Wednesday, June 27, 2012

See You at Harry's

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles. Grades 6-8. Candlewick, May 2012. 310 pages. Reviewed from purchased copy.

For twelve-year-old Fern, starting middle school has its own challenges. Her dad forced the family to appear in a commercial for their restaurant, which is now being aired on TV all the time. And her older brother has a secret that he's intent on keeping, even though everyone knows. Facing bullies on the bus and dealing with her changing feelings for her best guy friend are nothing, though, when tragedy strikes the family and they all must figure out how to go on from there.

This is a book that packs an emotional punch and it didn't turn out to be the book I thought it was going to be.

Above anything else, this is a book about family. It's about relationships between siblings and about finding your place in your own family unit. It's about figuring out when your family members each need to get through life's tragedies, big or small.

Fern has a special relationship with each of her brothers. For her older brother Holden she's a confidante, the only one with whom he trusts his secret. You see, he's gay. Fern knows the rest of the family won't care, but Holden's not convinced yet. She's fiercely protective of him, even when it causes trouble for her. She's the one sent out to find him when he's run off because she's the one he'll come back for.

Things happen in See You at Harry's, just like things happen in real life.

Jo Knowles has created a family that readers will care about. And she's created a book that doesn't shy away from presenting Big Life Things to a middle-grade audience. Readers will root for Fern and they will ache alongside her as she struggles to help Holden find his way.

This is definitely a book to open up some dialog and it would make for a great family book discussion. I've been hearing some Newbery buzz for this one, so make sure you check it out for yourself!

Read more reviews at Fat Girl ReadingGalleysmith, The Goddess of YA LiteratureThe Reading Zone, and STACKED.

See You at Harry's is on shelves now.