July 30, 2012
See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles
Have you ever started a novel thinking that your main character was going to be dealing with Problem X only to have Problem Y come galloping to the forefront? That’s basically what happened with See You at Harry’s.
Fern feels invisible. Sometimes it really bothers here — like when her three-year-old brother hogs all of Mom’s attention. But sometimes invisibility is a good thing especially when Dad is cooking up a new idea to publicize Harry’s, the family restaurant.
From an ad featuring horrible t-shirts and her lisping little brother to his messy-faced image on the side of the restaurant’s delivery truck, Fern is sure her Dad’s ideas are designed to embarrass. At times like that, invisibility is almost okay.
But then she starts riding the bus to school with her older brother. She and Holden are super close and she doesn’t get it when he tells her not to sit next to him on the bus. “Act like you don’t even know me.” Fern can’t figure out what is going on until she watches two boys flick cuff her brother’s ears and make kissing noises at him. Holden isn’t exactly out of the closet but Fern can’t figure out why the bus driver doesn’t do a thing. When the boys decide to pick on her, Fern takes matters into her own hands and punches one of them in the nose.
But this isn’t a book about bullying or being gay. It’s a book about being who you are, accepting your strengths and your weaknesses and managing to love and respect yourself in spite of all that baggage.
I’m hesitant to say much more about the plot because what happens is just to horrible and a huge surprise.
That said, this is a truly amazing book. Sad, yes. But amazing.
In spite of the low reading level (AR 3.6) this is not a grade school book. There isn’t any on-screen sex and there really isn’t even any explicit talk about sex but there is a lot that is implied. It doesn’t happen but various characters worry about what might happen or what could happen.
This is definitely a must read. There is so much about tragedy, fitting in, accepting yourself, accepting others and knowing that we all have limits. Thank you to Jo Knowles — so many of these scenes had to be really hard to write but she had the guts to put down the story that had to be told. I just hope you have the guts to share it.