Title: See You At Harry's
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, 2012 (print available from Candlewick)
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible most of the time. Her parents run a restaurant, her older sister Sarah is taking a gap year before going to college, and her older brother Holden is absorbed in his own problems as a freshman who is figuring out his own life. Three-year-old Charlie, the baby of the family, is the only one who seems to notice Fern, though it's not always a welcome attention. In fact, Fern is usually the one who ends up watching Charlie when her parents and siblings are too busy to take notice, to her great annoyance.
But soon a terrible tragedy turns everything upside down, and Fern has no idea what to do or how to deal with it all. Guilt, mixed in with denial and intense grief, invade her life and her family's. Together, they must find a way to heal in a world that will never be the same for them.
This is an excellent audiobook, and an excellent story. Jo Knowles based a lot of it on her personal experience of growing up in a family-run restaurant, and also having an older brother who is gay. It all feels very genuine, especially when tragedy strikes and the family is thrown into the depths of grief and sorrow. It feels very personal and intimate, and tells the heart-wrenching and ultimately hopeful journey through all that, plus all the other crap that can happen in middle and high school. Fern and Holden have to deal with some incredibly nasty bullies, both peers and adults.
I listened to the audio, and Kate Rudd does an excellent job in her narration. She IS Fern. Her acting skills are never too much, yet we hear all of the emotions, the tiny catches of breath and yells, everything. I didn't want to shut my car off after reaching each destination because I wanted to hear what happened next. Another cool thing the producers did was layer Rudd's voice on words and phrases that people speak together, which is something I've never heard before.
There are so many pieces to this story, and I'm amazed at how well Knowles is able to give us all the information we need, show the subtleties in each character, craft the developing relationships, show us how Fern is growing up, illustrate how not one of these people is anywhere near perfect yet leading us to care for them, and to do it all with such beauty. I'm hoping this will win at least a Newbury honor. This is my first book I've read by Knowles, but it won't be my last.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher. This in no way influenced my reaction to the book or my review.