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I Fell in Love With Hope Summary, Characters and Themes

“I Fell in Love with Hope” is a young adult contemporary romance novel by Lancali. 

It tells the story of a girl who, while hospitalized, falls in love with a boy who ultimately takes his own life. The book follows her grief and her journey with a group of terminally ill friends who embrace life with vibrancy despite their circumstances. It’s a heart-wrenching story about love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit.


The novel opens with a harrowing scene: Sam, the narrator, stands on a bridge with his lover, also named Sam, facing the agonizing moment of his lover’s suicide. This profound loss leaves Sam scarred, swearing off love forever. His heart is not the only thing broken; Sam isn’t an ordinary person. 

He’s a personified concept born from the hospital itself, a secret he desperately held while trying to save his lover.

Now trapped in the hospital as a patient, Sam finds kinship with a group of vibrant teenagers, all battling their own chronic illnesses: Neo, whose eating disorder masks deeper wounds; Sony, the group’s fearless leader despite her damaged lung; and Coeur (“C”), struggling with a failing heart. 

United by their circumstances, they become a rebellious family, finding solace and defiance in stealing from the hospital and the nearby gas station.

When Hikari, a new patient struggling with depression and self-harm, arrives, she disrupts Sam’s carefully constructed distance. 

The two connect over a shared love of Shakespeare, adopting the roles of Hamlet and Yorick. As Hikari is absorbed into their group, their grand plan of escaping the hospital begins to take shape.

Their first attempt is thwarted by Sam’s lingering trauma, causing him to retreat and hurt Hikari in the process. 

Neo, ever the voice of tough love, forces Sam to confront his past if he wants to save those he loves in the present. Sam resolves to protect Hikari, but is met with her sudden disappearance. He finds her self-harming and intervenes, an act that ultimately brings focus back to Hikari.

Fate, however, takes a cruel turn. Coeur gets urgent news of a heart transplant, while Sony’s failing lung gives out. 

The group executes a daring escape, getting matching tattoos and reveling in a stolen night of freedom at the beach. But the joy is short-lived; Sony’s condition forces a return and she passes away shortly after. 

Coeur’s long-awaited surgery ends in tragedy as well. Neo, finally confronting his abusive father, also succumbs to his illness.

Hikari spirals further into depression, her own suicide attempts repeatedly stopped by Sam. Only when Neo intervenes during her final attempt on the bridge does she begin to accept the possibility of healing. 

As her mental health improves and her discharge nears, Sam takes her to the hospital garden and finally reveals his true nature. 

In a selfless act of love, he gives up his physical form, ensuring Hikari’s future and making her promise to return to the hospital before her own death, reminding her that love is always worth the pain.

I Fell in Love With Hope Summary, Characters and Themes



The most complex character in the novel, Sam is the embodiment of the hopes and dreams of patients within the hospital. His prior love and the devastation of that loss have made him cynical and afraid of connection. 

Yet, his role as “hope” compels him to bond with those in the hospital, offering solace and a counterpoint to their cynicism. 

This inner conflict, between his disillusionment and the inherent optimism he represents, drives much of his narrative. His relationship with Hikari highlights this struggle, as he repeatedly tries to push her away out of fear, only to be drawn right back the need to protect her.


Deeply scarred by depression and self-harm, Hikari carries an air of quiet desperation. 

Her cynicism and self-destructive tendencies create a barrier between her and others, yet when she connects with Sam, her fiery spirit emerges. Her journey is one of learning to accept love and support, both from Sam and the others. 

It is a painful battle, and her struggle with self-acceptance is the central emotional arc of the story.


A vibrant, defiant leader with a damaged body, Sony exudes an infectious, rebellious energy. Despite her physical limitations, she fights for the freedom they all lack and pushes others to embrace their potential. 

Her death stands in stark contrast to her vibrant attitude, highlighting the unpredictable nature of their illnesses and the ever-present fragility of life.

Coeur (C)

Coeur represents the gentle soul of the group, radiating kindness and acceptance. While he valiantly faces his failing heart, he also grapples with complex emotions surrounding Neo. 

Their relationship is left somewhat ambiguous, but Coeur’s love for Neo adds a layer of vulnerability to his character, demonstrating that even with an ailing heart, he’s capable of deep devotion.


Neo battles with an eating disorder that serves as a stark manifestation of his trauma at the hands of an abusive father. 

His writing reveals a beautiful, tortured soul, craving freedom from his internal demons. Neo’s quiet strength and resilience, along with the tough love he offers Sam, make him a compelling figure. 

Even as he confronts his abuser, his illness progresses tragically, showcasing the complexities of healing and confronting deeply ingrained harm.


The Complex and Messy Nature of Grief

Through Sam’s tragic opening loss and the subsequent deaths faced by the group, “I Fell in Love with Hope” paints a raw and unflinching picture of grief. It isn’t linear, nor is it an emotion easily overcome. 

Sam’s initial reaction is to seal his heart, while Hikari turns inward toward self-destruction. 

Neo’s grief manifests as anger. The book doesn’t offer simple solutions, instead showing how each person processes loss differently, making mistakes, spiraling, and occasionally finding moments of respite amongst the pain. 

This honest portrayal reminds us that grief is a relentless companion that shapes us, and healing ultimately comes from finding ways to live alongside it rather than trying to erase it.

The Transformative Power of Found Family

At the heart of the novel lies the unwavering bond between Sam, Hikari, Sony, Coeur, and Neo. 

They aren’t just a group of sick teenagers; they become each other’s lifeline. Their collective acts of rebellion, whether stealing snacks or escaping for one glorious night, serve less as defiance towards the hospital and more as an act of defiance against their illnesses having the final say in their lives. 

These shared experiences create a fierce love and loyalty.

Their found family offers understanding and respite from the bleakness of their circumstances. The loss of each member is devastating, yet the strength they drew from one another is what allows the survivors to keep moving forward.

The Inescapable Reality of Living with Chronic Illness

The very setting of the story, a hospital, speaks volumes. The relentless presence of medical equipment, doctors, and procedures forms an ever-present backdrop for the characters. 

Their illnesses aren’t problems to be fixed, but conditions they must grapple with daily. From medications to failed surgeries and worsening prognoses, the young characters embody the struggle of living in bodies that betray them. Yet, their moments of joy and rebellion shine all the brighter amidst this reality. 

The novel forces a confrontation with the fact that even with chronic illness, there is space for love, connection, and even fleeting moments of ‘normal’ teenage life.

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