Monday, November 2, 2015

Review: How to be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

How to be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
Series: Standalone
Published: November 3rd, 2015
Publisher: St. Martins Press
288 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

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.
In many ways, How to be Brave wasn’t what I was expecting. Despite the synopsis, the cutesie cover made me think it would be light and fluffy, so a lot of it really surprised me. It was more mature than I expected, while still managing to really capture the feeling of being a teen. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, sweet, funny, and ultimately hopeful.

I really liked Georgia. She had a great voice and she was easy to connect to. She was flawed, she made mistakes, she did stupid things, and she hurt and disappointed people - including herself at times. But she also went through a lot, learned a lot of important lessons, and grew a lot. One of the things that surprised me about this book was some of the things Georgia did. There were things that shocked me, but then I was like ‘this is what life is like for a lot of teens - drinking, drugs, experimenting’. It’s stuff I haven’t seen in a lot of books, so while I know it’s happening, it’s strange to read about. That being said, I appreciated the honest portrayal and the fact the author didn’t shy away from real life stuff.

Having watched a parent and grandparent/best friend die, many parts of the story really hit home for me. My dad wasn’t even fifty when he died, and he suffered so much, just like Georgia’s mother did. I can understand that feeling of wanting to do things to honour someone, do things they maybe didn’t get to do, and continuing to live even though part of you wants to just curl up and cry and scream and grieve forever. I liked the idea of the list being a way for Georgia to honour her mother, as well as getting her to try new things, keep going, and learn to be brave. She started out doing things for and because of other people and then learned to do things for herself. She learned that sometimes being brave is just living. Just getting by, surviving. It doesn’t have to be about grand gestures and occasions and milestones. It can be the quiet, everyday things that take courage. It can be realizing difficult things about yourself. Watching Georgia learn to be brave was a mixture of amusing, painful, and inspiring, and it was easy to cheer her on as she stumbled, fumbled, and succeeded.

When things related to Georgia’s crush took up a few spots on her list, I was worried it would be one of those books where the guy saves the girl, but it wasn’t like that at all. The romance was actually a very small part of the plot, which I actually appreciated because it suited the story. Daniel did help Georgia, and their interactions were adorable and sweet and completely believable (the awkwardness rang so true and made me laugh because I’ve been there), but all of that was a small part of Georgia’s overall journey. Their slowly evolving relationship was actually probably more accurate and true-to-life than a lot of other portrayals of teen relationships.

How to be Brave is a brave story. Kottaras took some chances, and they paid off, at least for me. This story was real and it was honest. It made me smile, laugh, and tear up. I think Georgia is a character a lot of people will be able to relate to and see themselves in. The things Georgia learned about being brave made me think and inspired me to be brave in my own life.

Have you read How to be Brave? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? What have you done lately that's brave? Let's talk here or on Twitter!


  1. This one sounds really great. I love the cover but it does seem a bit light and fluffy. I'm glad to hear the story has more substance. I love characters that learn and grow throughout a story.

  2. I really like this cover! It's so pretty!


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