I read the audiobook of Brave Face, written and narrated by Shaun David Hutchinson. Audiobooks are kind of my jam lately, and I’ve reviewed a few just in the past few weeks (White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson and Parachutes by Kelly Yang). I am in awe over the absolute courage that it must have taken Shaun (I feel I am on a first-name basis with the author after that gut-wrenching audiobook) to not only write Brave Face, but to also publish it for the whole world to read. And on top of that, he even narrates the audiobook.
I cannot express the strength it must have taken to do all this. Shaun’s experiences are incredibly personal, but I am so thankful to him for making them public. I have no doubt that this book has helped countless teens feel less alone. To hope that it can get better. To get the help they need.
AUTHOR: Shaun David Hutchinson
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
PUBLICATION DATE: May 21, 2019
SETTING: Florida, USA, 1990s
GIVE IT TO: teens and adults
Today, we know Shaun David Hutchinson as a prominent YA author. But in the 1990s, Shaun was an awkward teen struggling with identity, depression, and coming out. You’ll know right from the beginning that Shaun self-harms and attempts suicide.
THE SHORT VERSION
Excellent and necessary.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT BRAVE FACE BY SHAUN DAVID HUTCHINSON
The audiobook narration. Shaun reads the book as if he is talking to the reader personally. Hearing his voice tell his very personal story, helps readers connect with him on a deeper level.
I’ve never met Shaun David Hutchinson, but I know things about him now that are deeply personal. I cannot express how grateful I am for his strength and courage. It’s not an easy story to read, so I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to live, then to write, then to publish, then to narrate.
This is a must-read for teens. Many young people quietly struggle with depression, self-harm, thoughts of suicide. Many grapple with their sexuality and how to come out to their loved ones, who may or may not be supportive. They have to figure out how to find love while at the same time avoiding hate crimes against gays.
Even if the reader isn’t experiencing those things, this book will still help others see how lots of their peers struggle quietly. Most people’s lives are not as they appear, even if they have friends and a nice family and are involved in school activities. If I were still in the library, I’d be recommending this book hard.
The 90s references! Shaun says he graduated from high school in 1996, so he is only two or three years younger than I am. I remember the news story of the Jenny Jones Show murder. I remember Sunglasses Hut and hanging out at the mall and Ms. Field’s Cookies. He mentions music and movies that I remember, too.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT BRAVE FACE
Hmm…that’s a tough one because these are the real-life experiences of another person. I was a little disappointed that we never heard anything else about Dante. But that’s real, right? We never heard about Dante because Shaun never heard about Dante. He was probably disappointed, too. I’m sure he has his own regrets there. Or, if he did meet up with Dante again, he’s kept that part of his story private.
Shaun is white and American, and it seems most of his friends, family, and classmates are also white and American. His boss at Sunglasses Hut is Brazilian. Shaun’s older brother is a gay male, as are several other minor characters.
Love the cover! The clothes the boy (presumably Shaun) wears on the cover are an important part of his story. He wears this exact outfit as a statement in the book.
LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW
Themes: identity, coming out, depression, self-harm, suicide, 1990s, theater, drama, writers, teens at work, high school, college
Would adults like this book? YES! Adults will appreciate the 1990s references and Shaun’s brutal honesty.
Would I buy this for my high school library? 100% yes. I would probably buy more than one copy so that I could recommend it often.
Would I buy this for my middle school library? I would not except maybe for mature 8th graders. The content is mature for middle school.
Language: Since I listened to the audiobook, I don’t remember specific 4-letter profanity, but I do remember plenty of homophobic language.
Sexuality: Shaun’s sexuality is a major theme of the story. Kissing, blow jobs, and consensual, coerced, and recreational sex all happen. Shaun also looks at a Playgirl magazine, and some of the photos are described.
Violence: multiple instances of self harm (cutting); one suicide attempt
Drugs/Alcohol: cigarette smoking, mentions of drinking and drugs in the last part of the book
Other: depression, mental illness
BOOKTALK OR DISPLAY THIS WITH:
Have you read Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson? What did you think?