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The Best Possible Answer: A Novel Hardcover – November 1, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Viviana "Vivi" Rabinovich-Lowe is a high academic achiever who is under constant pressure from her father to be perfect, but her image is damaged when her ex-boyfriend circulates a nude photo of her around school, causing her to have an anxiety attack. Her parents decide that she should rest and not attend the Illinois State Design and Engineering Summer Academy. Alongside best friend and neighbor Sammie, the teen works downstairs at the check-in desk of her building's pool. While the protagonist's father travels, she deals with her and Sammie's romantic feelings for her coworker Evan, tension with her mother and sister, and a strange poolgoer named Professor Cox. The novel is divided into four parts, each starting with an evolving checklist of what Vivi must do to get into college and featuring different chapter headings related to AP exams and college admission. In this fast-paced novel, Vivi's character development is complete as she grapples with her own mistakes and copes with anxiety caused by her feelings for Evan, her lack of friends, and a family secret. Kottaras realistically depicts the difficulties that working parents face: Sammie's mother wants to move closer to her parents, and Vivi is outraged when she learns that her father could have provided better financial support for her family. The side story of Professor Cox, who has schizophrenia, conveys the importance of advocacy for those who face mental illness. VERDICT This narrative about coming to terms with one's mistakes, starting a new chapter, and living with anxiety is a general purchase for all teen collections, especially where realistic fiction is popular.—Liz Anderson, DC Public Library
"A complicated family drama about living with betrayal and learning how to open oneself again to love." ―Publishers Weekly
"Kottaras’ creative use of “College Admission Tips” and tongue-in-cheek SAT questions at the start of each chapter adds a terrific satiric touch to the angst around all things college, and will speak to teens looking for a life amid the pressures and expectations of their high-school journey. A warmhearted and sensitive coming-of-age romance." ― Booklist
"Will speak to many readers...A sensitive novel about accepting imperfection." -- Kirkus Reviews
“A narrative about coming to terms with one’s mistakes, starting a new chapter and living with anxiety for all teen collections.” –School Library Journal
"Once again, Kottaras has written beautifully about bravery, strength, and resilience in the face of devastating loss. An uplifting commentary on the beauty and necessity of accepting life's gifts even as it stands on your chest, refusing to let you breathe. Viviana fights through setbacks and heartbreak, showing us all what it means to be resilient. A tough but extraordinary read!" ―Charlotte Huang, author of For the Record
"The Best Possible Answer is a beautiful exploration of the power that lies in the secrets we keep from ourselves and others, as well as the transformative nature of the truth." ― Jessica Love, author of In Real Life
"Authentic, gripping, and emotional, The Best Possible Answer is a study in mistakes―how they define us, and how they don’t. Readers will identify with Viviana as she grapples with family, friendship, and love, and learns the ultimate lesson―that her future doesn’t have to be determined by her past. The false veneer of perfection collides with trust and identity in a book that is both honest and brave." - Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of Firsts
“How to Be Brave is a celebration of life, from the captivating open page to the emotional ending. Kottaras acutely and poetically depicts the painful struggle of re-finding yourself after a defining loss-and the stark effects of both success and failure along the way-in a lovely, heartfelt debut.” ―Dahlia Adler, author of Behind the Scenes
“Just enough sass, just enough heart, and a narrator to root for. How to be Brave ushered me into another yet familiar world. Come along for the ride. You'll be glad you did.” ―Ron Koertge, award winning author of Coaltown Jesus
“Powerful and rare, How to Be Brave is a wonderfully told story with gleams of humor and wit that will inspire readers to live their lives for real.” ―Robyn Schneider, bestselling author of The Beginning of Everything
“Georgia's realistically profane voice aptly captures her personality, carrying the novel; her traverse through grief and experimentation make for a believable and satisfying character arc. A thoughtful exploration of grief and life.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“How To Be Brave does a cartwheel in your heart. It artfully reminds us that bravery forges a path through fear and grief.” ―Courtney C. Stevens, author of Faking Normal
“Kottaras's debut traces Georgia's struggles and triumphs as she reluctantly sets out to fulfill her mother's final wish for her to try new things and be fearless. Georgia's Greek-American heritage offers a distinctive backdrop for the novel's themes of emotional healing and self-discovery, while Georgia herself emerges as a realistically flawed and genuine protagonist.” ―Publishers Weekly
"A perfect book for anyone trying to figure out what they want their life to look like, and how to be brave enough to make that life a reality." --Booklist
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Let's start with the things I liked. I was able to put myself in Viviana's shoes pretty easily. (for the most part.) I was an overachiever in high school too and I was very concerned with grades and doing everything perfect. Everything seems like such a big deal back then. One bad test score could ruin my GPA and ruin my chances at college or at scholarships, etc. I got what she was going through. And with the pressure of getting into a good school even greater than it has been in the past, I feel like a lot of people will be able to relate to the stress Viviana is under. I also loved that each of chapters started out in the form of a multiple choice question to show something Viviana was going through in her life. It was hilarious and so very accurate for standardized testing answers. Which made it even funnier. I also really liked the overall plot line. There are some of the smaller side plots that I thought took away from the overall flow of the story, but in general I really liked the journey Viviana went on.
And now for the things I didn't love so much. I thought there was a lot going on. Some was very relevant to the story and some of it seemed surprising and out of place. Any one of these issues might have been ok on their own, and would have been a very nice complement to the stresses Viviana was under, but taken all together it seemed like a bit too much. I don't want to say what they are , but if you would like a spoiler you can see what I mean here--> [spoiler]the thing with Viviana and her friend both crushing on the same guy, the big ole secret with her dad (having multiple secret families) the health issues with her mom, the naked pictures she sent to an ex; etc. See what I mean. [/spoiler] There is a lot going on in the sidelines of this story. I wish we would have picked one or two of those things and worked them into the story, but not all of them. As it was, it all worked well together but it did have my head spinning a bit as the reader.
Bottom line: I really liked Viviana, and her friend, and the writing for this story is excellent. I loved how relateable Viviana seemed. I think many readers will love The Best Possible Answer for that very reason. I loved all of the standardized test humor and questions that were woven into the story. I do think there were too many things going on in the subplots. It detracted from my enjoyment of the story, but not by much. Overall, The Best Possible Answer was a great read.
*Disclaimer- I got a copy of this book for free from the publisher or author.
Viviana Rabenovich-Lowe and her bff Sammie and Evan were really interesting characters. They helped each other grow, supported their issues, discussed their flaws, talked about realities, uncertainties, rewards and cruelties of life. In short, they matured as the story progressed and together, they may not have known the best possible answers to their questions, but they sure did experienced it.
The eccentric Professor Harold Cox made this story more exciting and sensible, what with all his oddities and philosophical thoughts at that. His bathing suits cracked me up, but hey, this Nut actually made more sense than Vivi's own father.
Evan, this guy is The Man. I don't know what else to say about him. I thought he was an endearing and a fair person although he's a little insensitive once in a while.
Sammie, the best friend, also indulged me with her unconditional love and Filipino values. Yes, she's quite a character here in the book, not because she's a Filipino like me, but because she has those traits that I found personable, lovable and memorable. She's a keeper indeed!
Now, Viviana, she's made terrible mistakes in the past, she deals with it every day over panic attacks and has to discover the lies she's been living with. Gosh, my heart went out to her and her sister Mila. I want to hug them and adopt them.
I perfectly understood where Vivi was coming from. Her story hit me right at home. Like her, I also grew up to the high expectations of my parents; they wanted me to get the first honors every year, they wanted me to behave like a proper lady and all. There had also been a time when I rebelled and didn't go home after they got mad at me and lectured me about having a boyfriend during my junior high school. Man, that was an ugly experience, believe me.
There I was, I thought I finally resisted their control over me until I realized my mistakes. What can I say, I was madly in love and young and reckless at that time. Thank goodness, there weren't any cellphones or iPads or Wi-Fi or social media during my time! I was spared of any humiliation and bashers and haters.
Anyway, enough about me.. The Best Possible Answer is a great read. Everyone should meet these dynamic teens. Everyone might see themselves in them. Everyone has questions. And this book might just present the best possible answer.
Viviana thought she had it all: great friends, perfect boyfriend, and a loving family. Her father pushed her to be the BEST and she was. But everything suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend leaks a private photo to their entire school. Her father disappears more and more (for “work”), and she spirals out of control and into the hospital. She isn’t quite sure how she’ll ever recover—the pressure feels like it’s too much.
When she finally returns home, her best friend convinces her to get a summer job at their local pool. Doing something normal might be what the doctor ordered… While working there she meets lifeguard and resident hottie Evan, who makes her feel like she might just be able to trust again. The only problem? Her best friend also has her eye on Evan…
Kottaras realistically shows what the pressures parents and society put on teens today can do to a teen.
This is a story about discovering who you are and what you really want. Vivi (just like most of us), eventually learns that life isn’t always about perfection.
Note: I received a FREE ARC (advanced reader copy) from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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