As Brave As You / by Jason Reynolds. 9.22.2017

Atheneum Books For Young Readers ISBN 9781481415903

YA Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

Jason Reynolds has written a thoughtful and engaging story that incorporates not only humorous moments, but also addresses real issues, such as broken relationships, visual impairment, mental illness, long-term grief, fear, guilt, courage, forgiveness, and the value of hard work.

As Brave As You features 11-year-old African American Genie Harris, who tends to be a worrywart. He greatly admires his 13-year-old brother, Ernie, who always appears confident and not scared of anything. The two boys go to their paternal grandparents’ house in rural Virginia for a month in the summer so that their parents can spend some time by themselves to work on their marriage. Country life is a new experience for the two Brooklynite boys. There is no internet access or cell phone reception, singing crickets and frogs fill the night with music, and Grandma has assigned them chores, like scooping dog waste and picking peas.

Genie is full of curiosity about everything and loves to ask questions of family members, along with writing down amusing and intriguing questions in his notebook. He likes to use Google for research. How will he do that with no internet? When Genie find out his grandfather is blind, he is both shocked and amazed. Genie has many questions for his grandfather–for instance, how he can do things like cook, pour tea without spilling a drop, or wear matching clothes. Most importantly, he wonders why his grandfather owns a gun.

As the summer days go by, Genie’s escapades, misadventures, and intergenerational family bonding time contributes to his learning some valuable life lessons that have a profound impact on him. He learns about the importance of admitting mistakes, the negative effects of animosity, and the power of forgiveness. He also sees firsthand how pressuring people to make decisions against their better judgement can lead to serious unintended consequences. By the end of the story, Genie has come to understand what it really means to be brave.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ