Think back to the early 1900’s when cars were just becoming popular, the Wright brothers were opening their pilot school, segregation still existed, and women didn’t yet have the right to vote. All of these describe the setting in Holly Moulder’s newest historical novel for young people, A Time to be Brave. While I feel that too many issues were crowded into a story of less than 200 pages, I did enjoy reading about the adventures of best friends Theo and Macie in this time period.
A historical setting that I don’t see often enough is that of the suffragette movement. Not only does thirteen-year-old Macie hear about the fight for women to vote, she finds herself pulled into the drama. Her mother’s photo ends up on the front page of the local newspaper due to her active role in the movement. In addition, when Macie’s mother takes her to hear a feminist speaker, the two of them are among those arrested.
Prejudice of another kind also rears its head in A Time to be Brave. A group known as The Night-Riders spreads terror through Montgomery, Alabama. Twelve-year-old Theo suspects they are responsible for his dad’s death. He knows that they’re guilty of beating up his school teacher and driving him out of town. They might also have caused Macie’s grandfather to have his horse accident. Unfortunately, Theo doesn’t have evidence to back up any of his claims. That is, until he spies the Night-Riders with dynamite out at an old cave and overhears their plan to blow up his family’s funeral home.
While both of the above two situations make for intrigue, either issue on its own would have made for a tense and informative story. Unfortunately, except for being arrested, Macie never ends up being really impacted by the suffragette movement. Oh, there are some snide comments about female drivers when she and her mother lose control of a car, but there’s not much else. Moulder misses an opportunity to educate her readers on this critical time in history.
Racism is better addressed. In addition to the conflicts I’ve already described, Theo faces repeated threats whenever he ventures to take public transportation. He also must deal having his sister dating a white guy. In the early 1900s, this was against the law. Yet even this storyline feels muddied with issues not related to the theme. To name a few: Macie is unable to read due to a disorder known as word blindness. Her grandfather is treated for Alzheimers. And the doctor for reasons unexplained is disliked by the family.
While I could have done without the message-driven plot, A Time to be Brave does have a charm. I appreciated the excitement over the aviation school. The maturing relationship between Macie and her grandfather felt poignant. I also enjoyed seeing Theo squirm when his sister became his teacher. Despite its flaws, there’s much to enjoy about A Time to be Brave. Holly Moulder remains an author to watch.