Review of As Brave As You

reynolds_as brave as youstar2 As Brave As You
by Jason Reynolds
Intermediate, Middle School    Dlouhy/Atheneum    415 pp.
5/16    978-1-4814-1590-3​    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-1592-7    $10.99

Reynolds (The Boy in the Black Suit, rev. 3/15; with Brendan Kiely, All American Boys, rev. 11/15) delivers an emotionally resonant middle-grade story of an African American family working to overcome its tumultuous past in hopes of a better future. Not-quite-teenager Genie Harris has a notebook full of questions, ranging from the superficial (“Why are swallows called swallows? did people used to eat them?”) to the introspective (“Why am I so stupid?”). But there is no question as to why he and his older brother Ernie find themselves far from their Brooklyn home with their Grandma and Grandpop in rural Virginia: their parents are “maybe/possibly/probably divorcing” and are “figuring it out” in Jamaica. Warmly told in the third person, the novel follows Genie through a series of tragicomic blunders (breaking a family heirloom; the inadvertent poisoning of Grandpop’s pet bird); minor triumphs (finding a neighbor with internet access!); and many heartfelt discussions with Grandpop, who is blind and fiercely independent, that often lead to startling familial revelations (his great-grandfather’s suicide; his uncle Wood’s untimely death during Desert Storm). Long-standing feelings of guilt, anger, and resentment reach a boiling point — and history appears to repeat itself — when Grandpop forces Ernie to shoot a gun, with unfortunate results. Genie musters up enough courage to ask his grandfather if he will ever let go of his tragic history; Grandpop’s response of “maybe” feels like a victory. A novel in the tradition of 
Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 (rev. 3/96), with deft dialogue, 
Northern/Southern roots, and affecting depth.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Patrick Gall
Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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