If You Read This

If you read this book cover


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Book Review

Before she died, Brie’s mama would surprise Brie with adventures and treasure hunts. And now as Brie turns 12, she receives a box from Mama filled with clues to one last secret hunt.

Plot Summary

When Brie was little, her world revolved around her mama. Mama laughed loudly. She played loudly. And the two of them would set off on boisterous adventures together; treasure hunts that would last all day.

But then cancer drained away Mama’s loudness and life. And it eventually took the loving woman away altogether.

Brie’s existence in the three years since has been so very quiet. Her dad loves her, she knows that. But he’s a man consumed with work at the Jamaican resort that he manages. And though her aged Nana tries to give the same kind of love as Brie’s exuberant and sometimes slightly embarrassing mama, it just isn’t the same.

Today, however, is Brie’s 12th birthday. And Brie gets an unexpected new shot of Mama’s love. She receives a very special present: a gift-wrapped box containing three letters.

Brie only wishes that the box held hundreds, thousands of letters filled with her mother’s words and love. But three will do. They’re letters that no one has ever read; messages written, wrapped and intended for her 12th birthday and her eyes alone.

Upon reading letter No. 1, however, the young Jamaican girl is surprised by something much bigger than some nice tenderhearted words. Mama has left her a clue to one final adventure she had planned. And indeed, this is a true treasure hunt. For Mama promises that if Brie will follow the clues and go where Mama hopes her to go, she will unlock a secret.

Each letter read at the appropriate time and place will take Brie a step closer to a promised wonder. And it will be like, once again, she and Mama are stepping out, hand-in-hand, for something shared and exciting.

There are hidden places to find and a lost key to discover. But first, Brie must convince her work-focused dad to join her. And that might be the most difficult step of them all.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Brie’s grandfather, Brim, is a man who believes wholeheartedly in the magical properties of imagination and wonder. And though he’s now elderly, senile, and not often in Brie’s life, his attitudes and efforts had a huge impact on Brie’s mother.

Brim spent years of his life creating a home built into some rocky cliffs on the island. It’s a place with hallways painted like waterfalls and rooms decorated like forests, descending stone stairways and hidden-away areas. They called it Brim’s Island.

With her mother’s help, Brie is brought back to that place of joy and secrets to explore more of its mysteries.

Authority Roles

Brie’s dad loves her, but it takes a lot to break through his stern exterior to the warmer, more carefree feelings he has seemingly bottled up. In fact, Dad’s work focus causes Brie a great deal of consternation. When she first shares the first letter with him, he wants to put the adventure off to a later date and asks her what she thinks about that. In response, Brie doesn’t say anything but she thinks some angry words: “I think you suck. I think you’re always letting me down. I think that if I ran away, you would never notice. You wouldn’t care.” (Brie also makes some choices that are a bit rebellious and could have caused harm if they went awry.)

Brie’s Aunt Elsa and Uncle Julius, however, are much easier to reach. And they readily step up to help Brie in her quest. In fact, Julius is a bit childlike in his approach to life. He always wants to look for the fun. It endears him to family members, but it clashes at times with Dad’s sterner ways.

Nana (Dad’s mother) is a caring woman who tries to carry on Mama’s traditions and help the family, but she’s usually a little grumpy in the midst of the efforts.

Lastly, Brim is kept in a house designed to care for the elderly. And because of his cognitive decline, he’s often glazed and distant. But during breakthrough moments, we see the joy for life that Brie’s mother adored.

It should also be noted that two of Brie’s friends, Smiley and Femi, join in the quest. They’re supportive friends who both encourage Brie when things aren’t always falling into place as she hoped.

Profanity & Violence

No profanity or alcohol.

The family rents a rickety bus. And Nana drives the vehicle at one point, careening through the streets in dangerous ways that has everyone sitting on the edge of their seats.

Sexual Content

While visiting Brim’s Island, Brie and her friends meet up with a boy who Brie used to play with when they were little. Smiley instantly thinks this guy is pretty cute. She flirts with him and later talks about maybe asking him to a school dance.

Discussion Topics

Have you ever felt a little angry when your parents or friends didn’t do things the way you wanted them to? Have you considered that they have good reasons, or tried to look at things from their perspective?

Take a look at Deuteronomy 5:16. How do you think this Scripture applies to the questions above? How then do you think you should deal with angry feelings about things not going your way?

Have you ever thought about having a special place where you can be alone to think and pray? Do you have one? What would be the benefit of a place like that? If you don’t have one, how would you find one?

Brie’s mom and grandfather both shared a mutual excitement about the magical side of using your imagination and finding the adventuring wonder in life. Do you think that’s a positive attitude to have? How can you nurture that focus in yourself and share it with others?

Get free discussion question for books at focusonthefamily.com/magazine/thriving-family-book-discussion-questions.

Additional Comments

If You Read This is a very nice story that not only deals with loss of the ones we love (through death or illness) but delights in embracing memories and holding fast to loving family members who are with us now. The book also deals a bit with growing up, healing relationships and forgiving others who we believe have wronged us.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose