As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
Let’s be real, people. I read this about two months ago. I’ve had this review written and just sat on it. Time to play catch-up. There are a *LOT* of reviews coming.
Jason Reynolds’ fiction focuses exclusively on middle-school boys and young men in or just out of high school. I didn’t love The Boy in the Black Suit, but I very much loved his co-authorship with Brendan Kiely in All American Boys. I was interested to see how As Brave As You, his middle-grade entry, would stack up. And while it doesn’t compare to his last book, it’s still a heartwarming and charming, even funny, story.
Genie and his big brother Ernie are in for a summer of surprises. Their parents have decided to ship them to Virginia to stay with their paternal grandparents while they work on their marriage. The boys are thunderstruck—how on earth can they survive the country? Out of Brooklyn? Then, Genie discovers that Grandpop is blind. And he doesn’t leave the house. And he has a secret room stashed with an intriguing (and Jackson 5-themed) mystery. Meanwhile, Ernie’s experiencing growing pains and doesn’t understand why he has to shoot a gun on his birthday to prove that he’s brave. Genie’s disappointed and trying to understand what bravery is and how it manifests the different men in his family.
This story is all about voice, and Reynolds brings it by making Genie the narrator. Because Genie is a younger brother, we see the world through his still childish eyes. He’s occasionally silly and immature, but he’s also endearing and courageous. This is a good story for middle-grade readers, because it deals with some occasionally tough family themes in a gentle way and also what it means to be “brave.” I liked this story as an adult, and I think younger readers would enjoy it, too.