Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How to Be Brave - E. Katherine Kottaras - Review, Excerpt AND Giveaway

How to Be Brave is E. Katherine Kottaras's debut novel.

In her senior year of high school, Georgia's mother dies - and one of her dying wishes is that Georgia live life bigger. And so the Live Life list is born - including entries such as get high, skip school, go skinny-dipping, ask a certain boy out, kiss that boy, trapeze lessons and more.

"Today's the day to start all over. Today's the day to start living for her"

While I don't agree with all the items on Georgia's list, I applaud the attitude and intention - try everything, do anything you want - without imposing other's attitudes and judgments on yourself. But I believe you need to do those things for yourself, not others.

At first glance, I thought this would be a light-hearted YA novel as the items on the list were checked off. But, Kottaras tackles some heavy subjects - grief, loss, drug use, depression, friendship, bullying, self-esteem, body image and more.

While I quite liked Georgia as the main character, I wasn't as sold on her 'bestie' Liss. Her actions in the second half of the book disappointed me. Many of the other supporting characters were somewhat cliched - the geeky, perfect guy, the mean girl cheerleaders, the quirky teacher who champions the overweight but talented student et al.

Flashbacks and memories about Georgia's mother and her life are quite heartbreaking. And only reinforce that we need to grab life and enjoy every day. I enjoyed the 'poetic' feel of many of these recollections.

Overall, I thought How to Be Brave was a good debut novel - see for yourself in the excerpt below. Or check out the book trailer. And scroll to the bottom to enter the giveaway. 

"This is what it was like:

I didn’t want you to come. I didn’t want you there. 

The day before school, the very first year, 
we waited in line for my schedule.

They stared. Those in line around us— 

the other girls and their moms, 
 the ones who were my year, who were never my friends— 
They saw how you were big, planetary, next to them. 
 Next to me.

The girl in pigtails, someone’s sister,

asked: Is there a baby inside? Her mother, red now, whispered in her ear.

But the girl didn’t mind:
Oh, so she’s fat.

The other girls, the ones who were my year 
who were never my friends—they laughed at you, quietly. 
At me.

Her mother said she was sorry, so sorry, 
And you said: It’s fine. It’s fine. 
But it wasn’t.

You squeezed my hand, and then to the girl in pigtails, 
you said: I am big, yes. But I am beautiful, too
And so are you.

Her mother pulled her child away. 
She left the line and let us go first.

I didn’t say: You shouldn’t have come.
I didn’t say: I don’t want you here.

But I also didn’t say: I love you. 
Or: Thank you for being brave.

Later that night, I cried: 
I don’t want to go. I don’t want to face them. 
And every year after.

You’d look at me like I was that girl, 
and you’d say, as though it were true: 
You are possibility and change and beauty. 
One day, you will have a life, a beautiful life. 
You will shine.

I didn’t see it. I couldn’t see it, 
not in myself, 
not in you.

Now, it’s not like that anymore. This is what it’s like: It’s quiet in our house. Too quiet. Especially tonight. The day before my first day of senior year. The A/C hums, the fridge hums, the traffic hums. I’m standing at my closet door, those old knots churning inside my stomach again. I don’t want to go tomorrow. I need to talk to her. Instead, I’ve done what she always did for me the night before the first day of the school year. I’ve picked out three complete outfits, hung them on my closet door. It’s a good start, I guess.

Outfit #1: Dark indigo skinny jeans (are they still considered skinny if they’re a size 16?), drapey black shirt, long gold chain necklace that Liss gave me, and cheap ballet flats that hurt my feet because they’re way too flat and I hate wearing shoes with no socks.
Outfit #2: Black leggings, dark blue drapey knee- length dress (draping is my thing), gold hoop earrings that belonged to my mom, and open-toed black sandals, but that would mean a last-minute half-assed pedicure tonight. A spedicure, if you will.
Outfit #3: A dress my mom bought for me two years ago. The Orange Dress. Well, really more like coral. With embroidered ribbons etched in angular lines that camouflage my flab. Knee-length (not too short/not too long). Three-quarter-length sleeves (to hide the sagging). It’s perfectly retro. And just so beautiful. Especially with this utterly uncomfortable pair of canary-colored peep-toe pumps that belonged to my mom. I begged her for the dress. I made her pay the $125 for it. I knew my parents didn’t have the money, but I couldn’t help crying when I saw myself in the mirror. It fit (it’s a size 14), and I think she saw how pretty I felt because I did feel pretty for the first time, so she charged it.
But I’ve never worn it.
The day after, she went into the ER, her heart acting up again.
She needed another emergency stent, which meant more dye through her kidneys, which meant dialysis a few weeks later, which meant the beginning of the end of everything.
I never put it on after that.
It’s just so bright.
So unlike everything else I wear.
I could wear it tomorrow. I could.
And if she were here, she would tell me to.
I really need to talk to her. It’s just so quiet in this house."
How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

Credit: Emily Mae Marie
"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. She now lives in Los Angeles where she's hard at work on her next book." You can connect with E. Katherine Kottaras on her website, find her on Facebook, as well as on Twitter.

If How To Be Brave sounds like a book you'd like to read, I have a copy to giveaway courtesy of St. Martin's Griffin. Open to US and Canada. Ends Nov. 28/15. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!


bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a book that would appeal to teens. Thanks for the giveaway!

traveler said...

Thanks for this wonderful giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Carl Scott said...

It's an interesting premise and sounds quite enjoyable despite a few flaws. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

Patti V said...

Looks like one I would enjoy.

Danielle H. said...

This book sounds really, really good and I can't wait to read it.

Karin said...

Thanks for the giveaway!