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The Brave

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The Brave is about a boy with an OCD issue and his move to a reservation to live with his biological mother.

Collin can't help himself—he has a unique condition that finds him counting every letter spoken to him. It's a quirk that makes him a prime target for bullies, and a continual frustration to the adults around him, including his father.

When Collin asked to leave yet another school, his dad decides to send him to live in Minnesota with the mother he's never met. She is Ojibwe, and lives on a reservation. Collin arrives in Duluth with his loyal dog, Seven, and quickly finds his mom and his new home to be warm, welcoming, and accepting of his condition.

Collin’s quirk is matched by that of his neighbor, Orenda, girl who lives mostly in her treehouse and believes she is turning into a butterfly. With Orenda’s help, Collin works hard to overcome his challenges. His real test comes when he must step up for his new friend and trust his new family.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published June 30, 2020

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About the author

James Bird

20 books55 followers
There is more than one author in the Goodreads catalog with this name. This entry is for James ^2 Bird.

James Bird is a screenwriter and director at the independent film company, Zombot Pictures; his films include We Are Boats and Honeyglue. A California native of Ojibwe descent, he now lives in Swampscott, Massachusetts with his wife, the author and actor Adriana Mather, and their son. The Brave is his debut novel.

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5 stars
571 (44%)
4 stars
386 (30%)
3 stars
204 (16%)
2 stars
80 (6%)
1 star
32 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 340 reviews
Profile Image for Adriana Mather.
Author 7 books2,308 followers
December 6, 2019
Full disclosure - I’m married to the author. And even though I’m a writer myself, he wouldn’t let me read it until it was completely edited. Seriously. He let my mom read it, but he refused to send it to me. And then he did. Then he sent me the most beautiful book that not only swept me off my feet but made me cry happy tears (multiple times!!!). I fell for this book. I keep telling people it’s a magical realism My Girl, but it’s so much more than that. It has all the heartwarming feels and vibrantly funny characters. What are the chances that my own husband would write a book that would blow me away? I don’t know. But he did.
Profile Image for Tina.
2,306 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2021
This is a middle grade that is Realistic Fiction has some Magical Realism and Mental Health. We follow Collin that has a mental issues that makes him count the words people say and say the number of words people/he says out loud. He has been raise by his father up until this book starts. He moves in with his mother shortly after the book starts, and he has never see his mother since he was a baby until now. His mother is Obijabwe American Indian. This story is so moving, and I loved this book. There was some parts of this book I did not think needed to be there, but this book was so good. I loved the magical realism parts of this book. I listen to the audiobook of this book, and the narrator brought this book to life. I was kindly provided an e-audiobook of this book by the publisher (Dreamscape Media) or author (James Bird) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review about how I feel about this book, and I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.
Profile Image for Renata.
2,449 reviews329 followers
December 19, 2020
I read most of this book with this expression solidly on my face:

OK so the main character Collin has some form of learning difference (it sounds like a type of OCD but they never really name it?) where when someone talks to him, he has to count up how many letters they said and then say that number out loud. So you say "Hi, Collin" and he says, "8. Hello, how are you?" Obviously this sounds like it would be frustrating and a big use of mental energy, and I could see some kids teasing Collin about it, but everyone in this book reacts as if Collin has said "FUCK YOU AND FUCK YOUR MOM," they are like SO overwhelmed by him saying a number before he talks, it seemed like a really outsized reaction especially for a contemporary novel? And especially to be coming from the teachers? And for this to be a thing that has gotten him kicked out of like 5 schools?!? And again I don't want to minimize that this would definitely be a struggle but I didn't really understand why this was suuuuuuch a huge deal to everyone and why teachers would be sooooo infuriated at him for being disruptive, especially since he explicitly only says the numbers if someone is talking directly to him? It's not like he's just yelling numbers all the time. And again: sure there are definitely teachers who are dicks but why is EVERY teacher at EVERY school infuriated by this?? Get him an IEP jeez.

Also the kid bullies in this...like one boy PEES ON COLLIN. Just like whips it out and pees directly on him because he's so bully-activated by Collin's counting tic??? Excuse me???

In his author's notes Bird mentioned something about having a learning disability but was vague on details, I found this interview with him where he said, " When I was young, it would take me an entire year to read a book. It was very hard. My brain would often wander and play silly games with me as I tried to focus, but I learned how to see it as a gift instead of a curse. And now I write books. Pretty cool, huh?" OK, sure.

ANYWAY so that's like Collin's deal, and he's half-white and half-Ojibwe but lives with his white dad, who, like everyone else in the book is completely infuriated by Collin's counting tic? So finally Collin gets kicked out of school for counting?????????? Again????? And this time Collin's dad abruptly sends him to live with his Ojibwe mother who Collin has never met before.

And Bird himself is also half-Ojibwe and it sounds like didn't grow up particularly connected to Ojibwe culture, and I think there could be something really interesting here where Collin comes to the reservation and has just internalized all of these white stereotypes about indigenous people, and it sounds like maybe that's something that Bird also grew up with? And I think there could be a really interesting book about interrogating those stereotypes but for me, this isn't it? It kind of just seems like Collin learns that the bad stereotypes are wrong but the "good" stereotypes are true?

It felt REALLY shaky to me as a white reader. I found this NYT review by an Ojibwe/Seneca author, David Treuer, who wrote this:

The place where all this happens, Fond du Lac Indian Reservation in Minnesota, is real, and the larger world in which “The Brave” is set is our world: airplanes, cars, bullies, math, pets, parents, gravity. Spirituality and what we could call magic appear as well, apportioned to the reservation and the Native American characters only. But realistic or fantastical, fiction must create a ground-floor reality. And the floor on which this novel is built is shaky.

Every Native American in it — in addition to being beautiful and wise — is nice, brave and witty. Everything is a lesson. And none of it, to my ear, is derived from Ojibwe culture or Ojibwe life as it’s actually lived at Fond du Lac.

Reservations have long been magic meaning machines for outsiders: dirty prisons and proof of white perfidy if you’ve got a historical bent; diminished gardens tended by sage earthkeepers if you’re into folklore; troubled places where policies fail if you’re into politics. But in every case reservations are imagined as places apart, in but not of America, the land that time either rejected or forgot. “The Brave” is no exception.

At one point, Collin attends a ceremony of sorts. Ushered into a teepee with a fire in the middle, he is soon joined by four people wearing robes of different colors and holding matching stones, which they place in the fire. “The stones sizzle to life, sending gray clouds of smoke into the teepee. The heat immediately engulfs my body. I’ve never been to a sauna before, but I imagine this is what it feels like.” This isn’t how Ojibwe ceremony works. This isn’t even how physics works.

Writers don’t get to make Native American life mean whatever they want it to mean. They don’t get to do this because Native people have been erased, silenced and willfully misunderstood for too many years.

It’s especially important that they not do it in fiction for young people, which may be the only stage of life when most Americans think about us at all, as our history and present tense is inaccurately and glancingly taught to them in school.

The world depicted in “The Brave” is not Native American life as I know it. It’s summer camp, complete with exotic names and faux rituals; chock-full of crafts, bravery tests and self-discovery.

That's basically the vibe I got but of course it's not my culture being written about?

Again, it's frustrating because I think that Bird could write something really interesting maybe based on his experiences of internalizing stereotypes about Ojibwe culture and going on to unlearn them but this book feels like it hasn't unlearned them yet??

Anyway I wish that we had way more #OwnVoices stories for young readers so that this could just be one of many but instead it's one of very few and it's like.....for my money not a great example!!

Profile Image for Sarah Swann.
698 reviews973 followers
March 26, 2021
*Edited a few days after writing review. An aspect of this book was brought to my attention that I missed while reading and caused me to lower my rating by a star. Included in review now.

Overall, this was a good book. I have one big issue with it, which affected my rating. Let's start with that I liked: I enjoyed Collin's experience and how he came into his own. I love the almost immediate bond he found with his mother. His relationship with Orenda was beautiful. It was funny in parts and I like how he handled being bullied by Josh.

What I didn't like: clearly Collin has an aspect of autism. It's one behavior, but that's what it is. For him to have gone to doctors and been undiagnosed is unrealistic. He was never cared about enough by any adult to get help for it. There is help for it. He can be taught to deal with it in healthy ways. I hate how all of the adults in his life treated him like it was inconvenient for THEM that he did this, including teachers and even the school principal. Also, at the end, this is "cured" during his test. Don't get me wrong, all cultures have their customs. However, autism is not curable, by any method. So that aspect really bothered me.

Another aspect of this book that I missed and was brought to my attention after I finished is that another book is mentioned in here in a big way: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather. It is mentioned a lot and praised really highly, which didn't make a ton of sense to me as far as how it's supposed to help our main character, which is the claim. What I didn't piece together is that James Bird is married to Adriana Mather. Therefore, he is pushing his wife's book when it wasn't relevant to the story and it now just feels underhanded and unnecessary. Because of this, I knocked off another star.

I can appreciate this book for what it is, even the ignored autism part. I appreciate learning more about the Native American culture as this is written by a Native American man.

Content Warnings: bullying, death of family members
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sheena.
560 reviews250 followers
November 16, 2020
Collin has an OCD tendency of counting letters when people speak and replying with the number of letters that were spoken to him. He has trouble fitting in at school, is bullied, and lives with an alcoholic father who could careless about him. Collin’s father sends him to live with his Ojibwe mother in Minnesota. He’s never met her before but learns of his culture and family. His relationship with his new family and Orenda were heartwarming and sweet. Collin is a sweet child and you feel for him and his pain. You cant help but to root for him so he can find his happiness.

As much as I enjoyed this story, there were a few things preventing it from a five stars rating for me. I found it hard to believe for Collin to immediately be drawn to his mother and getting along with her after going 13 years of never meeting her. I found that a little unrealistic and he didn’t question this much. Same with his mother, she was immediately motherly and telling him to call her “mama” and they didn’t really explain this much. I also thought the representation of OCD was great but after a ritual it was supposedly gone so I’m not so sure how I felt about that either. Overall, I did really enjoy this book and would recommend it to any age.

Thank you to Netgalley and to Dreamscape Media for sending me an audiobook!
Profile Image for Tina.
2,306 reviews1 follower
November 3, 2020
This is a middle grade that is Realistic Fiction has some Magical Realism and Mental Health. We follow Collin that has a mental issues that makes him count the words people say and say the number of words people/he says out loud. He has been raise by his father up until this book starts. He moves in with his mother shortly after the book starts, and he has never see his mother since he was a baby until now. His mother is Obijabwe American Indian. This story is so moving, and I loved this book. There was some parts of this book I did not think needed to be there, but this book was so good. I loved the magical realism parts of this book. I listen to the audiobook of this book, and the narrator brought this book to life. I was kindly provided an e-audiobook of this book by the publisher (Dreamscape Media) or author (James Bird) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review about how I feel about this book, and I want to send a big Thank you to them for that. (*)
Profile Image for Eileen.
1,822 reviews70 followers
June 1, 2020
An absolutely beautiful 5 stars!

This was an unexpectedly beautiful book about a boy who has been isolated from his mother's Obijabwe heritage for his whole life and has struggled in the Western world (Huntington Beach, CA) with his father, primarily because of an OCD issue that causes him to count the letters in every spoken sentence addressed to him. Besides his OCD issue he is also artistic, and not the sports athlete that his father always wanted. After he is kicked out of his nth school for being a disruptive influence (argh!), his father sends him to live with his mother, of whom he knows nothing, not even her name. Besides his OCD, this book explores the intersection of the Western worldview vs. the Native American worldview as well as the role nature has in our lives. This was a wonderful coming-of-age story for a boy who lives in fear, but learns to be brave with the help of his mother's greater family, especially his next door neighbor. Besides his OCD, this book covers issues of life and death, reality vs. magic, being brave vs. being afraid, bullying (there's a brilliant scene when he stands up for himself and the teacher is supportive of it), family and freedom with sensitivity and skill. The book even touches on LGTBQ but only peripherally and in a supportive way. I was absolutely touched by his beautiful writing and I found myself bawling in several places. As sad as I was, the view of life and death by the Native Americans had me filled with beauty and hope. There is one possible violent scene with a wolf that might be a bit tough for young/sensitive readers to handle, otherwise this book is very appropriate for Middle School readers.

Thanks to #JamesBird, #NetGalley, and #MacMillianChildrensPublishingGroup for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Debbie.
Author 1 book516 followers
February 2, 2021
A reader wrote to ask if American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) had read or reviewed The Brave. I was aware of the book but had not yet ordered or reviewed it. The reader's question prompted me to see how it was being received. I see it has some starred reviews from major children's literature journals. But I also saw that Ojibwe scholar David Treuer gave it a scathing review in The New York Times. It was similarly criticized in the review at The Circle: Native American News and Arts located in Minneapolis. I read the book and uploaded a very long review at AICL.

The author tries to push back on some stereotypes but others, he affirms. That's a problem in a society (the US) that knows so little about Native people. Most don't see the problems in the content.

Here I'll talk only about the use of "Brave." You saw it defined, much like a dictionary defines words, on the page that precedes Chapter 1. The first of the two-part definition is "(noun) a Native American warrior." When I saw that, I hoped the author would knock that back as the story developed but he didn't. Look in your dictionary (or ones online). You'll see a note that the term is outdated, or old fashioned, or offensive. But over and over, it is depicted in THE BRAVE as something to aspire to... To be trained to be. The main character has an "OCD issue." Nowhere in the book does "OCD" appear but the author uses it in interviews. The arc of the story is that there is a battle within him and he can learn to be brave, like a brave. Part of overcoming it is going into a "test" in a teepee. That part is really hokey, to me. It sounds like a new age, faux thing.

There's so much more to say... and not enough space here in goodreads. So, I'll add the link and invite you to go to AICL and read it there. I'd make it a hyperlink but can't quite figure out how to do that.


Profile Image for Sandra Mather.
132 reviews3 followers
June 25, 2019
I read an early version of this book. It was beautiful and lyrical. Bird is a master storyteller who has written a number of screenplays, four of which have been made into Indie films. In this, his first published book, he examines the intersect between Native cultural beliefs and Western beliefs and their opposing worldviews. This is done from the POV of a boy who grew up with his white father who finds himself reunited with his Native mother. His experiences with Native culture lead him to basic existential questions like; what is real? How do we know? This beautiful story will both break your heart and remake it anew.
February 27, 2021
I'm Anishinaabe/Ojibwe and the setting in the story is my reservation.

This book is not reflective of my people or our homeland. The author is a good writer but this book was not good in that respect. Please be aware of that while reading.

Had these issues been corrected, the book would've been good. But all the inaccuracies and stereotypes were too hard for me to get past.
Profile Image for akacya ❦.
782 reviews122 followers
August 23, 2022
collin has always been a prime target for bullies due to his OCD making him count letters in people’s sentences when they speak to him. after getting kicked out of yet another school for getting into a fight with his bullies, his dad (an alcoholic who recently lost his job) sends collin to live with his mother on the reservation. collin knows next to nothing about his mother and even less about their culture, as they are ojibwe. but once on the reservation, collin begins learning a lot about his culture and himself.

although i enjoyed reading this book, the ending made me uncomfortable to give it a rating. i was hoping that collin would come to terms with his OCD, which admittedly was unrealistic given other things that happened in the book, but unfortunately this book followed the harmful trope of magically curing a disability that, in real life, is not curable. there was also another disabled character who died (though she did have a terminal illness). i am not disabled, but i have seen many disabled readers comment on how these tropes are harmful, so please seek out those posts/reviews for more information.

originally i was going to comment on how i thought it was nice how collin began to feel at home on the reservation and in his culture, but then i read ownvoices reviews that pointed out that this book didn’t even accurately portray ojibwe culture/life, which was a bit shocking since the author himself is ojibwe. so, overall, i think this book could’ve been really good had it used sensitivity readers.

audiobook note: the narrator was great, but sadly a part of the story was inaccessible. at the end, we are told that there are underlined letters in each chapter that make up a hidden message, but us audiobook readers unfortunately have no way of decoding that message. maybe a note could have been added after the last chapter to acknowledge this fact and the narrator could have told us what the message was.
Profile Image for Abbie.
1,416 reviews9 followers
October 14, 2020
After looking at most of the other reviews for James Bird's debut novel, I fear I am in the minority. I always love magical realism, and the writing is beautiful in this book, but it just didn't land quite right for me. First, we are supposed to believe a kid who has been abandoned by every adult in his life has no abandonment issues? He's not angry at all with his mother who left him with a life of loneliness? Especially after he sees what he's been missing? I'm not buying it. Also, his OCD is cured by a magical ceremony after he learns his lesson about self-acceptance. Umm...no, mental health is serious. I'm not saying immersing himself in the culture of the Ojibwe people wouldn't help, but therapy is important. To suggest otherwise is harmful to those with mental health disorders.

I only found one review online from a native person, and he objected to Bird's portrayal of Ojibwe life. It all seemed a little too Magical Indian Experience to me, too. I know the author has Ojibwe ancestry. I would like to hear opinions from other native people.

Finally, this last thing is not the biggest issue, but it was very jarring for me as a reader. As a person who grew up in peach country, there is no way there are peach trees laden with juicy succulent fruit in Minnesota in October. Was this supposed to be part of the magical realism? It just seemed like poor research to me.

Unfortunately, I can't recommend this book. I was really hoping it would be good because there are so few Own Voices books from a native perspective, but it just isn't a success for me.

Read more at Bookish Adventures.
Profile Image for Aly.
2,467 reviews
October 19, 2020
This is an interesting read. We learn about some Native American beliefs and traditions which was cool. The story also talks about OCD and processing death and is slightly heavy for a middle grade read. However, there were some supernatural elements in this that tempered the big themes and made them more accessible, if unrealistic.

Collin counts the letters of the words people say and must say the total out loud. This has caused bullying and Collin's father can't handle the moving schools and fights any more, so he's sent to live with his estranged mother on a reservation. Collin immediately becomes friends with the girl next door and becomes happier. I loved his friendship/sort of romance with Orenda. She's sweet and smart and pushes Collin to go out of his comfort zone and confront his fears. Orenda is brave and her turning into a butterfly was sweet.

I didn't like how OCD was dealt with, it wasn't really treated properly and instead Collin makes progress through a dream where he fights a monster? I didn't understand the logic of that. There were some supernatural bits that I understand are part of the Native American culture but they seemed a bit out of place to me.

Collin's evolution made for a nice read and the family and friendship bonds were well written. The narrator for the audiobook did a great job and this kept me entertained.

I received a copy of this audiobook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Geraldine (geraldinereads).
449 reviews108 followers
August 2, 2020
Collin has an OCD tendency of counting letters when people speak and replying with the number of letters that were spoken. When he gets in trouble at his school and is asked to leave yet another school, his father decides to send him to live in Minnesota with his mother. Collin has never met his mother before who is Ojibwe and lives on a reservation. While staying with his mother, Collin meets his new neighbor, Orenda who opens his eyes to a whole new world.

I loved Collin's relationship with Orenda and his mother, both relationships were so sweet and heartwarming. At times, this book really gets you all in the feels so beware of the tears! There is also magical realism in the book which I usually hate BUT this is one of the rare books I loved that has a good amount of it. The writing was also beautiful and the pacing of the book was perfectly done.

Honestly WOW! This is probably my favorite middle grade book I've ever read, it definitely reads more like a YA book though. It's a book that everyone from kids to adults can read and enjoy so don't think you're too old to read it!

I highly recommend buying it if you can!!! The author is Ojibwe just like some of the characters he writes about in this book so let's support more books that are #ownvoices #indigenousvoices ❤️
Profile Image for TheMatchedSlytherin.
6 reviews21 followers
March 1, 2020
I was given this book as part of an ARC tour by the author('s) family to help promote and to given an honest review!

First and foremost I want to thank James for writing this book, there are hardly words to express how beautiful of a story this was. I love that the MC was different and I wanna say quirky (as I am too I wear that term as a badge of honor) it made him so relateable cause who of us ever really fit in all the time. The amount of growth that Colin goes through it paced well and makes him almost as if he was a real person that you can't help but root for! The words of this story painted a picture that made it seem as if you where there and were able to go on this journey of self discovery and growth. I will also never ever look at a butterfly or squirrel or stick ever the same again! Thank you for the reminder that not everything is what it seems and the world is still so full of everyday magic and beauty!

Thank you again James for writing this and sharing it with the world!

Profile Image for Karen Kane.
15 reviews1 follower
March 10, 2020
Collin is such a wonderful little man, his only issue is that no one would accept him for who he was. Not his father, not his school, no adult or child around him. Not until his mother came back into his life. Then happiness flooded his life like he never knew. He found love, true love, happiness, acceptance, the bullies couldn't hurt him. Even teachers accepted him.

It was about finding your wings and as the book say being BRAVE. He also found heartache and anguish. Losing his true love so soon. She found her wings and became a butterfly. I know her sentiment. I too picked out my wings but never truly transformed. Instead of having them on my back I found a place on my chest to hold them. I hold my wings on my chest for all to see proudly if they look close enough but I am a butterfly, like Orenda, like a good dear friend told me. Collin is brave and strong even from the start. There was nothing ever wrong with him. He just had to find the right people that would accept him for who he was. Who he is. Which was perfect in every way shape and form. 1,063
Profile Image for Darla.
3,150 reviews446 followers
June 21, 2020
Collin counts letters. He is compelled to tell you how many letters are in every sentence that is directed to him. And he can do it quickly. He has to or those letters balloon up in his mind and start to suffocate him. As you can imagine, this compulsion singles him out for bullying. Collin's dad decides to send him to Minnesota to live with his mom on the Ojibwe reservation. One of the first people Collin meets is his next door neighbor Orenda. She captivates his heart and helps him learn life lessons. Not all is right with Orenda and her illness worsens in juxtaposition to the growth of Collin's strength in his new life. Full of magical realism and fascinating characters, this book will appeal to fans of John Green.

Thank you to McMillan (Feiwel & Friends) and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Tia.
850 reviews323 followers
March 24, 2021
The Brave was moderately well written. And I loved the relationship between Collin and his dog Seven. I also loved the relationship between Orenda and Foxy. But that is where my like ended. My biggest issue with this book is that it is not appropriate for the ages it is targeted at. (8-12) All of the age inappropriateness kept me from enjoying anything else in the story because I just kept thinking things like “why are two 12 year olds kissing and falling asleep together? why are they telling each other they love each other?” I am so glad that I read this before I gave it to my 10 year to read. It is not one that I will be passing on to my kids.
Profile Image for Amanda .
653 reviews13 followers
March 4, 2021
This book has all of the elements that make a middle grade book great: an underdog protagonist, a found family, true friendship, problems that appear to be insurmountable at first glance, and the ability to pull on the reader's heartstrings. Making me tear up gives the author bonus points.

Learning about Ojibwe customs and beliefs is something I haven't read before in middle grade, much less elsewhere. I can't wait to read Bird's next book. I'd highly recommend this one. A big thank you to Life Between Words.
Profile Image for Solly.
422 reviews30 followers
November 8, 2020
Ugh. I'm so upset!

I genuinely enjoyed so much of this book, especially the first half. And the first half set up things to be a light-hearted 'learn to love yourself even if you're different' narrative and then it just. Ugh. First, it turned sad, which I didn't expect and wasn't in the mood for, but that's not the book's fault. HOWEVER, I will never stop being mad that the whole beginning of the book sets up an acceptance narrative with stuff like "you're not broken" and "you don't need to be fixed" and stuff to end up with a magical cure to Collin's OCD.

Three stars only because Collin was an awesome protagonist and I loved the beginning, but honestly the magical cure to MC's mental illness/neurodiversity/disability trope always makes me feel heavy and wrong after finishing a book. It just affects me A LOT, and I kind of started to expect it about 2/3 in the book but I really wished it hadn't gone down that road.

Also would love to read reviews from disabled people on Orenda's disability because I wasn't sure what to think of that rep.

EDIT: I'm taking down another star because I thought about other stuff that bothered me *and* I was upset all evening yestersay after that ending and when I say upset I mean physical uneasy feeling of wrongness because of a trope in a book so I'd say it was almost a trigger.

Anyway two other things that bothered me. There's a side character that barely says anything but the MC spends the whole time interacting with them trying to determine if they're a boy or a girl. Didn't sit right with me as a non-binary reader. HOWEVER, it's only one scene so it's not a huge deal.

Other thing is very personal but like. There was so much love for the military in this book. In my head it's very American to have two side characters die in service and just be like "wow we can be proud they died for our country!!!" and then have on top of that a father figure in the military. I just. Really hate the military haha. So I was just like "oh yeah cute father-son dynamic now tell him your job is to kill people overseas how fun". I just have SUCH a hard time sympathizing with characters in the military if there isn't any in depth commentary on it in the book. Patriotism and pro-military rhethoric are WEIRD.

Anyway yeah the more I think about it the more I find things to dislike but I did enjoy the first half of the book and Collin was a really good MC with a fun voice but. So many details I disliked and the ending ruined it.
Profile Image for Tia Nicole.
56 reviews2 followers
March 19, 2020
Wow. I don’t know where to start with this book aside from those first three letters.

Collin is different from everyone he knows. He counts letters in the words people say. The struggle of finding yourself in a world where people laugh is a hard thing to do. When Collin’s dad sends him to live with his mom, he thinks it’s going to be the same thing there. But as soon as he arrives, Collin is embraced by acceptance from his mother and the neighbors around them. School is still hard, but when isn’t it?

Collin works so hard to find himself, but what do you do when finding yourself means losing others?

James Bird crafted and weaved a story so beautiful and loving. The amount of love that is poured onto these pages is evident from the very beginning. This book is more than just a story of finding yourself, but finding the acceptance along the way.

Thank you for writing this and for putting it out for all the world to read. I hope that you take the time to read this book, to grow with Collin, to cry with him and to love yourself the way that you are. Being brave isn’t being fearless, it’s about being afraid and still fighting for more.
Profile Image for Samantha (WLABB).
3,330 reviews231 followers
August 21, 2020
I found Collin's journey so touching. Before, he was living in California with his ill-equipped father and had little support. He was relentlessly singled out for his neurodiversity and considered himself "broken". The best thing to happen to Collin was being sent to live with the mother he never knew. She brought him into a whole new way of thinking and seeing the world. She lavished him with love and lessons, like a mother should, and I absolutely adored her. There, on the reservation, Collin had a great support system. Mom, Orenda, Foxy, Grandma, Ronnie -- they were all spectacular and I felt the warmth and love they exuded. I shed a lot of tears as I read this book, but I also found myself very proud of Collin as he embraced his new surroundings and worked to be a better version of himself.

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2,683 reviews50 followers
December 27, 2020
I finished this book ten weeks ago, but because I didn't have time to write the long and scathing review that I thought it deserved, I never got around to adding it to Goodreads. Now, I have made it my priority for this moment of Christmas break to tell the Internet how terrible this book is.

Even though this is supposedly a moving tale about "a boy with an OCD issue" who goes to live with his biological mother on a reservation, neither of those plot threads are handled well. Most readers loved this, but I can guarantee you that almost none, if any, of the high ratings come from people who have ever suffered from OCD. Secondly, even though this book provides a glimpse into Ojibwe culture, the story often stereotypes Native Americans more than it dispels stereotypes, because the main character's confusion and preconceived ideas about his mother's culture are only sometimes corrected.

Ultimately, the book seems to conclude that all of the negative stereotypes are false, while of the positive ones are true. This story portrays Native American culture as magical and spiritual in ways that may or may not actually connect to Ojibwe beliefs, and there is even a bizarre plot twist at the end where the boy finds out that his grandmother This came out of nowhere in an already weird and unbelievable book, and even though I don't want to criticize this if it actually resembles Ojibwe belief or practice, it's never clear when something in this book is based in Native American culture, rather than just being the author's fantasy.

Then there's the OCD element. The main character, Colin, feels compelled to count the number of letters in someone's speech whenever they talk to him, and must say the sum out loud. This problem creates conflict for him at home and school, and he has been kicked out of multiple schools because of it. This seems wildly unrealistic for the modern age, because even though it isn't surprising that this would get on people's nerves or make him a target for bullies, the rage and indignation that teachers feel over this is over-the-top, since he obviously has a mental health issue and isn't choosing to be disruptive. It's the twenty-first century, and he should get an IEP plan instead of being kicked out of school.

The number element isn't too distracting as it appears in dialogue throughout the book, but it is somewhat difficult to believe that Colin could possibly count letters and keep up. If he was a mathematical savant, I could buy it, but the book never indicates this, so it stretches credulity that he could possibly count every letter so quickly and automatically. The only solid, fully believable element of his OCD experience is the anxiety that he feels, and the rage that he feels when people try to provoke him and tease him without understanding the constant burden of suffering that he feels.

Also, it's key to understand that Colin must adjust to a new school because his father has gotten tired of trying to parent him, and has sent him off to live with his biological mother, whom he has never met. This significant personal trauma gets some degree of attention early on, but Colin moves on too quickly and too easily in his fascination with his mother's culture, and the author never addresses the real-life attachment problems and abandonment issues that anyone in Colin's situation would experience, and the over-the-top bullying that he experiences at school never gets addressed or resolved. This frustrated me, especially since the magical realism elements seemed to distract from and gloss over the trauma that Colin experienced.

The story also takes a turn for the worse as Colin gets to know a neighbor, who is a Native American Manic Pixie Dream Girl with terminal illness. The story plays coy about the fact that she is sick, but it's extremely obvious to the reader all along, even when Colin doesn't know what's going on, so I don't think that it's a spoiler to mention this. As he gets to know her, they fall in love, and even though he is literally all of twelve years old, he acts and talks like he's significantly older. I kept having to think of twelve-year-olds I know just to put this into context and fully realize how ridiculous this was.

His feelings and thoughts about his relationship are much too mature for his age, and even though physical contact never goes further than kissing, this makes for a weird and unbelievable part of the story as well, because the girl's incredibly protective father lets them kiss in front of him without the slightest concern. It's incredibly unrealistic. Certainly, some fathers may be totally fine with their twelve-year-old daughters kissing boys in front of them, but that would be unusual, and would require some character explanation for it. Here, the father is already so incredibly protective of his daughter, and even suspicious of Colin early on, that it's absurd that he's 100% fine with them kissing.

Even though it was already difficult for me to suspend any disbelief regarding this story line, it gets even weirder by the end.

This was already a total dumpster fire, as far as I was concerned, but then it got even worse. Colin had been skipping school to avoid bullying and personal attacks over his compulsive tic, and this supported the Manic Pixie Dream Girl storyline, because he could spend lots of time with her. However, his tic would ease up whenever it was convenient for the story, and it annoyed me that the author wasn't always consistent with it. Colin's anxiety would completely disappear when the author wanted to focus on something else, and even though this is fairly typical for books about OCD, it still annoyed me. Then, as the author tried to resolve this element of the story before wrapping things up, he made his representation of OCD even more unrealistic, unhelpful, and offensive.

This book is supposed to be a deep, powerful exploration of Ojibwe culture and mental health, but it failus on both counts. No one should read this with the expectation that they will learn anything real about OCD or how to deal with it. I went into this book knowing that the magical realism would probably not appeal to me, but I will read literally anything that claims to deal with OCD, and hoped that I would at least identify with and appreciate that element of the story. I did not. It was badly represented, and was always subservient to whatever plot element or theme the author thought was most important at a particular moment. I was very disappointed in this, and felt so strongly about it afterwards that I couldn't just slap a low rating on this book without explaining why it's terrible.

I am giving this book two stars instead of one because the writing style is beautiful and lyrical, but this story is memorable in all of the wrong ways, and is full of unbelievable and occasionally disrespectful elements. I would not recommend this to anyone who is looking for a convincing, realistic portrayal of OCD, and the author's magical realism approach muddles the Native American aspects. It is consistently difficult to determine when this story is reflecting actual Ojibwe beliefs and practices, versus exploring a fantastical situation that the author has imagined, and the story is a muddle of unbelievable elements, glossed-over trauma, strange magical realism, and a Terminally Ill Manic Pixie Dream Girl sequence that I am shocked so many readers were okay with.

I will never read this book again, and I would not recommend it to anyone. Even though OCD and Native American culture are both rare subjects for children’s literature to address, there are better books out there which actually resemble the experience of suffering from OCD or belonging to a particular Native American tribe. This book is primarily for people who don’t identify with either of these topics, and who just want to be swept away with the author’s prose and imagination.
Profile Image for Felecia.
Author 1 book14 followers
April 5, 2020
This middle grade book is a heartwarming and beautiful tale for readers of all ages. My 12 year old and I both agree. The Brave is the debut novel from filmmaker James Bird. The main character, Collin, is someone that we can all relate to. The journey he takes us on & the lessons we learn along with him are priceless. In a world where you can be anything, be brave. 💕💕💕

**thank you to the author for sending me an advanced copy***
Profile Image for Andy.
2,354 reviews176 followers
May 6, 2022
Ugh I don't know how to feel about this because it's literally a curing your disability story :/ Besides that, it takes heavily from Western stereotypes of Native people and doesn't actually depict Ojibwe culture and rituals realistically according to other ownvoices reviewers.

Rep: Biracial Ojibwe (half-white) cishet male MC with some form of OCD, white cishet alcoholic male side character, Ojibwe cishet female side character, Ojibwe cishet female side character with ALS, gay Ojibwe cis male side character, androgynous Ojibwe side character, Black-Ojibwe cishet male side character, various other Ojibwe side characters.

CWs: Bullying, ableism, curing disability, child death, chronic illness, terminal illness, death, mental illness, grief, abandonment, cultural appropriation. Moderate: Alcoholism, addiction, alcohol consumption, medical content, colonisation, panic attacks, past death of parent, past death of a sibling. Minor: sexual content between side characters, car accident (drove into trash bins, no injuries), mentions of active military combat.
Profile Image for Krista.
391 reviews994 followers
April 18, 2021
I think The Brave is well suited for older middle grade or even YA. Collin struggles with a counting compulsion that is not understood or accepted by the people in his life. He is bullied by not only the kids, but also the adults until his dad sends him to live with his mother on a Reservation in Minnesota. While there he is accepted and challenged to look at things from a different perspective. He finds family and makes friends.

I loved the character of Collin and the way he opens himself to love and acceptance. My favorite character might be the grandmother though. I loved her bits of wisdom and how she came and went freely through the story. I did feel like some of the characters were not quite as nuanced as others. The dad and mom were a bit flat - the dad seemed totally negative (until one brief conversation at the end) while the mom was a ray of light and seemed all good. I didn't love the mom's relationship with her boyfriend and the sexual undertones there I thought totally unnecessary and maybe not appropriate for a middle grade book.

Collin's friendship/relationship with Orenda had me raising my eyebrows a few times. I could understand Collin's quick obsession with her because he was so craving relationship after not receiving love for so long. But again I thought it was a bit to over-sexualized for a middle grade book. It came across as much more than just a crush or sweet first love.

Overall I thought The Brave was quite well written and had some great quotes. I became quite connected to Collin's character and his journey and enjoyed my reading experience.
Profile Image for Mrs Heidrich.
447 reviews17 followers
February 27, 2022
I had been planning on reading this for a while and then I was lucky enough to get an audiobook version from Libro.fm (Thank you!), so I started listening to it on my daily walks, but I couldn't stop when I got home. I don't remember the last book I read that made me cry, but this one certainly did! And that's not a bad thing at all!

This is a story about a boy named Collin who counts the letters when others are speaking. He has a difficult relationship with an alcoholic father and is eventually sent to live with his mother, who he knows basically nothing about, on a reservation in Minnesota. From the minute he gets there, there's this slow, beautiful unfolding of life and learning for him. This is a story of being different and learning what that means and how to overcome. It's about life, love, loss, friendship, family in the many senses of the word, identity, learning and growing and so very much more.

If you haven't read this beautifully written book, go get it now!!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
July 3, 2020
After spending 13 years on this earth bullied and unwanted, Collin finds the love and magic that he didn’t believe existed.

If you are struggling to find your place in this world, read this book. If you are struggling to see the beauty of the world, read this book. If you are struggling to see the magic of the world, read this book. If you need a good cry, read this book. If you are in need of an adventure, read this book. If you feel alone, unloved, or misunderstood, then this is the book for you.

This book made me feel every emotion. This book taught me a different way to view life. This story taught me to find the magic in ordinary, every day objects. This book is pure magic.

“When times get bad, don’t get sad-get mad”
Profile Image for Jylian.
3 reviews2 followers
March 16, 2020
To start, this book is hands down the most beautiful one I have read. It takes your breathe away and fills you with so many raw emotions, beautiful scenes, and pure love. James has such a talent for creating each character with their own unique personalities that you can easily fall in love with. This book is full of emotions, but in the best, most beautiful way possible. I can not wait for the world to be able to read this book and feel everything I did reading this masterpiece. To the next reader, I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Profile Image for Kelly Salcido.
4 reviews1 follower
March 16, 2020
This novel is so incredibly beautiful. A moving, and stunning piece of literature that has so much heart. I was so impressed with how relatable this piece of work is to all audiences. It is great for all ages! I hope they make this into a film. Thank you James Bird for writing this amazing novel and pouring your heart and soul on the page. I can’t wait to read it to my son.
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