looks like he might lose him soon. No Good has been an only child for all his life, so it was a surprise when his father brought home Josh, an orphan, to stay with them for the time being. At first, No Good was against the idea, but when a bully assaulted Josh, No Good stood up for his new brother. They are getting along better, but Johnny learned something about Josh that was a little hard for him to accept, and Johnny let loose his big mouth. Now Josh is hurt and has run away, but there is a murderer out there, killing children in their home town, and they have to find Josh before anything bad happens to him.

A short story that packs a big punch; a very nice, heart wrenching story. Reading it was like experiencing a myriad of emotions. There is happiness because Johnny is a funny kid, with his big mouth and lack of filter. He's mad at how people are treated because of the color of their skin. He's sad because of how the story panned out. But I also feel hopeful because there are always people who will go against the status quo to do what is right and that was a lesson I learned from this story. No Good is John Hope’s first book that I have read, but it certainly won’t be the last. I liked his style of storytelling. It was masterfully written, engaging, and fun from beginning to end. The characters he created were relatable and real. A children’s book, but recommended to readers of all ages.