Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, A Strange Kind of Brave, Orion Children’s Books, August 2019, 240 pp., RRP $15.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781510104129
A Strange Kind of Brave is a thrilling and powerful story, the latest from Irish author Sarah Moore Fitzgerald.
A Strange Kind of Brave is set in the drab village of Clanfedden which is falling into crumbling obscurity and economic ruin. Clanfedden’s community spirit is being stifled by a business bully, the elusive but ever-present hulk of Jake McCormack.
Luca is fourteen and he and his mother are new arrivals in town with the ambition to start a new business and a new life. Luca’s mother brings ghosts from her past summers spent in Clanfedden as a teenager. Luca is also haunted by the spectre of recent events at his old school. When Luca meets a new friend Allie Redmond, things seem to be good. As Allie and Luca learn to trust each other, the peril of just simply making friends in this troubled town becomes very frightening.
Fitzgerald shows in A Strange Kind of Brave that she knows how to use every page of a novel to keep readers hooked. It wasn’t a surprise to learn that Fitzgerald is a Creative Arts Professor and teaches writing and the psychology of learning and teaching. I found myself so compelled to read this novel that I hid under a tree at lunchtime at my children’s Sport’s Day just to experience a few more pages of the story!
What I really enjoyed about A Strange Kind of Brave is that it shows that bullying has more than one dimension. There are sensitive explorations of the different elements of power that emerge through bullying. Although the story centres around Luca, Fitzgerald also manages to highlight that bullying is very much part of the adult world too. Bullying is shown beyond being school centred as a complex behaviour that influences the societal, financial, psychological and the physical dynamics of life. A Strange Kind of Brave helps us to see that being brave looks and feels different for everyone. The very decisions and actions of being brave in facing bullies are not simple.
There is possibility for deeper study as a classroom novel, but A Strange Kind of Brave is also an unforgettably good reader’s pleasure choice. Exploring the complexity of teen-friendships, parental relationships and bullying within the dynamics of a small community, A Strange Kind of Brave is fantastic storytelling, aimed at readers aged twelve and above.
Reviewed by Angela Brown