Courage for Beginners

Karen Harrington. Little, Brown, $17 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-21048-5
Mysti Murphy has to brave at least three major trials at the onset of seventh grade. The first is having an agoraphobic mother, who never leaves the house even to chauffeur her children to classmates’ houses or extracurricular activities. The second is losing her only friend, Anibal, who has “decided to be a hipster this year” to pursue a girl and wants to avoid publicly associating with Mysti. The third obstacle is the most difficult of all, when her father falls from a tree and is hospitalized. Now Mysti must find a way to be strong and responsible while her mother becomes sadder and more withdrawn. Harrington’s (Sure Signs of Crazy) portrait of a resourceful girl weathering transitions and finding creative solutions offers an even balance of humor and painful topics relevant to middle-school readers. The way Mysti views her life, as though she’s a character in a novel (“Here we see a girl washing green beans, extracting melons, and contemplating the true meaning of friendship”), provides a fresh perspective on her thought process, environment, and yearnings. Ages 8–12. Agent: Julia Kenny, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/26/2014
Release date: 08/12/2014
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