Starting middle school brings all the usual challenges – until the unthinkable happens, and Fern and her family must find a way to heal.
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. Her dad is always busy planning how to increase traffic to the family business. Her Mom is constantly going off to meditate. Her sister Sarah, who’s taking a “gap year” after high school, is too busy finding ways not to work; and her brother Holden is too focused on his new “friend” to pay attention to her. And then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, and the center of everyone’s world.

If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s best and oldest friend, there would be nowhere to turn. Ran is always calm, always positive. His mantra “All will be well” is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe.

But when their lives are unexpectedly turned upside down, Fern feels more alone than ever, and responsible for the event that wrenches the family apart. All will not be well. Or at least, all will never be the same.

It’s story time here on Letters Inside Out, because you all know I love my stories (plus some of you have said you do too…I <3 you.) Last night I was sick, nothing major I just felt crummy and couldn’t sleep. I stalked my shelves for something “light and fun”. I picked up See You At Harry’s without reading the synopsis, based solely on the cover. I had forgotten what it was about since I had originally gotten it. I proceeded to start and while it wasn’t as happy as I had originally thought – it was amazing! I kept reading…and reading, until I finished 3 hours later. (With a minor little break in there, that I’ll explain in a few.)

I’ve heard these people saying books need ratings – maybe I need ones with emotional ratings. Not so much for content…just to be prepared. Obviously, I loved it. I finished it within a few hours, but I’m left this devestated mess. I have a feeling I’m going to be haunted forever.

See You at Harry’s is the story of Fern and her family. Her dad has become a slight workaholic, but he means well. Her mom is wonderful, but slightly stressed and distracted. Her sister, Sara, is lonely, because all of her friends have gone off to college and she opted to take the year off. Holden (<3) is discovering himself and trying to come to terms with his sexuality. And three years earlier their parents announced a “surprise” baby, Charlie. He’s the typical little brother who loves his sister. She finds him annoying, but what big sister doesn’t? (Plus each of the kids is named after a book character – how can you not love that?!?!)

Knowles has managed to capture and develop each character so amazingly. Sure, See You at Harry’s is focused on Fern, but there is just so much happening to everyone. I fell in love with this family, their friends, and their coworkers.

Twelve is one of those ages where everything is so major, from having to star in a commercial with her family to a tragedy that strikes midway though. (Tissues!!!) I have to admit, at the midway point I didn’t know if I could finish the book. I got on Twitter and vented a bit. Then I tried to go back to sleep, but it kept haunting me. So, up I went and back to the pages. Due to the happenings, everything from that point on is kind of bittersweet. It’s the type of book that if it had a “happily ever after” ending it would take away from the power of the book.

I have to admit, I typically don’t read middle grade. Much for the same reason a lot of people claim to dislike YA. I’ve always wanted to try to find one that sticks out for me, See You at Harry’s is that book. I think that Knowles developing each character added to that, because there’s an entire family at different stages of their life.

If you are wanting to try MG, have loved it in the past, or just are in the mood for a good cry – check out See You at Harry’s.