Readers who appreciate honesty and realism in their contemporary YA fiction will probably appreciate How To Be Brave more than readers who take one look at the cover and expect some light-hearted shenanigans. While I found this book to be a bit of a downer because I was picking this book based on the cover, I really did appreciate the sincerity of the story.
An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.
Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.
This is a Bildungsroman that I think gives a very accurate portrayal of what it is like to search for your place in the world when the rug has been ripped out from under you. Georgia is trying to get back to relishing life when the story begins, and like many of us, her journey begins with a list. The problem with lists is that things often don’t turn out as expected, and as she tries to push herself to rejoin those who are really “living,” she finds she might just have destroyed all the things she thought she had left. I think that is the part that is most real about this book – you can’t really just dive back into life and find that everything is golden. It is this reality, though, that kind of made this a sad and lonely journey for me as a reader. Georgia needs the isolation to really get in touch with who she is, but it honestly felt like she was given an extended stay in misery. I didn’t really mind this, but I think the blurb made me expect something more light-hearted, and this was more honest than that. I liked the characters in this book, and I liked the lessons that each of them taught Georgia. She was a better person for having to see people through a different perspective. I also liked the fact that, in the end, being brave meant more than just doing daring things – it really meant putting herself out there emotionally. I did feel like the narrative kind of glossed over a pretty big issue – when Georgia does something inexplicable at a party, there aren’t really enough details to make readers understand how she could have possibly made such a colossal mistake. I felt like Georgia didn’t really have to do any soul searching about that incident, and I think she should have had to own up to her actions more – she pays for it and regrets it, but she doesn’t really think about how she was the person at fault. Overall, I enjoyed the truth this book told about the work we all have to do when our plans crumble around us. Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.