[Book Review] Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park

It was a bike accident. His tire just hit a rock. And he skidded into the back of a passing truck. And that was it.

When her brother, Mick, is killed, Phoebe Harte's world is suddenly turned upside down. How could someone like Mick die?!? Mick was one of the neatest kids you'd ever want to meet--the kid who freaked his mom out by putting a ceramic eye in a defrosted chicken; who went trick-or-treating as Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the modern-day flush toilet; who did a wild solo dance in front of the whole school because "the music got in his pants." And the kid who, if he'd only worn his bike helmet, would still be alive now...

Mick Harte Was Here turned out to be one of those books I just shouldn't have reread, and I am almost too disappointed for words.

Back in eighth grade, I had a two-period block of English; the first period was dedicated to writing and language skills while the second focused on reading comprehension and literary analysis. In this later period, the teacher liked to set aside maybe five or ten minutes at the end of class to read a non-curriculum novel aloud. We spent most of the year slowly chipping away at The Princess Bride (and yes, we watched the movie when we finally finished), but we also squeezed in at least one other. One of those books was Mick Harte Was Here, a very short novel--less than a hundred pages long--about an eighth grade girl's grief over her younger brother's unexpected death.

I mostly forgot about the book after eighth grade; the extent of my memory was that we'd read a book about a girl who, after her brother's death, reminisces about the time he told their parents that a monkey had carved the word "FAЯT" in their freshly-paved driveway. So when Mick Harte Was Here popped up in my Goodreads recommendations a year or so ago, I was totally shocked; I never thought I'd find that book again. Or even recognize it if I stumbled across it.

But yesterday, I finally sat down to reread it. It was definitely a mistake.

As it turns out, there's a reason I only remember the monkey scene. From there, it's all downhill. See, I've got a bit of a pet peeve for religious/spiritual themes in fiction, and whoa boy is Mick Harte Was Here a religious book. I definitely remembered that it was a book about grief, but if I'd remembered that it was a book about specifically Christian grief, I wouldn't have touched this thing with a ten-foot pole. I have zero interest in reading about a person's struggle to keep their faith in the light of tragedy. That theme does not appeal to me in any way, shape, or form, and frankly, I am horrified that this book was read in a secular public school with multi-faith attendance. What the hell was my teacher thinking?

Now, don't get me wrong. If you're into the idea of a MG book that addresses grief through a Christian perspective, this is definitely a spectacular book for you. It's well-written, it's emotionally poignant, and it's hilarious. It's just not for me. Highly recommended to any Christian children who might need some help getting through the loss of a family member... but definitely not recommended to members of other faiths, apatheists/agnostics, or atheists/antitheists.

I'm really quite disappointed.

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