In Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave by Jen White, Liberty is trying desperately to care for her eight-year-old sister, Billie. Liberty herself is only twelve and it has been a very difficult few months. When Billie and Liberty's mom dies suddenly, they don't know what they will do. When the father they haven't seen or heard from for years shows up with his camper and the promise of adventure, they hope that everything will work out as they had always dreamed. Unfortunately, their need for bravery is not done yet. When the two girls are left alone at a dilapidated old gas station in the middle of nowhere, Liberty is determined to get them safely back home. Her avid interest in animal behavior inspires her to adopt the survival strategies of all the different species she has studied.
Survival, and avoiding anyone she thinks might try to hurt or separate the two girls, becomes more adventure than they had planned. Secretly stowing away in two different vehicles, sleeping in lounge chairs at a hotel pool, running from the bullying older brother of a boy who tries to help them, rats... these things all keep the girls on their toes. Along the way, they cross paths with so many different characters, most of whom are assigned interesting descriptive names by Liberty: Star Wars Kid, Tattoo Guy, Pirate Doctor, Lavender Lady, Caterpillare Eyebrows, Apron Lady, Gray Guy. These are the things that help the reader remember that Liberty is only twelve-years-old and doing her best in an impossible situation.
This book stressed me out. I was so worried about what would happen to these poor little girls. The anxiety and pressure that Liberty felt was well translated to the reader. Even before her mother dies, Liberty is too aware of their family situation and their financial struggles. The sense of responsibility she feels toward her sister is really too much for a child, but perhaps the value of this is in relating that not all children live idyllic lives. On television and in movies, everything may appear to work out easily for the characters and maybe a book like this is necessary for children to understand that everyone doesn't have it better than they do. In that respect, it was successful.