Book Review: This Is The Part Where You Laugh by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

This Is The Part Where You Laugh review

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Kayla Hartman

Book sent by the Random House Children’s Books high school newspaper book review program

Kayla Hartman

This Is The Part Where You Laugh by Peter Brown Hoffmeister is a young adult novel that follows Travis and his friends during one eventful summer. We watch him meet new people, grapple with his past, and try to make the best out of his difficult living situation. Travis lives with his grandparents in Florida. His grandmother is dying of cancer and he cares for her, along with the help of his frequently high grandfather. Travis and his best friend, Creature, whose real name is Malik, love basketball. They plan on training hard all summer in order to make the upcoming school season their best yet; that is until a series of unfortunate events send everything out of orbit.

I stood there at the double doors and it felt like right after I punched that kid in the basketball game. All three refs were walking toward me, and that kid was on the ground, and the crowd was silent, and I knew things might never be the same.

Hoffmeister’s own early life wasn’t so easy. He was expelled from multiple high schools and experienced homelessness. A wilderness program he participated in as a teen helped him recuperate, and inspired him to start his own outdoor recovery program for the same purpose as an adult. The themes of This Is The Part Where You Laugh are clearly inspired by his life.

Travis’ mother is homeless, and he struggles with the fact that they can’t live together as a family. We get multiple flashbacks to the issues that caused them to be separated and his childhood, as well as present-day dreams of what their relationship could be. Only the people closest to him learn about his mother, and eventually, he even opens up to the new girl in town, Natalie. Her home life is explored as she grows closer to Travis during the summer months, giving her a character dimension that was unexpected but very welcome.

We get to know Travis’ best friend through their neighborhood hijinks, but Creature also writes short stories detailing and serenading Russian princesses. These are interspersed throughout the novel, and we read them in real-time as Travis does. His work is refreshing to read as the plot progresses and allows for the character development of Creature-even when he doesn’t get as much page time as other characters.

This book commemorates summer fun, and the changes that always seem to come around before the next school year starts: the good and the bad. As the upcoming school year looms, remember to take care of the people you care about and make sure they are taking care of you.

The review was written in exchange for a copy from Penguin Random Publishing House.