E. Katherine Kottaras
I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
According to my Goodreads’ status updates, I began reading How to Be Brave on October 30, 2015. I remember this moment clearly because I only got through the first chapter before I closed the eBook and moved onto something else. I didn’t start seriously reading HTBB until December 30th when I jumped to 25% read and then I finished January 9, 2016. One reason it took me so long to finish is school. I just got super busy really fast and pleasure reading had to take a backseat. The other reason is that from the very first chapter I knew that the story Kottaras was giving me wasn’t the story I expected and became disinterested in it. I’m explaining all of this because this is a review of a galley that should’ve been published months ago. I tried to get a copy of the final product from the library, but I’m still waiting for the hold. All I’m trying to say is that what I discuss in this review may not be in the published version so take my views with a grain of salt.
The following quotes make Georgia seem more self-aware than she actually is, but they do a great job of highlighting what I wanted versus what I got so I’m going to use them.
How I expected HTBB to be:
“But being brave isn’t about living every minute exhilarated. It’s about waking up and knowing that despite the worry and the sadness and the deep, dark fear, you’re going to go forth anyway. That you’re going to try anyway. That you have a choice, and you’re going to choose to live, today, bravely.”
What HTBB gave me:
“…I’m feeling done with it— with the idea of doing everything, of being brave, of living life for my mom when she couldn’t even take care of herself enough to live it for me.”
The first quote is the story of a young girl struggling with the grief of losing her mother, but finding the strength to persevere and taking on life a day at a time. She’s not trying to jump back into “being normal” because she knows her limits so the reader gets to see the character progress from crying every day and hating life to crying every once in awhile and understanding that she had no control over the situation and her mother loved her deeply.
The second quote is the story of a daughter creating and executing a bucket list to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. In the process, the girl loses herself and her friends (who weren’t that great to begin with) and engages in uncharacteristic behavior like cutting class and smoking.
I would have preferred HTBB to be the former scenario because it seems like an empowering story about grieving. The latter seems to encourage readers to lose themselves when they can’t process their grief. I’m all for living life to the fullest (according to each person’s personal definition) but I wouldn’t tell a teenager to cut class and start smoking as a means of living. In How to Be Brave, it takes Georgia way too long to realize that she should be living her life for herself and not for her mother. And even this revelation only seems to occur so that the story ends in an HEA. Georgia would have realized that she messed up her life eventually, but I don’t think everything would have worked out so smoothly.
Excuse me while I take a moment to rant. There’s a point in the story when Georgia and her friends are at a party. During the event, Georgia gets drunk and high and since the pot is laced with something, she engages in unfaithful behavior with her best friend Liss’s boyfriend. For most of the story, I thought that Georgia had had sex with Gregg while at the party, which would have been a reasonable explanation for Liss being upset with Georgia, but it turns out all Georgia did was Gregg. Excuse me but I’m not going to dump my best friend for kissing my (sleazy) boyfriend while under the influence. I would have been more concerned about her accidentally overdosing from combining three substances, one of which was unknown. I would have been mad, borderline infuriated, if my best friend had sex with my boyfriend (though I’d have a be in a relationship first), but a friend’s health is priority number one. All this hoopla over a kiss. Fuck that. We obviously aren’t good friends if you dump me over a kiss while under the influence. Whew, I needed to get that off of my chest.
Overall, How to Be Brave was a disappointment, but I’m going to give myself points for finishing even though it took me forever. Yeah, so I don’t really recommend this book, but if you’ve read it: Did I miss something? Did a key point of the story go right over my head which is why I didn’t like it? Let me know.