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Courage for Beginners

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,992 ratings  ·  344 reviews
Twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy wishes she were a character in a book. If her life were fictional, she'd magically know how to deal with the fact that her best friend, Anibal Gomez, has abandoned her in favor of being a "hipster." She'd be able to take care of everyone when her dad has to spend time in the hospital. And she'd certainly be able to change her family's secret.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 12th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)
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Amilya :) I'm 13 too and your daughter and her friend would love it. It relates to some kids our age and it teaches them the lesson to kids our age of true…moreI'm 13 too and your daughter and her friend would love it. It relates to some kids our age and it teaches them the lesson to kids our age of true friends, and yes it's a great book.(less)

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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,992 ratings  ·  344 reviews

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Oct 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of 'Eleanor and Park' and 'Saving Francesca'
5/5.0 stars

It's been a while since I've given out five stars so I knew even before finishing that I have to share this book largely because it's inspiring.

Five things I love about Courage for Beginners; title, cover, narrator, story and message (not necessarily in that order). So yeah, pretty much everything. Let's skip to the third as the first two are self-explanatory.
In school I learned that if you are really quiet, people will think you are smart.
I just can't stop thinking.

Audrey Laurey
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 6th-8th
Rama Khan! Rama Khan!

Going in to 7th grade isnt easy for anyone, and that is no exception for Mysti Murphy. Mystis mother has been an agoraphobic her entire life (does not leave home) and her father recently suffered a head injury due to a freak car towel accident and must be hospitalized. Due to these two misfortunes Mysti has now become the impromptu caretaker of the home.

Then, things spiral even further. Mystis best friend, Anibal Gomez, has just ditched her in efforts to try his hand at
Polly Holyoke
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
First I should confess that Karen Harrington is a good friend of mine, but I can promise that I would be in awe of her writing talent even if I didnt know her. SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY, her first novel for children, is an exceptionally well-written story which received four starred reviews from the major trade journals. Holy Toledo! How many writers manage to do that their first time up at bat?

I just finished her second novel, COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS, and Karen has done it again. She has created a
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved Mysti. She's one tough cookie. Her mom's agoraphobic, dad is in the hospital, and her one and only best friend tells her he wants to start seventh grade with a social experiment...he is a hipster, and no longer wants anything to do with her. I couldn't believe what a creep he was! Mysti becomes friends with Rama Khan in the lunchroom, and the book is about her perserverance through the year and overcoming her own fears while trying to take care of her family.
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
What really happens to sixth-graders at the lunch tables? As a sixth-grade teacher, although I know that there is conflict, I often believe everything is 'hunky-dory.' In my mind, everyone is blissfully getting along; the reality is often quite different.
Courage for Beginners is the story of a girl, Mysti, who gets ostracized by her best friend. She reluctantly ends up at the nerd table and is forced into establishing new relationships. These social crises develop at the same time that Mysti
Linda Lipko
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This is a book read in one sitting! Mysti enters seventh grade without her previous best friend Anibal Gomez. Originally overweight and the brunt of nastiness from school mates, Anibal decides to lose weight and become a "hipster." To do so, he believes he needs to drop his one and only friend Mysti, so that he can be part of the in crowd.

Now, all is fair in making fun of Mysti. Cruelty is now his go to thing to do. Making fun of and sharing her personal secrets deems him as better than he
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Here is a novel youre going to love if youre a fan of characters who seem so real they almost jump out of the pages. Twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy lives and breathes stories. She imagines herself as a character in a novel and makes up interesting tales to embellish the boring parts of her life. Maybe Mystis wild imagination has something to do with her bed, which for most of her life has been propped up in one corner with a stack of books. The stories, she believes, seep into her mind every night ...more
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
I think most people will enjoy this sweet story; there isnt anything necessarily wrong about it. Just for me, I was looking for something better, a story where something actually happens. While its not my type of story, I think most people will enjoy it thoroughly. ***SPOILERS COMING!!***

In reality, Courage for Beginners is not a story about a girl who makes something happen; it is about a girl who gains the courage to decide to make something happen. And while I get the concept of the story, I
Memory Toast
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who liked All the Answers or Extraordinary
Not sure this would have gotten five stars if it didn't find me at just the right time, it probably would have been a 4 or 4.5, since I'm picky with my 5 star ratings, but it did and so it is.

I think one of the best things about the story was its voice. The author was consistent, from beginning to end. I could definitely believe that an imaginative twelve year old was telling me this story, and because of that consistency the growth Misty experiences and her changing perspectives on the world
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is so beautiful and inspiring and I read it in just one seating! I just couldn't stop reading this! No dull moment, everything about it will hit you in your heart in a nice way. Every character in the story is interesting. The story is just perfectly and uniquely written! Very different from the novels that I've read. Karen has this way of constructing a sentence with a complete thought that is in a perfect mixture of wittiness and intelligent. This book reminds me that change is inevitable ...more
Vicki Cose
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful read of Mystic, a 7th grader, who
has to become the parent because of her
mom's phobia! Mystic is a sweet, lovely
and unique female who is one who is
not in the "popular crowd" but
believes in herself!
Mallory Rethlake
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: trimester-2
Mysti Murphy is a twelve-year-old year. Her best friend left her to be a hipster. She also has to visit her dad in the hospital. She wishes she could have a life where everything was okay and her life was perfect.
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Courage for Beginners is a chapter book by Karen Harrington. This book is amazing. I dont think I have had a book that exposed all of my middle school thoughts so perfectly into a piece of literature. The plot of the story is about Mysti Murphy, a 12 year old girl, going through all of the obstacles life is throwing at her. During this book, Mysti imagines herself as a fictional character in a book. The entire book is about her experiences she is faced with and has to overcome and all of the ...more
I may be a 40+ year old ,but when I grow up I want to be as sure of myself as Rama Khan ("RAMA KHAN!")and as creative in my thinking as Mysti. Mysti would love to be the character in a book and she makes up interesting stories about her life. Her real life is confusing. Her "best friend" is performing an experiment in which Mysti becomes the butt of his teasing at school and they have to pretend to not be friends during school. Her mother is agraphobic and her dad is hospitalized due to a fall. ...more
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya
Great story about perseverance and looking at things differently. Mysti is about to start 7th grade when her best friend decides that he is going to ignore her this year - all in the name of a social experiment. Mysti also has issues at home. Her mother is agoraphobic and her father is in the hospital. How will they get food, toilet paper, clothes? Her younger sister Laura is not much help.

Mysti is a great narrator for this story. She tells it like she is a character in a book and lets us know
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Mysti, RamaKhan, and Anibel could easily be three typical 7th graders in my class this fall. Harrington did a great job of bringing us back **shudder** to the pains of 7th grade.

Life in seventh grade is hard enough without an agoraphobic mom, comatosed dad,and ex-best friend to add to the mix. Mysti defies all and makes the best of it with the help of her new best friend, Rama.

Great book for any middle school classroom, but perfect for sixth graders still trying to navigate those MS halls.
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2015
An encouraging, realistic book that's both emotional and fun to read! Mysti just comes alive, and I didn't want to stop reading about her! Any teenager (and any adult, too!) will relate so easily to her friendship and family struggles, because the way she deals with them is so real. This book is for anyone who has had times where they try to hide the tough parts of our lives just to get by. It's for anyone who's struggled to fit in. And it's for anyone who has lost and gained friends. A ...more
Mrs Vargocko reads
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mysty Murphy's best friend Anibal decides to reinvent himself leaving Mysty alone and entering 7th grade. If that isn't enough for a 7th grader to handle, her father ends up in coma. Her mother is unable to cope due to fears and anxiety. Mysty is left to navigate how to cope with 7th grade and support her family. This book does not have a lot in the way of action, but is wonderful in how the author developed the character's emotions.
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
A great middle grade read with a strong sense of characterization and a lead character that you can REALLY root for. (And a side character that you will really grow to hate.)
Allison Meister
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Courage for Beginners is a fiction novel about a twelve year old girl struggling to survive seventh grade. She has a dad that had a tragic accident and is hospitalized. A best friend-Anibal- who has "left" her to become a "hipster". Lastly, a mother who doesn't leave the house. Among all that she is trying to get through her seventh grade year. I believe people would want to read this because it has a lot of conflict and makes you go through a roller coaster of emotions. It also really opens ...more
brie 🥰📚
mystie is a ridiculously cute character and reading the book was actually fun. although the book can be hard to follow along, the book is at the point of view of a seventh grader so how together can the book really be? i also enjoyed wayne and rama. overall i would only recommend if you have an open mind when it comes to books. if you are a mature reader and don't enjoy books that are "out there" then this isn't the book for you.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Funny. Beautifully written. Bit sad, but a "good sad" (not sure if that makes sense but if you read it maybe you know what I mean?) Didn't know if I'd like it at first but ended up loving it. Also glad Agoraphobia seemed to be portrayed correctly.
Noah Carpenter
This is a sad book. Mysti the main character has to take care of the family as the dad falls and hits his head which hospitalizes him. The mom has an phobia about going places so mysti has to work hard until the dad comes back.
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Honestly - this is one of those books that didnt stick. I enjoyed parts of it but I really couldn't tell you what its about or much of what happened in it.....and i just finished it. Its may be because I kept putting it down, I just didnt get into it. This is more like a 2.5 star read for me.
Cindy Echeverria
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington is a really good book .It is about this girl named Mysti Murphy Who best friend abadoned her in journey to become a "hipster".Mean while all this drama is happening on school her dad falls down and goes to the hospistal.I love how the character made me feel like I was inside the book. Mysti Personality is well spread and easy to catch in the book.These book is just right for the ages of 9 and 13.I reccomend these book to people who love a ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
"Here is a girl who wishes more than anything that her own story would have an ending that, if not exactly Happily Ever After Yellow, would be some shade of hope."
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, juvenile
This is a sweet book about a 12 year with a great imagination that finds the courage to get through Middle School while her Mom finds the courage to get through life.
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a great tween/teen book that deals with real life scenarios as well as a bit of storytelling as Mysti makes up interesting tales that she tells her sister. It is a coping mechanism for someone who really seems to have been handed a glass half-full of muddy water. As the book goes along Mysti finds strength in discovering the courage to make changes in her life. I wanted to root for her the whole way. My dad had a stroke before I was 12 and I had to grow up very fast in some ways and yet ...more
Jessica | Bookish Serendipity
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs-print
I loved Courage for Beginners! I'm actually running a giveaway of a signed ARC right now at if you'd like to try it for free!

Now...on to the review.

This was a very sweet middle grade novel for kids and although I had a few quibbles, it was an interesting read overall. This story is based around 12-year-old Mysti Murphy. Her father is taken to the hospital after an injury and Mysti, her sister and their agoraphobic mother are left to fend for themselves.
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mg, 2014
I was listening to talk of this upcoming book some time ago, and it really resonated with me, so I connected with author Karen Harrington on Twitter and was tickled when she followed me back. She happened to be whatever magic number of follower I had named to receive a copy of my book. I was even more tickled when she accepted my offer of a copy and proposed a trade, with the ARC of her newest.
Thats how I encountered Courage for Beginners.
The main characters, Mysti, her ex-friend Anibal, and new
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Karen Harrington is an author and former speechwriter. Her books include SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY (2013), COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS (2014) and MAYDAY (2016) all from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Her books have appeared on nine state reading lists.

Sure Signs of Crazy was also a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the year, a 2014 Notable Childrens Book selection from the Childrens Literature Assembly and

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