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How to Be Brave: A Novel Hardcover – November 3, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—As she begins her senior year, Georgia Askeridis is still mourning the death of her mother. On the first day back, she decides to heed the last advice her mother left her in a letter—to be brave. Georgia and her life-long best friend Liss create a "Do Everything, Be Brave List," and the protagonist sets out fulfilling her mother's wish. Over the course of the year, she develops as an artist, deals with her grief, finds a new friend, experiments with drugs, and embarks on a tentative relationship with her long-time crush. Georgia's thoughts often take the form of poems, which are interspersed within the narrative, and they give the story, and Georgia's feelings, extra depth. Kottaras's debut novel has many strengths: the friendship between Georgia and Liss and the realistic description of teen recreational drug use chief among them. Georgia is a pleasingly imperfect lead. But there is a definite problem in how her mother's death is handled. Her mother died from kidney failure, and from the title all the way to the letter she left for Georgia, the text alludes to the idea that her mother's death was tied to her weight and an inability and unwillingness to be brave and "take care of herself." This is especially problematic, since Georgia, a "size 16," feels fat and is teased for being overweight. This mixed messaging weakens Georgia's character arc and disappoints. VERDICT Recommended as a strictly additional purchase.—Angie Manfredi, Los Alamos County Library System, NM
"How to Be Brave is not so much a story about grief as it is a story about living life... a perfect blend of the melancholy with the fun and uplifting." --Forever Literary
"Georgia's thoughts often take the form of poems, which are interspersed within the narrative, and they give the story, and Georgia's feelings, extra depth...Georgia is a pleasingly imperfect lead." --School Library Journal
"Kottaras’ writing kept me interested the whole time, and the plot twists made me want to laugh and cry simultaneously." --TeenReads
"A moving and surprisingly sweet novel about pushing on and discovering one’s capabilities" --Paste Magazine
"Georgia's story is going to make you cry and inspire you to start your bucket list now." --Bustle.com
“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
"An exceptional novel that will hold the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end." ― Midwest Book Review
"This inventive debut novel is a strong opening for Kottaras." ― VOYA
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Georgia Askeridis has been struggling to find a way to to live her life without her mother in it. Her mother was the heart of the family. She was the bridge between her and her father. She was her strength, her courage, her happiness, her best friend. And her death left a huge void.
She wouldn’t be there to at the start of senior year to give her advice. She wouldn’t be there to help keep the family business afloat. She wouldn’t be there to make the holidays bearable, or see her graduate, or help her figure out what she wanted to do with her life. She wouldn’t be there for any of it.
But before she’d gone, she had given Georgia one directive – to live life, to do everything, to be brave. And even if it was scary or risky or embarrassing or felt impossible, she was going to try.
Author E. Katherine Kottaras wrote a story that was moving and genuine, sometimes funny, sometimes heartrending, sometimes delightful, sometimes thoughtful. She created a character to tell her story who wasn’t always easy to like or connect with but who was sympathetic and whose feelings and actions were understandable given her circumstances.
Georgia was at times angry, insecure, self-deprecating, judgmental. But she did strive to be better, to be positive, to grow, to be the brave person her mother wanted her to be but wasn’t able to be herself.
HOW TO BE BRAVE spans the course of Georgia’s final year in high school and reads very much like a slice of life with an ending that’s left open for all sorts of possibilities. It is bittersweet. It is uplifting and inspiring. It will make you smile, and laugh, and cry. And it will make you want to find your own way to be brave.
The author did an amazing job portraying the challenges and troubles teenagers go through without over glossing it. I highly recommend this book to parents who have teenagers at home and to all teenagers. I also enjoyed the writing style, the book was an easy reader, even for me whose English is a second language.
Being brave and trying new things that frighten you should not be synonymous with being foolhardy. However, the author of How To Be Brave, by E. Katherine Kottaras, has her heroine, Georgia, doing things that are less brave and more self destructive. Accepting drugs from the one girl in school that you don't really know but is obviously messed up is foolhardy. And, I have a hard time with how Kottaras treats the issue of drugs in the story. The "people are going to make mistakes" defense is true, but can, also, be a weak attempt at downplaying the kind of behavior the 12 Steps walk you through. Additionally, when Georgia tells her old world dad that she might do pot and drink alcohol in college, but those are her decisions, and he needs to accept that, I wondered why she would even mention it to him? It seems selfish. You plan on doing it? Okay, your decision, but show a little mercy, and leave him out of the loop. Frankly, it is one, of many, examples where I found Georgia to be self absorbed to the point of unkindness. And, what is that whole thing with the party? If you are THAT messed up, and you made THAT big a mistake, then why are you planning on a potential repeat performance down the road? Hello, a little self realization here! I loved the supporting characters, though. I even found Evelyn to have more depth and to be more of an empathetic character than Georgia often is. I loved the Dad, and I really think Daniel and Liss are interesting characters, too. Georgia is a mixed bag of nuts, but I did care about her story, her art, and her list, and I enjoyed those moments when she has some emotional clarity, even if she seems to contradict herself at times. The story is interesting, especially the last half, but I was able to put it down and not come back to it for a while. Not my favorite of the many YA books I have read. I definitely do not expect young adults in these stories to not make mistakes. There would be no stories, if that were the case. However, the author seems to send a mixed message of what was learned in this situation. Her father obviously loves his daughter, but unconditional love does not mean unconditional agreement with a child's decisions, and I felt that Kottaras allowed Georgia to lay too much of the blame on her parents, while only accepting some of the blame, with justifications, herself. I get that being a teen is a somewhat self focused time, I totally understand what losing one's mother at that age does to one. I have been through all of it. However, there was a missed chance in allowing Georgia to be more honest with herself. The author came close, but, for me, just not enough.
Most recent customer reviews
I thought this was going to be a light, coming of age story.Read more
I didn’t realize that the book was centered on this Greek family so it was a...Read more
How to be Brave tells a tale of a young lady Georgia, to live her life to the fullest after the death of her mother.Read more