Friday 18 June 2021

Book Review | How to Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson

Publication Date: July 1st 2021 by Pushkin Press
Format: Netgalley ARC
Target Audience: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary,  



Calla’s mum has never been normal. She’s been known to go out in a lab coat and slippers and often forgets to perform basic tasks because she’s been thinking about ducks. When a job offer arrives to study her beloved birds in the Amazon rainforest, Calla knows her mum has to go. Nervously, she agrees to go to boarding school.

She quickly learns that trouble is afoot in this odd convent school. A mean new headmistress is imposing horrible rules and making everyone eat Brussels sprout cake, and the students are itching to revolt. As Calla makes new friends and gets drawn into their rebellious plot, she keeps waiting for her mum to call. She will, won’t she?



My Thoughts

"The situation made very little sense, but she had no doubt whatsoever that the Headmistress worked for an evil organisation."  
I was really looking forward to this charming (it was definitely charming) looking middle grade that promised boarding school antics and rebellious students and whilst it delivered on all those things, it was just slightly too bizarre for my tastes at times. How to Be Brave follows Calla, a 12 year old girl who's mother is a scientist focusing on a specific breed of duck and an unexpected job offer means that Calla is shipped off to a boarding school (her mother also went there) run by nuns for six months. When she arrives she discovers that things have took a turn for the worse since her mum attended.

This book has a really zany and eccentric form of storytelling which perfectly matches the characters and the plot. It's filled with humour and crazy situations, as well as plenty of footnotes. I'm a sucker for footnotes so I enjoyed these immensely although because I was reading an ebook version it was strenuous having to scroll through numerous pages to find the footnotes and then scrolling back which happened a lot! Calla is a strong, bright protaganist who has a wonderfully deep love for her mum. Her new friends are incredibly odd but in the best way possible and the nuns all have so much personality!
The plot itself is a bit strange. There's a lot of having to suspend belief due to the main villain being a classmate of Calla's mother who still holds a grudge after thirty years. She's also obsessed with finding this rare duck in the Amazon so she's created this whole kidnapping debacle in order to achieve this. As an adult is was just a bit too strange for me but obviously this is aimed at a middle grade audience who will probably enjoy the unconventional storyline a bit more then I did. There were also a few things that happened a bit too conveniantly such as a barrel already up on the roof just waiting for someone to build a fire in it or one of the nuns being able to fly a helicopter. It's all a little too easy but it does add to the fun of it all. 
Overall, this is a heartwarming and fast paced book that is packed with charming characters and outlandish antics. Perfect for those who loved Mallory Towers (it also reminded me a little of a younger version of Wild Child!) and are looking for an equally exciting boarding school adventure. Also there's biscuits. Lots and lots of biscuits.  

* I received an ARC copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes included in this review are subject to change. Massive thank you to Pushkin Press for providing me with a copy.

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