Welcome to my stop on the How To Be Brave blog tour. I wanted to share my thoughts about this book and then you can read an excerpt and enter for a chance to win a finished copy!
I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
Published by St. Martin's Press on November 3, 2015
Genres: Young Adult
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 was a very honest look at the mix of emotions that follow, and inhabit you, when you grieve. Georgia has a lot of complicated feelings about her mother and the illness that ended her life, but there was something very engaging about how vulnerable Georgia made herself in order to cross all of the items off of her “brave” list. Instead of feeling too sunshiny and rose-colored, the journey she takes in order to accomplish her goals is messy and sometimes painful, which is exactly what I liked about it. Georgia made mistakes, but she also learned a lot about herself and her family. I especially loved the friendships that were depicted in this story, which were also messy and sometimes painful. I always appreciate a book that shows two good friends fighting, and then deciding who they are without each other. It was a very real depiction of how friendships can change, but still remain strong. There was a lot of great storytelling about transitions in How To Be Brave. Georgia’s future, and how she felt that claiming it for herself might somehow cause her to leave her mom behind, seemed to be a big part of her fear. Her father, too, was grieving deeply, but how he grieved in comparison to Georgia created some interesting, although sad, dynamics between father and daughter. I loved this book’s honest approach and I loved Georgia’s journey to feel closer to her mom while trying to find ways to move forward with her life.
St. Martin’s is allowing me to post an excerpt of How To Be Brave! Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a finished copy, as well!
HOW TO BE BRAVE by E. Katherine Kottaras. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.
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.
The girl in pigtails, someone’s sister,
asked: Is there a baby inside?
Her mother, red now, whispered in her ear.
But the girl didn’t mind:
Oh, so she’s fat.
The other girls, the ones who were my year
who were never my friends—they laughed at you, quietly.
Her mother said she was sorry, so sorry,
And you said: It’s fine. It’s fine.
But it wasn’t.
You squeezed my hand, and then to the girl in pigtails,
you said: I am big, yes. But I am beautiful, too.
And so are you.
Her mother pulled her child away.
She left the line and let us go first.
I didn’t say: You shouldn’t have come.
I didn’t say: I don’t want you here.
But I also didn’t say: I love you.
Or: Thank you for being brave.
Later that night, I cried:
I don’t want to go. I don’t want to face them.
And every year after.
You’d look at me like I was that girl,
and you’d say, as though it were true:
You are possibility and change and beauty.
One day, you will have a life, a beautiful life.
You will shine.
I didn’t see it. I couldn’t see it,
not in myself,
not in you.
Now, it’s not like that anymore.
This is what it’s like:
It’s quiet in our house. Too quiet. Especially tonight. The day before my first day of senior year.
The A/C hums, the fridge hums, the traffic hums.
I’m standing at my closet door, those old knots churning inside my stomach again.
I don’t want to go tomorrow. I need to talk to her.
Instead, I’ve done what she always did for me the night before the first day of the school year. I’ve picked out three complete outfits, hung them on my closet door.
It’s a good start, I guess.
Outfit #1: Dark indigo skinny jeans (are they still considered skinny if they’re a size 16?), drapey black shirt, long gold chain necklace that Liss gave me, and cheap ballet flats that hurt my feet because they’re way too flat and I hate wearing shoes with no socks.
Outfit #2: Black leggings, dark blue drapey knee- length dress (draping is my thing), gold hoop earrings that belonged to my mom, and open-toed black sandals, but that would mean a last-minute half-assed pedicure tonight. A spedicure, if you will.
Outfit #3: A dress my mom bought for me two years ago. The Orange Dress. Well, really more like coral. With embroidered ribbons etched in angular lines that camouflage my flab. Knee-length (not too short/not too long). Three-quarter-length sleeves (to hide the sagging). It’s perfectly retro. And just so beautiful. Especially with this utterly uncomfortable pair of canary-colored peep-toe pumps that belonged to my mom.
I begged her for the dress. I made her pay the $125 for it. I knew my parents didn’t have the money, but I couldn’t help crying when I saw myself in the mirror. It fit (it’s a size 14), and I think she saw how pretty I felt because I did feel pretty for the first time, so she charged it.
But I’ve never worn it.
The day after, she went into the ER, her heart acting up again. She needed another emergency stent, which meant more dye through her kidneys, which meant dialysis a few weeks later, which meant the beginning of the end of everything.
I never put it on after that.
It’s just so bright. So unlike everything else I wear.
I could wear it tomorrow.
I could. And if she were here, she would tell me to.
I really need to talk to her.
It’s just so quiet in this house.
E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, but now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and teaches writing and literature at Pasadena City College. She is at her happiest when she is either 1) at the playground with her husband and daughter and their wonderful community of friends, 2) breathing deeply in a full handstand, or 3) writing. She now lives in Los Angeles where she’s hard at work on her next book.
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