See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles – 2016 Rebecca Caudill Award Nominee [Book Review]

See You at Harry’s starts off as a seemingly typical contemporary middle grade novel. Young girl starts middle school. Girl sees what middle school/high school is really like. Girl is embarrassed by her family. But it turns into so much more than that. From the description it infers that there is some sort of tragedy, which is not what you expect it to be…

See You at Harry’s is a contemporary, realistic fiction novel from the point of view of a young girl named Fern. Fern is one of four children, including her much younger brother named Charlie. The whole family was turned upside down by the surprise of Charlie and this story is about their lives from there.

While Fern is the main character, you learn a lot about her whole family. She has an older sister, Sarah, and an older brother, Holden. (They’re all named after book characters, which I loved!). Her mother and father own and run an ice cream parlor/diner called “Harry’s”. The story begins with her father coming up with another harebrained scheme to promote the restaurant using the whole family. This leads into Fern’s school life, and the life of the rest of the family.

Holden is getting picked on for being different. Sarah is taking a gap year from school and does not want to work at Harry’s. Her mother hides in her office meditating and her father stays at work late almost every night. Then there’s Charlie. Charlie is three-years-old an is a force of nature. He loves Fern and wants to spend all of his time to her, much to her chagrin. The first half is mostly about these trials and I was starting to wonder when the tragedy came in. Well, I found out.

It punched me in the gut.

And it is not what you expect it to be related to, at least I didn’t expect it. After that we see Fern dealing with her feelings of guilt and how the family and community copes. The ending with homecoming is a lot of fun and some much needed lightheartedness.

If you are looking for a novel with a lot of heart, this is it.

WARNING: NSFRIP (Not Safe for Reading in Public)!!!

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