The Saturday Reading List: How to Be Brave

How to Be Brave by E.Katherine Kottaras

The Stats:

  • Will be available Nov. 3, 2015 and published by St. Martin’s Press
  • Young adult, fiction, slice of life, growing up, bucket list
  • 3.2/5
  • Warnings: Mild cursing, drug use, angst, ya know, the usual teen angst.

From the publishers:

“Georgia has always lived life on the sidelines: uncomfortable with her weight, awkward, never been kissed, terrified of failing.

Then her mom dies and her world is turned upside down. But instead of getting lost in her pain, she decides to enjoy life while she still can by truly living for the first time. She makes a list of ways to be brave-all the things she’s always wanted to do but has been too afraid to try: learn to draw, try out for cheerleading, cut class, ask him out, kiss him, see what happens from there.

But she’s about to discover that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But in the process, you realize you’re stronger than you ever imagined…
This fearless, big-hearted, deeply moving book will make you laugh, cry, and inspire you to be brave.”

Zo’s Review:

Where should I begin with How to Be Brave? It’s not my typical book read, however, the tried but true bucket list theme interested me. So, I popped open the book, read the first few pages and I think I squealed happily to the surprise and irritation of my fellow train commuters when I realized that the book takes place in my hometown of Chicago (I’m really easy to make happy sometimes).

I’ll say this, if you want some complex story that will be read for years to come, this isn’t it. If you want a story about friendship and learning to live your own life for yourself, then this is the book for you.

As someone who lost someone who was very influential to my life in high school, I really wanted to connect with Georgia as she dealt with her life after her mother’s death. Despite this, it was really hard to connect with Georgia sometimes. I think what rubbed me the most was at the beginning of the story when she’s trying out to be a cheerleader. There’s a bit of what seemed like body shaming during this part. Though I understand she’s a teenager, there didn’t seem to be a clear moment later on in the book where she looked back on it and said “Who cares? Who am I to judge someone by their weight?”. I really wanted to feel sympathetic towards Georgia but more often than not it was kind of difficult when it seemed she was putting people down just as much as they were putting her down. I realize that that’s life sometimes, especially as a teenager – I probably acted like that – but it still made it difficult to want to root for her as a character.

Despite not liking the main character, I did like the side characters, especially Evelyn. Maybe it’s because despite how Georgia and Liss (Georgia’s best friend) only started to hang out with her because she could get them drugs, she still thought of them as her two closest friends, which made her both the most tragic character in the book and kind of the most likable. Despite her cursing and sometimes making things more difficult for Georgia and Liss, I honestly felt like Evelyn was one of the more real and accepting characters in the book and I wish there was more of an exploration of her story. Le sigh, the trouble with first-person narrated stories.

There were also parts in the story where poem like structures were used to either describe how Georgia viewed her mother in the past or to speed through a moment in the present. Though I initially liked it being used in regards to Geogia’s mother – it gave a sort of dreamlike nostalgic feel – I felt it was kind of a cop out in some other places when used for an experience that was happening in the present. One such place was when Georgia and friends went to a “tribal dance” yoga workout. I mean, first off, what does “tribal dance” even mean/look like? I kind of felt like the author didn’t even know and thus why she used the poem to ski through the experience. I understand that the reader is supposed to focus more on Georgia’s experience and feelings of being brave than the actual details of what she is doing but it just felt out of place and would have preferred if the poems were saved more for the flashbacks of her mother.

Overall, I think that How to Be Brave would appeal more to someone from a younger audience than a twenty something like me – geez, that may be feel old. It’s a cute story with a cute message about it being okay to make mistakes in life as long as you learn from them and pave your own path. I think a younger audience, maybe one that was actually still in high school would appreciate this book but unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

What do you guys think? Have you read How to Be Brave already? Have any other book suggestions that I should add to my Saturday Reading List? Leave your thoughts behind in the comments. Just be respectful please.


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