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Review: SEE YOU AT HARRY’S by Jo Knowles

In See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles, Fern has a lot on her plate.  She is starting middle school.  She has a younger brother, who is only a toddler and annoys her to no end. Her older brother is gay but no one in the family wants to talk about it.  Her dad is embarrassing her by forcing her to be in a cheesy ad for the family restaurant. She is being bullied on the school bus because of her brother. All of this falls by the way side when a horrible tragedy befalls the family and Fern is left feeling guilty for not having done more to prevent it.

First of all, I have to say YA is not usually my genre of choice. I usually don’t enjoy reading YA because I enjoy reading about adults dealing with adult problems. I was extremely skeptical when this book was selected for an online book group I belong to as the August read. The moderator assured us skeptics that it would be a great read.

I am not even sure how to review this book because I am still suffering from a book hangover.  The subject matter that is dealt with (sexuality, bullying, death) are treated with such respect by Knowles. It has been a long time since a book made me cry. I went through numerous Kleenex reading this.

Fern is such a well developed character that I almost forgot she is a preteen. Obviously there are references that remind the reader of her age, but the maturity of her voice overrides that.  The depth of her emotions she feels through out the book are so overwhelming and Knowles allows Fern to express these in such a thoughtful and real way.

This is a book that transcends genres.  I highly recommend this book to everyone.  Read it, have a good cry, and maybe share it with a kid in your life. We could all use a few more Ferns in this world.

Reviewed by Candy

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About the Book:

Title: See You at Harry’s

Author: Jo Knowles

Release Date: May 8, 2012

Publisher: Candlewick

Category: Young Adult/Middle School

Source: Borrowed from the Library

Book Summary:

Starting middle school brings all the usual challenges — until the unthinkable happens, and Fern and her family must find a way to heal.

Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, “All will be well,” is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.

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