May 7, 2012

Review of See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles

We haven’t done a dual review in quite some time!

Starting middle school brings all the usual challenges – until the unthinkable happens, and Fern and her family must find a way to heal.

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.

See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles

Expected Release Date:  May 8, 2012

Publisher: Candlewick

I couldn’t find a book trailer, so here’s a song!

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baWBHZ7Fo6c” autohide=”1″ hd=”1″]

** This book was provided to us by the publisher for an honest review.
We were in no way paid for our opinion **

This book killed me…KILLED ME!  I seriously could not stop crying.  Even after finishing the book, and getting ready to fall asleep, I was still crying.  This is one book that will remain in my mind and heart for a while.

Basically, it’s a coming of age story that revolves around the life of 12 year old Fern, who has to deal with a work obsessed father, a mother who isn’t really present, and a brother who is just coming out of the closet.  We follow Fern and watch as she deals with the dilemmas in her family, and experience what she is going through.

The first half of the book builds the backdrop of what Fern goes through oh a day to day basis.  Not only do we see what she is feeling and going through, but we also get to see Fern experience the duress her brother Holden goes through on a daily basis from fellow school mates due to the fact that he is gay.  After deciding to stick up for her brother, Fern has to now go through the teasing and violence that Holden goes through.  We also watch as Fern is pretty much the one who is responsible for the care of her little 3 year old brother, Charlie.  We see the love of a family and the pressure of responsibility, and its toll it takes on this family.

After a devastating and tragic incident, we see how much it affects Fern and her family, and the strength that they will need to find to pull through together.  It was at this point, which is about half way through the book, where I pretty much lost it.  I cried at pretty much every chapter.  Once I thought that the tears were over, something else would happen or would be said, and I would cry all over again.

The writing style of Jo Knowles is unforgettable.  Knowles’ character building and story building had me so engrossed that I felt as though I were part of this family, and experiencing everything with them.  Knowles broke my heart over and over again.  I think what made it all the more “real” for me was the fact that Fern and Charlie were pretty much the same age gap as my two kids, and just reading their interactions and the emotion that poured out of the words was just too much for me.  I broke down.   To read Fern’s pleas to her mother were heart wrenching.  I could literally hear the strain and desperation in her voice as I read.  I could picture every detail in vivid detail.

If you are looking for a quick read that will remain embedded in your heart, I would recommend grabbing a copy of See You At Harry’s.

There are a million ways for me to start this review. I could start by telling you that this novel took my heart for a ride. I could tell you that this is a story that will be kept in my mind forever. Or I could tell you that I want to read this story over and over again. However, since I’ve technically already told you all of these things, I’ll tell you that See You At Harry’s by author Jo Knowles has changed the way I see everything. And I mean everything…

As the novel begins, it introduces us to main character Fern’s family and life.   Her father owns a restaurant that is simply named Harry’s, where her entire family works. She has three siblings. An older sister who is: angsty.  An older brother, who is accepting the fact that he is gay, and a three year old brother who is carefree, (much like all toddlers). I will admit that as the novel began, it did drag me into the story and singlehandedly grabbed my heart as Fern constantly watches her brother be ridiculed for being the person he is. The topic of bullying  was enough to have my emotions going through a whirlwind as I constantly reminded myself that what happens to Fern’s older brother happens to plenty of teenagers around the world.

While I will admit that it took a while for See You At Harry’s to reach the novel’s most intriguing and emotional point, from the start of the novel, the story simply tells us about Fern’s family life, her friendships and her school life. Not to mention her older brother’s struggle with bullying—it isn’t until much later in the book that everything about See You At Harry’s had me breaking down. And I literally mean breaking down and by breaking down I mean, I was crying like a baby. The tragedy that takes place later in the novel had me bawling and sobbing for the rest of the story and at some points in the novel, I would have to put down the story and just let myself have a good cry.

Mainly (and really only) because author Jo Knowles described numerous scenes with so many detailed and sorrowful thoughts and added in so much emotional dialogue. The tragedy is an epic part of See You At Harry’s and one that will leave readers thankful for their families, siblings and for everything that they have.

I recommend this novel to readers who want a genuine, quick read as well as to fans of YA contemporary. See You At Harry’s is a novel that will take the hearts, and emotions, of readers and never let go.

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