Friday, July 20, 2012

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles

See You at Harry's is one of those books I picked up pretty randomly. I hadn't read anything by Jo Knowles yet, and I'd heard good things about her writing, so that was part of it. I was also drawn to her latest novel, and first middle grade book, because it featured the kind of big, crazy family I grew up in. Whatever the reason, I'm so glad I did.

The narrator of See You at Harry's is twelve-year-old Fern, and although she'd deny it, she's also its heart. Fern feels like an outsider in her own family, made up of an older sister, Sarah, who is working at the family restaurant, Harry's, as she figures out what she wants to do after high school, and an older brother, Holden, who is dealing with bullies at school and opening up about being gay. Finally, there's the baby, three-year-old Charlie was a surprise but he's earned his place as the adorable and hilarious centre of attention. But when the unthinkable happens, this family is pushed to the edge and it will take all of Fern's strength to keep herself from falling off.

Knowles broke my heart in See You at Harry's. From the beginning I connected with Fern, which was especially impressive because this is technically a middle grade novel, a genre I sometimes have a harder time with. But with Fern, it was easy. She was instantly sympathetic, funny and intelligent. She just wanted the attention of her family, especially her mother who often ran off to meditate or was busy with Charlie and the restaurant. I wanted to reach through the pages and tell Fern everything was going to be okay– the only problem was, it wasn't. And that's how Knowles broke my heart.

But in spite of all the darkness, and there is a lot, See You at Harry's is remarkable because there still manages to be light. A school dance. A hug. These moments are the ones that change everything. I have read a lot of books that deal with tragedies lately, but this one stands out for the quiet and powerful way that Knowles writes about it, especially because of Fern's perspective. Fern feels invisible, and I think that's something that readers– that people– can universally relate to. Emotional and heart-warming, tragic and heart-breaking, powerful and beautifully written, as difficult as See You at Harry's was to read at times, I'm so glad I decided to pick up Knowles' novel and will definitely be picking up more books by her in the future.

Release Date: May 8th 2012  Pages: 310  Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Candlewick  Buy It: Book Depository


  1. A middle school book that broke your heart! I'm in...need to read this and put it in my middle school library. Thanks!

    1. It definitely did! This would be so perfect for a middle school library.


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