Review: As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally—in this “pitch-perfect contemporary novel” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) by the winner of the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award. — [X]

Genie is not really sure what to expect when his parents decide that he and his brother, Ernie, will be spending the summer with their grandparents in Virginia. As Genie and Ernie, ever the city boys, get into the rhythm of country life, Genie’s curious mind is full of questions—and not just idle questions about whether or not black sheep actually do exist. Lately, his questions are harder to investigate: Are his parents going to get divorced? Why does his father seem mad at grandpop? What happened to his uncle and why doesn’t anyone talk about him? How does grandpop know where everything is if he’s blind? And why doesn’t Ernie seem excited at the prospect of learning how to shoot?

I had the pleasure of listening to Guy Lockard narrate the audiobook for this middle-grade gem and I absolutely recommend picking this title if you want a funny and touching story, narrated by one of the most talented voices ever. Lockard has narrated two other books by Jason Reynolds, so I’m guessing there’s something about his voice that just works for the characters that Reynolds writes. Lockard is certainly suited to narrate this particular story: Genie’s excitable nature, Ernie’s cool (but caring) demeanour, the grandmother’s shiny personality, the grandfather’s mysterious moods, and a whole slew of other character; each one feels like a whole new person at the microphone. And you can tell when Genie is speaking, when he’s holding his tongue, writing a list, freaking out in his head, or freaking out aloud. Basically? One of my favourite audiobooks, this one.

Of course, the audiobook wouldn’t be half as good as it is if the story itself was terrible, which, I mean, you can tell that I love this one, right? If not, let me explain to you how much I love this book: I was about to stop reading middle-grade novels altogether and this book swooped in and changed my life. It’s such a simple concept–city boys in the country, trying to figure out their summer (and themselves), trying to find their place in their family and in their community, and occasionally covering up the accidental murder of birds named after the Jackson 5*. I cannot recommend this work enough. If there’s a flaw, it’s that it isn’t a five-book series because I care so much about this family now. Oops?

*guess which one bites it