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Pub Date 30 Jun 2022 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2022

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Hazel has never felt normal. Struggling with OCD and anxiety, she isolates herself from others and sticks to rigid routines in order to cope with everyday life. But when she forms an unlikely friendship with Virginia, a church minister, Hazel begins to venture outside her comfort zone. Having rebuilt her own life after a traumatic loss, Virginia has become the backbone of her community, caring for those in need and mentoring disadvantaged young people. Yet a shock accusation threatens to unravel everything she has worked for. Told with warmth, compassion and gentle humour, 'Braver' is an uplifting story about the strength that can be drawn from friendship and community.

Hazel has never felt normal. Struggling with OCD and anxiety, she isolates herself from others and sticks to rigid routines in order to cope with everyday life. But when she forms an unlikely...

Advance Praise

A heart-warming book about how you can change your life, and that of those around you, when you fight your fears and stand up for what is right. Jenkins shows us the world through the eyes of someone who blossoms in the company of new friends she literally crashes into. A wonderful story which shows us how it feels to be different and still accepted’ — Debbi Voisey, author of Only About Love

‘Deborah Jenkins’ wonderfully uplifting novel deftly captures the impact of fear, guilt, loneliness and shame on the lives of her characters and then generously touches them with the healing power of friendship and acceptance, enabling them to become braver. Utterly human, and deeply compassionate’ — Loree Westron, author of Missing Words

‘A charming, lyrical read for fans of good fiction that combines skilful writing with a story that makes you feel hopeful.’ — Fran Hill, author of Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?

A heart-warming book about how you can change your life, and that of those around you, when you fight your fears and stand up for what is right. Jenkins shows us the world through the eyes of someone...

Available Editions

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ISBN 9781914148132
PRICE $15.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 28 members

Featured Reviews

Set in London in recent times, this novel's clear, unpretentious style draws the reader in. Small moments of felicitous expression, often about quite ordinary things, bring the setting to vibrant life.
The principals - Harry, Hazel and Virginia, three very different people - are presented with acute understanding and empathy. As also with the minor characters, there is no flinching from the real darknesses and pain in people's lives, past and present, nor from current crises; but over all there is heart and hope, loyalty, sympathy, generosity and encouragement. This story is a tribute to the liberating power of kindness and friendship, and a delightful read.

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Hazel is a Teaching Assistant who struggles with anxiety, OCD and is on the autistic spectrum. Virginia is a church minister who gives her life to help other people and as a result of not following safeguarding rules carefully enough, is falsely accused of abusing a young person. Harry is a teenage boy navigating the challenging waters of having an alcoholic, manipulative mum to deal with at home and bullies at school. All three characters find themselves mixed up in Virginia's accusation in one way or another, along with a delightfully rag tag bunch of unique individuals from Virginia's local church who all pull together in a brilliant way to support Virginia at her lowest point.

I absolutely loved this novel. The characterization is so rich, the characters so empathetic and lovable, and the journeys that our three protagonists go on are so emotionally satisfying. In addition, the values of bravery, love and acceptance leave you with a warm feeling on the inside. Jenkins doesn't shy away from tackling difficult issues, but does so in such a hope-filled, honest way. You come away from the book feeling ready to take on your own giants!

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Some days we need a book that’s open-hearted and uncynical, and Deborah Jenkins’ novel Braver is just that – a warm and generous story of unlikely friendships that I read in one big gulp because I couldn’t put it down.

Jenkins’ three main characters, Hazel, Harry and Virginia, couldn’t be more different, and she creates their voices beautifully, cleverly twining their plots together so that we see what they can’t, carrying us along with them as they discover their own strengths, and the supportive arms of the community around them, as they face what feel like impossible challenges. You’d have to be a hard-hearted reader indeed not to love them and to wish you had friends as generous and kind as theirs.

Jenkins writes despair beautifully, in phrases such as “Time hangs in clumps around the flat”, and in her description of Virginia’s not knowing what to do with herself as life goes on for everyone else even as hers seems to be falling apart. But she’s gently funny too, juxtaposing unlikely characters, catching their voices and their small actions, deftly creating a whole community of individuals.

Not everything is rosy in the garden of Braver: its characters deal with alcoholism, accusations of abuse, mental illness, loss, bullying and fear, but this is a novel of hope and love and the value of friends and community when everything seems bleak. When I finally put it down, I had a smile on my face.

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What a read! A story that highlights how important it is to be part of a supportive community, with characters that have difficulties, problems and history that are part of most people’s lives to a greater or lesser extent. It revolves around three main characters, Virginia, Hazel and Harry, and their involvement in a single incident; as it is unfolds through the revealing of their individual stories and the other characters who become their friends, it becomes increasingly difficult to put down as you want to know how it will all link together and how it will end.
Thoroughly recommend it.

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This was absolutely delightful. The plot was well-paced and captivating from start to finish. The characters were well-developed and intriguing. I highly recommend this fun and quick read! Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book.

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Review of ‘Braver’ by Deborah Jenkins

(ARC copy via Netgalley)

Hazel is a young woman with a lot of problems. She is fearful of a world she doesn’t understand, a world full of people who don’t like her, and situations that will show up her inadequacies. She protects herself as best she can with chocolate and box sets and routines, and does her best to ignore the loneliness.

What she doesn’t realise is that other people are struggling just as much, in their own way, even the ones who seem so strong and confident. Virginia and Harry and Jas and Foxy and others… all with issues from the past and problems in the present.

The author’s skill is shown by the easy, natural way in which these characters are introduced to us, and to Hazel. There are no clumsy information dumps, just a weaving together of lives, of stories, into a community, a family, of people who are there for each other.

To hold together under the pressures that life throws at them sometimes needs courage - but we see what Hazel learns: that together, we can be braver.

Beautifully written, ‘Braver’ is realistic about the dark side of life, but brings hope into the darkness. Jenkins does this with a deep understanding of people and how they interact with each other, as well as a wry and well informed view of how institutions like churches and schools actually work. Or sometimes, don’t!

She also has a smooth flow of words and an often lyrical turn of phrase which add a poetic beauty to the narrative. London, for instance, ‘throbs with life, its steady pulse invigorated by caffeine and the desire to arrive’ .
Or the description of a bus ‘at the junction quivering with impatience’.

Overall, a gently powerful book which was both a joy and an encouragement to read. Highly recommended.

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Ever since I first came across Deborah Jenkins's writing, I have basked in its elegant, pellucid style. I loved her novella, "The Evenness of Things" and I follow her blog, delighting in the beautiful descriptiveness of her writing. When I heard she was writing a novel, I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. I wasn't disappointed. "Braver" is wonderful. I have fallen in love with Virginia, Hazel and Harry and I didn't want their stories to end. Several times, I was on the edge of my seat, willing them to do the right thing or escape from a perilous situation. The author's use of language is stunning. One phrase in particular made me gasp with joy and read it four or five times until the words sank in. I wish I'd written it. "The Thames curls behind them, a fat ribbon dipped in glitter." So elegant, so pleasing, so beautiful.

It's hard to weave faith into a narrative, Many try and fail, but this author has a light touch and has succeeded in writing about church, belief and community in a way which is never preachy or dull. This is the kind of book which will become an old friend, being reached down from its shelf, read and reread, recommended to friends until it is wrinkly and tea-stained, just as a good book should be. I loved it. Truly. And that this is a debut novel makes it all the more astounding. I recommend it to you, hand on heart. I was given an ARC copy but was under no obligation to provide a favourable review.

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Braver focuses on the stories of three individuals:
Hazel, a young woman who is fairly isolated, struggling with OCD and anxiety
Harry, a teenage boy with an alcoholic mother, also facing bullying at school
Virginia, a minister who has suffered tragic loss and who is accused of inappropriate behaviour with a minor
The three stories coincide in a way that testifies to the power of community and points to hope in the midst of life's challenges.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Each of the characters was likeable and well-painted, and the book pointed to hope in a way that was uplifting but realistic. I also appreciated the way Christianity is presented in a positive light without being at all preachy.
I'd highly recommend this book and I hope to read more from the author.

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The novel ‘Braver’ is like a luxury hot chocolate for the soul – something you want to keep drinking, and which warms your heart and nourishes you with hope.

Hazel is a minister with problems in the present, and a past Jenkins skilfully introduces in intriguing chunks at the right moments. Hazel is a Primary School TA, juggling a variety of challenges alone until she literally bumps into Hazel’s community. Harry is a troubled teen brilliantly portrayed and with a background that makes us all want to care for him, as Hazel does. The stories interact so seamlessly and effortlessly.

Jenkins is a masterful storyteller AND an ingenious creator of characters. I have read so many stories where one is sacrificed for the other; here both plot and characterisation are expertly handled making this a read I didn’t want to put down. When the final page appeared, I didn’t want to read it as I wanted to dwell with the characters for longer and not have to face the fact that I had finished this incredible read. I want more novels from Jenkins and I want more about these characters’ lives.

Jenkins writing itself is beautiful, with some striking turns of phrase that have you gasping with the sheer creativity of her imagination. What a stunning debut novel – go and buy it immediately!

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I loved reading Braver. Right from the onset I was drawn into the storyline and gradually given glimpses into the lives of the characters, all very different and all facing their own very individual challenges. The main character Hazel is developed with empathy, I was given a window into her thinking and decision making which was fascinating. The subjects tackled are difficult and complex, but the author handles them with sensitivity that draws you in. There are moments of humour that lightened but never belittled the story and the sharp descriptions give clarity and added depth. The pace was just right and keep me reading. Life’s messiness is portrayed in a way that shows how love and friendship can bring hope and healing and just how powerful community can be. Braver carries a thread of hope which is so needed in our lives today. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to more from the author.

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I loved Braver, right from the start I was drawn into the lives of the three main characters:
Virginia a minister who is dealing with major grief and has been accused of a safeguarding issue with a youth she is supporting
Hazel a teaching assistant who suffers with anxiety and OCD
Harry who is being bullied at school and has an alcoholic mother.
One early morning a single incident throws their lives together and within all their personal difficulties and problems, friendship grows. This is a story about the power of community and how hope can be found within the messiness of life. A compelling read!

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'Braver' is compelling reading right from the start, with its exploration of the impact of a misconduct accusation against a minister. Drawn in by precise, evocative prose, and intriguing, complex characters, I read it through in a day, wanting to know how it would turn out, and again a few days later, slower, in order to enjoy it.
Although Deborah's writing has a poetic beauty at times, and her depictions of the impact of grief and bullying, and of the struggle to deal with mental issues such as OCD, are descriptive and insightful, it is her finely-drawn, unusual characters and their struggles, who make the novel so powerful. Virginia is a minister of a successful, inclusive church in outer London, whose passion to help the lonely, vulnerable and lost is threatened by the unexpected accusation. The impact spreads to affect a young lad, Harry, as he struggles against bullies and an appalling home. But it is Hazel, a young teaching assistant who is drawn into the situation, who is the most memorable character. Her struggles to deal with her difficulties (OCD, slight autism, mental issues) are told with calm precision in an empathetic but unsentimental voice, giving an insight into another, unknown, life – which is what the best fiction does.
The novel is threaded through with acute observations of the world and beautiful descriptions . I particularly loved the line "there's an eyelash of the moon as if God (if there is one) is having a lie-in". But one of Deborah's strengths is describing how it feels to be broken. There is absolute honesty here, with no evangelical sugar-coating and no easy answers. With its themes of grief, brokenness, bullying, fear and bravery, and the redemptive potential of friendship and community, I highly recommend this book.

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Deborah Jenkins has written a moving story of a blossoming friendship between three flawed and hurting people. I found the main character, Hazel, very easy to identify with as she honestly described her struggles with loneliness and an overwhelming lack of confidence. Through her relationships with Harry, Virginia - who has her own difficulties to face - and others, Hazel's perceptions of herself are gently challenged.

The author has a real gift for taking the reader into the heart of the scene. Deft descriptions of the surroundings drew me in, and I found myself engrossed by the company of a wide range of characters whose intertwined lives create the backdrop to this story. Jenkins doesn't shy away from delving into more complex issues, but this was done with sensitivity and skill. Hoping very much to hear more from this author!

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Hazel is a neurologically diverse young woman with anxiety and OCD, struggling to hold down her job as a teaching assistant before returning to her lonely flat each night to binge on chocolate and Netflix. Then one day she stumbles, literally, into Virginia, a local minister and one of her proteges, 15-year-old Harry, and her life begins to change. Slowly Hazel discovers that not everyone has the straightforward, happy life she imagines them to lead.
Virginia, Harry and the other friends she gradually makes all have their own life challenges. With an alcoholic mother, the odds are stacked against Harry, and Virginia, in particular, must face her own demons when confronted with a dreadful charge against her.
What an inspiring and heart-warming story! The characters are the lynchpin of the narrative and you'll instantly warm to Hazel, Virginia and Harry, each all the more appealing for their flaws. The tension of Virginia and Harry's situations move the plot along at a perfect pace,
As the title suggest, the theme here is bravery. In a life already blighted by tragedy, Virginia must find the courage to pick herself up once more, while Harry needs to find the strength to stand up to his mother.
But it's Hazel you'll be cheering on most as she battles to be brave in a world that truly frightens her.
The perfect read for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and Hope Nicely, this is a book that will make you laugh through your tears and leave you with a warm glow in your heart. I loved it.

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‘It’s a drab day with a sky the colour of lead and the kind of spring chill that makes you sulk. Of course it is.’

I read Braver as a review copy, keeping an open mind as this is not a genre I would normally choose. Braver, however, has turned this around, demonstrating the power of a simple story involving seemingly unremarkable people. It’s told with a powerful intelligence and absolute conviction of people’s inner strengths and had me hooked from the start.

The story revolves around three ordinary individuals, for whom everyday life is compromised by traumatic events and lingering fears: Hazel’s acute anxiety, Harry’s home and school life, and Virginia’s struggles with her past and burdens of the present.

The characters are deftly crafted, evolving as the novel progresses from the roots of their differing pasts. Each is treated with empathy and respect, and without judgement, letting them speak for themselves.
Hazel’s anxiety is particularly well handled, especially considering such a complex range of difficulties. However, all the characters stand out as engaging and beautifully human individuals.

Deborah Jenkins writes with a light touch, illuminating the story and characters through moments of brilliant imagery. Through her skill and elevated prose she roots the reader in the tender reality of the everyday.

A study in humanity, Braver is an unadulterated joy to read.

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