Reynolds, J. (2016). As Brave As You. NY: Atheneum Books.
Coretta Scott King Honor for Author 2017
Though Jason Reynolds is known for his young adult books set in gritty, urban settings, As Brave As You is a departure from that template, following two young brothers who leave behind their Brooklyn neighbourhood for the country to spend the summer with grandparents they barely know.
As Brave As You is a slow unfolding of characters with a large focus on relationships. This is the summer Genie, faced with new experiences, does a lot of growing up. His journal of questions is a nice way to read his thoughts and see him work through issues. Most surprisingly is that Grandpop is blind! The two bond once they begin a late-night ritual of walking around the backyard together so Grandpop can memorize how to navigate it in order to be independent during the daytime. Until this point, he had hidden inside, worried to take a fall alone in the unknown.
Genie’s relationship with his grandmother develops in a different arc after Genie breaks a beloved toy that belonged to her son (Genie’s uncle), who died serving his country. This becomes a true test of integrity, kindness, and strength for both of them.
But perhaps most interesting is the brothers’ relationship. Each face their own challenges, and Ernie does so with a quiet sense of strength. As Brave As You offers a nice balance to the plethora of plot-driven YA novels. Reynold’s dialogue, sense of place, and characters are delightfully all encompassing.