Review: How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

how-to-be-braveHow to Be Brave
E. Katherine Kottaras
St. Martin’s Griffin/St. Martin’s Press

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

In the wake of her mother’s unexpected death, Georgia struggles with the advice her mom left behind. She told Georgia to be brave and do everything, and with the help of her friends, Georgia sets out to do just that. She makes a list of fifteen things she wants to do, ranging from trapeze classes to kissing the boy she’s had a crush on forever. As Georgia pursues checking the items off the list, she learns that loss is a part of life. That she’ll have to fight for happiness and push through adversity, even when sometimes it’s of her own making.

I loved the descriptions of Georgia’s exploration of painting and how that was such a cathartic experience for her. It made me want to take up painting myself or spend many long afternoons wandering art museums. I liked Daniel, Georgia’s crush, and thought he was definitely worthy of her. Her relationship with her dad felt so authentic – this suddenly single dad dealing with a teenage girl in the midst of his own grief and just so lost on what to do. I also felt so sad for Georgia as she struggled to be patient with him but also to find ways to express her needs. Not an easy time for a girl to be without her mom.

Georgia definitely proved her bravery in her ability to rise to challenges life brought her. I loved that she was compassionate and had these moments of real insight into the girls around her. It’s definitely something I wished I had during my own high school experience.

I liked that Georgia wasn’t the typical girl. She was very real about her insecurities over how she looked and even about her embarrassment over her mom being heavy. She wanted to embrace valuing a person for who they are rather than how they look, but it wasn’t like this easy thing, even though she loved her mom. Her experiences felt authentic and yet they didn’t take over the story. Georgia’s journey isn’t about shedding pounds and becoming the popular girl with the hot boyfriend. It’s about self-discovery and what brings value to our lives: friends, love, art.

Language Content
Extreme profanity used frequently.

Sexual Content
Brief kissing. One of Georgia’s friends plans to have sex with her boyfriend. (The event is not described.)

Spiritual Content
Georgia’s father is Greek Orthodox but the family rarely attends. Georgia describes art as her mother’s god.


Drug Content
Feeling justified by her mother’s counsel to “try everything,” Georgia and her friends experiment with marijuana (shown in several scenes), cigarettes and alcohol. The consequences, particularly of the pot, lead Georgia to regret her decision.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

So… I don’t like spiders. I’m not as terrified as some, but I’m NOT a fan. My best friend called me one night in a panic over a huge arachnid in her apartment. I drove over to help her hunt the critter down and destroy it. I remember arriving, stepping inside and looking at the gargantuan thing and then looking at my friend and saying, “I don’t think I can kill that.” (What IS it about large spiders that make it so much more than a bug? It’s like a strange intelligence or more-than-animal-ness or something totally creepy.) Anyway, after so much wailing and screaming that I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police, we killed the beastie, and peace was restored. (Love you, Beth!!)

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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