The Thing I’m Most Afraid Of

Putnam. Jun. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525518648.
Gr 5 Up–In this historical novel set in 1993, fears and anxieties are taking over 12-year-old Becca Greenburg’s life. She has understanding (divorced) parents who support her and her therapist’s goals for conquering her severe anxiety. A summer trip to stay with her relocated father in Vienna, Austria, is not what Becca had in mind. There she meets Felix, another 12-year-old with his own worries. Over the course of the summer, they are guided through the city by Sara, a Bosnian refugee from Sarajevo. Sara has her own fears since her mother and younger brother were left behind in Sarajevo, under attack by the oppressive Serbians. As Becca and Felix overcome their fears (different foods, crowds, bicycles, making friends, etc.), they learn that having and being a support for others builds inner strength. After a harrowing detention for Sara, they help her because their love creates family. They attend a historic pro-refugee rally to protest against a growing fear-driven, Austria-first sentiment. By supporting Sara’s search for her family, Becca focuses on others’ bigger fears and concerns. Her anxieties do not vanish, but she learns how to live in spite of them.
VERDICT A slice of history that echoes another country’s struggle with anti-immigrant sentiment.

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