Title: How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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.
How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras is an engaging and realistic young adult novel about friendship, grief and moving on after a terrible loss.
High school senior Georgia Askeridis begins her senior year of high school still deeply mourning the loss of her mother from complications of diabetes and obesity. Her father has left her to deal with her grief on her own as he works long hours in the family’s restaurant. The school year is off to a rocky beginning as the school’s “mean girls” target her but her close friend Liss comes to her rescue with some well aimed barbs at the popular teens. Taking her mother’s last words and letter to heart, the two young ladies devise a list of things to accomplish that will hopefully help Georgia live life to the fullest. Aiding them on their journey is new student, Evelyn, and the three quickly begin checking items off the list. However, after a terrible mistake ruins her friendship with Liss, Georgia cannot help but wonder whether the list is truly helping her cope with her loss.
Georgia is a bit directionless without her mom but she has no choice to deal with the cards life has handed her. Her efforts to be positive in the face of her loss are quite heartening although this is a goal she struggles to meet. Her list is a mix of fun and easy to accomplish items but most of what she hopes to accomplish is well out of her comfort zone. Despite how uneasy some of her tasks make her feel, Georgia (with some not so gentle nudging from Liss) gamely sets about fulfilling her goals. After things go too far one night, her friendship with Liss is threatened and she begins avoiding Evelyn. Giving up on her list, she concentrates on what is probably the most important item she originally set out to accomplish and Georgia throws herself into a huge art assignment which yields very surprising results.
Written in first person from Georgia’s perspective, How to Be Brave touches on relevant issues facing teens today such as bullying, experimenting with drugs and struggling with self image. E. Katherine Kottaras’s depictions of Georgia’s actions and thought processes ring true as do her overprotective father’s reaction when he discovers what she has been doing with her friends. The growth of the characters is absolutely phenomenal and watching Georgia find the courage to stand up for herself is immensely gratifying. All in all, a very unique and enjoyable journey of self discovery that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys contemporary young adult novels.