Spotlight Review – How to be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

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Published: November 3, 2015

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Genre: YA, Contemporary

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An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.

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.

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How to be Brave is one girl’s journey to self-discovery in the wake of a heartbreaking loss. Whether you are the parent of a teenager or you enjoy coming of age books, Georgia’s story promises an interesting perspective on growing up and will shed some light on the myriad of social issues teens deal with daily.

At the heart of How to be Brave, was a body conscious girl plagued by the loss of her mother – a loss that was as hard on her as it was on her father. Though her mother’s death was the driving force behind the list, Georgia’s journey was full of scenarios that most teen are plagued with daily: self-esteem, confidence, and peer pressure.

As I watched Georgia navigate her list and work through her issues, I was transported back to my formidable teenage years and reminisced about some of my own struggles. My heart hurt for the girl who lost her mother, and I wanted to reach into the book and hug her and support her on her quest. Though I was less than pleased with some of her choices, I recognize that those scenarios are probably more prevalent than many parents realize. This was a definite reminder of the need for active parenting.

Overall, I liked the story. There were parts I enjoyed more than others and characters I liked more than others but I was pleased with the progress Georgia made in her journey. The romance junkie in me would love to see a spin-off of the budding relationship, but I am content with where the story concluded. This was a good debut YA novel and I would certainly consider future titles from this author.

Overall Rating 3.5 Stars

*I was provided a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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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.

Her debut YA contemporary novel, HOW TO BE BRAVE, is forthcoming from on November 3, 2015 (St. Martin’s Press/Griffin Teen). Her second book, THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER, is tentatively set for a Fall 2016 release (St. Martin’s Press/Griffin Teen).

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