Retired teacher Heather Hobbs has turned her lifelong passion for books into a new profession. In 2015 she picked up the pen and started writing realistic, contemporary page-turners for middle years’ students, and rather than wait years for a publisher to consider, potentially accept her manuscript, and release her books, Assiniboia-based Hobbs took matters into her own hands and published her own work under the pen name H.R. Hobbs. With almost thirty years of classroom experience to her credit, the teacher-turned writer’s depiction of middle grades’ school culture results in an interesting and credible story.
See Me, the first in her Breaking the Rules Series, looks just like a trade published book. The cover features a close-up of an eye, and the interior type is easy to read. The story’s narrator is 13-year-old Hannah, an only child who was traumatized on her very first day of kindergarten after a classmate, Brady, noticed the “ugly” burn scars on her legs and called her “Scar-legs”. The ostracizing and bullying that began that day has followed her all the way into Grade Seven, and her nemesis, Brady, is still a classmate. All Hannah wants is “to be invisible in school,” and for the most part, she is.
Hannah, the quiet loner, also seems to hover beneath the radar at home, and that’s exactly where she like to exist. After she’d angered her farther during an early childhood incident, she vowed to always follow the rules and never upset her father – “a man of few words, he would come home from work, grab a bottle from the cupboard over the fridge, and poor the golden liquid in a glass” – again. Hannah says that by age five “the need to please [her] parents had become an obsession”. It doesn’t sound like a very healthy childhood. Hannah’s only outlet is her journal. Full of her private thoughts and poems, the journal is “the only place that [she] let [her] true self out”. She never shares it with anyone.
Enter new student, Chip, with his “Star Wars” T-shirts, his habit of engaging reticent Hannah in conversation, and his I-don’t-care-what-anyone-else-thinks attitude. Hannah eventually warms to him. Unfortunately, Brady and his cohorts make Chip a target, too.
Young readers will relate to the contemporary language and references, ie: Chip says “Meh” and Hannah watches “The Hunger Games” – for the fourth time.
As I write this there’s another national case of school bullying in the news. This issue is not going away, but books like See Me can help youth who suffer understand that they are not alone, and that speaking up, though difficult, is often the first step toward a solution.
As compelling as the school story is, it’s the relationship between Hannah and her ambulance attendant father that I look forward to learning more about in Hobbs’ sequel, Hear Me. What’s going on there?
For more about the writer and this series, see hrhobbsbooks.com.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM THE SASKATCHEWAN PUBLISHERS GROUP WWW.SKBOOKS.COM