This past saturday I read See you At Harry’s by Jo Knowles. I noticed some buzz about this book over on twitter and requested to review it on NetGalley. I was not disappointed. I started Saturday morning and finished it this evening. Before dinner.
12-year-old Fern narrates this coming-of-age, contemporary realistic fiction story. She tells readers of her adventures, misadventures, growing pains and life growing up in a family who owns a restaurant. For me, it’s her voice makes this story. Fern often feels as if she isn’t heard, that she doesn’t always have a voice (though she surprises herself a few times). What Knowles has done so masterfully is to write Fern’s voice in an honest, believable way. To me, this is a fine line (I’m sure this is due in part to the fact that I currently live with a middle school girl).
Fern’s tales of trying to navigate life with family and friends transcends age, family structure and even birth order. She is often a parent to her youngest brother Charlie, is the friend and confidant of older brother Holden, and sometimes feels like she has two mothers when her oldest sister Sara tries to “help”. Fern’s friends Ran and Cassie are the kinds of friends I long for my own children to have; loyal, supportive, and caring. When unexpected tragedy strikes, Fern and her family struggle together to make sense of life. Suddenly Ran’s mantra, “all will be well”, that has always calmed Fern is in jeopardy.
I’m not going to say a whole lot more about the plot because it is impossible to do so without spoilers. However, there are phrases that will make you laugh, others times you will hold your breath, and plot turns that will surprise you – tears will be involved, so be sure to have kleenex.
My two favorite parts of this book:
- All of the children in Fern’s family are named for characters from books.
- The opening line of the book, “The very best day of my life, I threw up four times and had a fever of 103 degrees.”
Check out the following links for more information:
- Jo Knowles website, she is also on twitter @joknowles
- Here is a fabulous interview with Jo on Libba Bray’s website
- And yet another interview with Jo by Jen & Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts
- Over at Candlewick Press you can read the first chapter and listen to a sample of the audiobook