37 pages 1 hour read


I Fell in Love with Hope

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2022

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Summary and Study Guide


I Fell in Love with Hope (2022) is the debut young adult novel of Lancali, the pen name of Lou-Andrea Callewaert. After his lover dies by suicide, Sam swears that he will never love anyone again. That is, until Hikari comes into his life and shakes up what he believes he knows about love and loss. Sam, Hikari, Sony, Coeur, and Neo must learn to live with their chronic illnesses while staying at a hospital. In the process, they learn what it means to be alive.

Lancali’s novel tackles difficult topics relevant to the 21st century teenager—such as mental health, chronic illness, strained family relationships, and the loss of loved ones. She uses an omniscient first-person narrator who is more than he seems.

This guide refers to the 2022 Simon & Schuster paperback edition of the book.

Content Warning: I Fell in Love with Hope includes discussions of domestic abuse, abortion, self-harm, and suicide.

Plot Summary

Sam stands on a bridge with his lover, also named Sam, who is about to die by suicide. The narrator Sam desperately tells his lover Sam his biggest secret in an attempt to stop the suicide—that he is not a real person, but rather a concept about the hospital that takes a physical form. Sam’s lover crosses the bridge, dies, and leaves Sam heartbroken and unable to believe that loving someone is worth the pain of losing them. The narrator does not reveal his secret to the reader, even while telling his lover.

While living in the hospital, Sam meets several patients with whom he becomes friends: Neo, who has an eating disorder; Sony, who damaged one of her lungs in the process of an abortion; and Coeur who is known as “C,” who has a heart problem. The four work together to steal what they can—both from the nearby gas station and, metaphorically, from life which takes from them constantly. One night, they succeed in robbing the gas station by making up fake stories about cancer and dying any second. On their way back to the hospital, Sam sees a yellow glow from the nearby bridge—the bridge where Sam killed himself—and wonders why the sun rises in the middle of the night.

When they return to the hospital, the resident nurse Eric introduces the four to Hikari, a new patient who has depression and self-harms. Hikari and Sam connect, and she recruits him to help her steal the blades from a pencil sharpener. They bond over Shakespeare’s play Hamlet and take on the identities of Hamlet and Yorick to each other. Hikari quickly becomes part of the group and part of their ultimate plan to escape the hospital and live their lives.

Their first escape attempt fails because Sam gets cold feet when they go to cross the bridge; he turns around and goes back to the hospital, hurting Hikari along the way. Neo forces Sam to name and confront his past loss to move forward and learn to cope without hurting and pushing away those around him. Sam makes a new goal—save Hikari the same way he’s saved his other friends. He plans a big apologetic gesture, only for Hikari to be missing. He finds her in an abandoned hallway preparing to self-harm. He stops her and gets hurt in the process, which focuses Hikari.

The doctors bump up C on the priority list for receiving a heart transplant and tell Sony that her remaining lung is failing and will not last long. The group plans another escape. This one succeeds, and they drive away from the hospital. While out, they get shared tattoos bearing their motto and then go to the beach to dance the night away. The next morning, Sam wakes to Sony coughing—she cannot breathe and needs to return to the hospital. They make it, but Sony dies not long after; C dies when he goes into his heart transplant surgery; and Neo dies in the middle of the night after confronting his father.

Hikari’s depression deepens, and she attempts to die by suicide several times; Sam stops her each time, but he is afraid for her. Only when Neo stops her final attempt—when she goes to the bridge—does she accept Sam’s comfort. She improves, attends therapy with her parents, and the hospital will soon discharge her. Sam takes her to the garden for a final picnic, where he tells her what he told his lover Sam so many years ago. Sam gives up his physical form after Hikari promises that she will continue to love him and come back to the hospital one last time before she dies.