Book Review: “That Stubborn Seed of Hope” by Brian Falkner (#YAmatters @brianfalkner @UQPbooks)


Brian Falkner’s That Stubborn Seed of Hope (University of Queensland Press, 2017) is one of the five full-length books offered by sponsors of the 2017 Reading Matters Conference. I picked it first because I have read Falkner’s Brainjack (2008), a finalist for the 2010 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards that later won the Children’s Choice Award (Young Adult). It also won the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award, Best Young Adult Novel.

That Stubborn Seed of Hope is Falkner’s first collection of short stories. The ten tales are full of twists and turns, keeping readers in suspense until they reach the surprising ending. A couple of stories can be annoying, making readers lamenting/sulking “Why didn’t I ever think of that?” or right out screaming “What is it? What is this thing that is hidden from me?” Either way, reading this book is an exercise of the mind. It is at once inspiring, informing and entertaining.

But these stories can be emotionally challenging as well. They encourage young readers to consider the world they are experiencing today and the moral and behavioural “norms” that regulate our society. How should we handle the loss of dignity caused by diseases and disabilities? What personal rights can and should be sacrificed in order to safeguard the greater good? At different stages of our lives, how can we prepare ourselves for rejection and grief? Facing death, how do we define cruelty and kindness and achieve a balance between them? Perhaps this suggestion by Falkner can provide some guidance:

I had intended to make this a collection of stories about fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of dying, fear of disease, death, embarrassment, even fear of God. I found as I was writing, however, that a much stronger theme emerged: that of hope.

Yes, there are stories of fear, heartbreak and tragedy, but they are also stories of endurance, of coping and overcoming. I really believe the secret to that is hope. We can endure almost anything in our lives as long as there remains that stubborn seed of hope. (p.2)

To help readers better understand the process of journeying from fear to hope, Falkner has included in That Stubborn Seed of Hope “a little information about each story, what I think it’s about, or a little about the writing of it. If that doesn’t interest you, ignore it. If you write stories yourself, you may find this useful”. This valuable section invites readers and aspiring writers to consider their own potential treatment of these stories, as an emotional and intellectual response to the issues that Falkner raised both deliberately and unintentionally. For the sake of cultivating future generations of writers, it would be wonderful if more established authors could attempt to do so in their books.

You can find more information about Brian Falkner’s That Stubborn Seed of Hope here.


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