How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he's ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it's almost as if it's been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.
Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It's his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie's reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won't do?
Review: As Brave As You is an enjoyable and thought provoking story of an African American family working to overcome its tumultuous past in hopes of a better future. Genie Harris is an inquisitive tween who has a notebook full of questions, ranging from the superficial and ridiculous to the introspective. While his parents try to figure out their relationship, Genie and his brother Ernie find themselves spending their summer in rural Virginia at their grandparents house in the country.
Reynolds does a great job blending humor from the various horrible events such as breaking a family heirloom, and accidentally poisoning of their grandfather's pet bird along with serious discussions regarding the boy's great-grandfather's suicide, their grandfather's vulnerability and pride for asking help due to his disability, their Uncle Wood's sudden death during the Desert Storm. Though the plot is mostly made up of slice of moments on a long, hot summer day, there are long buried feelings of guilt, anger, resentment simmer beneath the surface until they reach a climax as Ernie is peer pressured to fire a gun as a symbol of becoming a man, with unfortunate results. Thankfully, the novel doesn't end with any fatalities and a family trying to work out their issues.
Rating: 4 stars
Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.
If you like this book try: The Watson's Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia