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In the months following the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, fourteen-year-old Joshua, a half Native American boy, is new to a Boy Scout troop and spending a week camping in northern Wisconsin. The weaker kids in the troop soon realize Joshua is not afraid to stand up to the troop’s ruthless bullies. Joshua’s bravery and kindness is infectious, and the bullied Scouts quickly find their own inner strength.
Joshua, however, is plagued by self-doubt as he realizes he has feelings for Cody, the son of the troop’s harsh and puritanical Scoutmaster. The two discover they have more in common than Scouting as they share their deepest secrets and develop a close friendship. That friendship faces its greatest challenge as the homophobic bullies claim a “faggot” has “infected” their troop. As if struggling to come to terms with his sexuality while dealing with hatred and bigotry isn’t enough, Joshua discovers the camp holds another dark mystery, one that will make him summon all his courage and learn for the first time what it truly means to be brave.
A Scout is Brave incorporates so many of the things I enjoy about reading, including a favorite trope: young people learning about themselves and exploring new romantic relationships. There was also a hefty dose of mystery, some Native American mysticism, and a whole lot of bad-guy-goes-crazy-bad.
Despite all that, I had a seriously hard time connecting with the book, mainly due to the way it’s written. The story itself is stiff and formal. Throughout, the author tells the reader about various character’s mindsets and feelings, and even their daily activities, in such rote ways that it’s nearly boring.
I found the frequent POV changes to be frustrating (I’m not even talking by the chapter, but from paragraph to paragraph). It wasn’t confusing in terms of knowing who was thinking/talking, it was simply irritating to follow all the jumps, and it held me back from connecting with any one character.
What I appreciated most was how the author addressed bullying, before a time when bullying was a hot-button issue. MCs Joshua, Cody, and a handful of their friends endured some merciless taunting and harassment at the hands of a few of their fellow Boy Scouts, and at a time when homosexuality in the Scouts wasn’t quite the issue it is now. See how that flip-flopped? Pretty brilliant, honestly.
I thought the friendship between Joshua and Cody set up in a natural way, but I didn’t buy into their romantic connection. The concept of romance in this novel is a stretch, too. I wasn’t looking for porn here (this is YA after all!), but some UST would have been fine and dandy.
I thought the Native American aspects of the story were intriguing, and I liked that Joshua took the time to educate his new friends about those parts of his heritage, so bonus points there.
I didn’t realize before I started reading that A Scout is Brave is part of a series, and I haven’t read the other (first) story in the series, which introduces Joshua’s character. Thankfully, I didn’t feel lost or confused while I was reading, so you’re okay to buy this as a standalone. One last observation on my end: the novel has a fairly shocking ending. If I decide to continue reading, I’ve got to hope the story will pick up from there and head somewhere slightly more positive.