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See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
Candlewick Press, May 8, 2012
Read for 2012 Standalone Challenge
Summary from Goodreads:
Starting middle school brings all the usual challenges - until the unthinkable happens, and Fern and her family must find a way to heal.Oh, Jo Knowles, how I love you and your writing ability. My first read in 2012 also happens to be my favorite read of 2012 so far.
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.
I can't share too much of the plot with you, because there would be super spoilers. So this will be a short review. See You at Harry's is a powerful novel. This was not a "brush a few tears away while reading" kind of novel. No, this was a "bawl your eyes out while being thankful you're reading while your husband is at the gym so he can't make fun of you for crying hysterically over a novel" novel. The sad part happened in such a way that you were expecting it, but then the plot twisted and so you weren't excepting it (and sighing in relief because it didn't happen), and then bam! It happened anyway.
Besides the sad part, there's a scene with our narrator, twelve-year-old Fern, and her neighbor, the elderly Mr. Seymore. I won't say any more about that scene, but it was the most heart-wrenching, realistic thing I think I've ever read.
This is what the novel is about: how can a family that doesn't really have it all together, get it together, and keep it together, after a tragedy? I so did not expect the level of emotion that I got from this novel--but I don't know why I didn't expect it. After all, Jo Knowles is the creative genius that brought us Jumping Off Swings, Pearl, and (#2 on my MAHROAT list) Lessons from a Dead Girl. Which brings me to another point: while this novel wasn't absolutely horrifying in the way that the titles on my MAHROAT list are, it was still pretty horrifying. It might deserve a spot on that list, I haven't yet decided. What do you think?
There are few books that I love enough to post my review months ahead of time--Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan is the only one I can think of from 2011, and See You at Harry's is 2012's pick. Expect to see a reminder post about this book before its publication day (May 8).
ARC received from publisher.
Enjoy your reading!