(Note: I was provided a copy of this book by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you St. Martin’s Press!)
Book: How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
Description: Stand-alone YA contemporary novel
Publishing Information: Set to be released November 3, 2015 by St. Martin’s Press
First Sentence: This is what it was like: I didn’t want you to come.
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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 braved – all the things she’s wanted to do but has been to 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…
Cover Review: Normally I’m not a huge fan of real people on covers, but I actually like this one! It’s cute and shiny in person, and kind of reminds me of the gorgeous covers of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before duology covers.
I had so many mixed feelings about this book. I honestly don’t even know where to start.
The book has a very basic plot. In order to take her mind off the tragic end to her mother’s life, our protagonist decides to make somewhat of a bucket list in order to help herself live her life to the fullest since her mother no longer could.
I love bucket list books – they’re definitely among my favorite elements to read about in contemporary novels (that, and boarding schools). I was hoping that this would be a fun, cute-sy bucket list that she completes with her best friend, Liss, who we were introduced to early in the story (kind of Since You’ve Been Gone-esque). However, it wasn’t like that at all.
Of course, just because this book wasn’t exactly like I expected it to be doesn’t mean that it’s horrible. My huge issue with the bucket list was that it didn’t make sense to me at all. The list’s purpose was to help improve Georgia’s life and honor her mother’s dying wishes: for her to be brave.
But some of the things on the list were illegal.
I just found it hard to take the book seriously when Georgia and her friends are doing drugs and skipping school on a regular basis and Georgia’s only thoughts are about how proud her mother would be of her for trying new things. Obviously these events are going to lead to some sort of lesson, but because such a large majority of the book was Georgia doing these crazy things, I had a really hard time liking her character.
Another issue I had with Georgia was that she was supposed to be a senior in high school, but she really didn’t seem like one at all. The conversations she had with people and even her narrative seemed like someone who was much younger.
There were also so many pop culture and technology-related references throughout the novel. I mean, slang and abbreviations can be fun in moderation but using phrases like OMG and #YOLO (even mockingly) in the narrative pretty often made it seem as if the narrative itself was screaming, “I’m a high schooler! Trust me!” the entire book.
There were some characters that I really liked. I loved the fact that Georgia’s love interest was a total dork but he was still respected by everyone in the story and he could still be really funny (without being a total unrealistic dreamboat).
I also like Georgia’s dad’s character. He wasn’t the most involved parent throughout the story, but he had his funny moments. He is from Greece and one of his quirks in the story was that he would say these Greece idioms in Greek, and then when he would translate them into English they would make absolutely no sense. A little cheesy, yes, but I can appreciate some cheese every now and then.
There were also some moments in the narrative where it seemed like Georgia was writing in verse. I found these sections really interesting, and beautiful, although they were never completely explained. Either way, they did a good job of breaking up sections and adding some more unique elements to the story.
This is what it was like:
I didn’t want you to come. I didn’t want you there.
The day before school, the very first year,
we waited in line for my schedule.
They stared. Those in line around us –
the other girls and their moms,
the ones who were my year,
who were never my friends –
They saw how you were big, planetary, next to them.
Next to me.
This story also included some pretty diverse and unique characters. As I said, Georgia’s dad was Greek, and Georgia struggles with her weight. I also thought it was really interesting that there was a character in this story who struggled with depression, but she wasn’t the main character and wasn’t even necessarily the focus of the story, which I haven’t really seen done in YA before.
There were some pretty cliché characters, too, which aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Needless to say, however, I wasn’t too surprised when the two “mean girls” were also later revealed to be captains of the cheerleading squad. I didn’t mind these characters, as they added a lot of intriguing drama to the story, but they did seem pretty unrealistically mean. Speaking as someone who is currently in high school, though people can be pretty cruel, I have never heard anyone say that someone’s dress would look better on them.
All things considered, this book wasn’t amazing when it comes to the writing style or the plot, but it was incredibly fast-paced. I flew right through it, and there was never a moment when I wasn’t interested in what would happen next. It certainly got me out of my reading slump. If you like quick, easy contemporaries that have a fun little story, you might really like this one!