cover image The Thing I’m Most Afraid Of

The Thing I’m Most Afraid Of

Kristin Levine. Putnam, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-525-51864-8

In 1993, 12-year-old Becca’s anxiety disorder makes her nervous about many things—developing cancer from an airport X-ray machine or salmonella from undercooked food—but she is determined to visit her father in Vienna for the summer. While he works during the day, Becca embarks on a sightseeing tour with Felix, the quiet son of her dad’s girlfriend, and Sara, a Muslim au pair from Bosnia, all implied-white. Though Sara and Felix are patient, Becca’s anxiety, and the embarrassment she experiences from it, is a daily struggle. Hearing about Sara’s escape from war-torn Sarajevo, though, inspires Becca to create a list of things she wants to accomplish, despite her fears. Becca is an engaging and sympathetic narrator, and Levine (The Jigsaw Jungle) writes her experience of anxiety with nuance and sensitivity. The past is never forgotten in Vienna, and Levine threads the city’s history into this novel, in some ways more successfully than others: a historically accurate protest concerning a rise in nationalism interrupts the tale’s momentum, while Sara’s recollections of the Bosnian War are heartrendingly effective. Ages 10–up. [em]Agent: Kathy Green, Kathryn Green Literary. (June) [/em]