You know those awkward advice-for-teen-girl books written by clueless adults? Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls strips all the lame, stultifying, well, prose out of the text, leaving just the raw bones behind. Edited by a triumvirate of poets—Rachel McKibbens, Mindy Nettifee, and local author Karen Finneyfrock—Courage feels like the cool older woman who sits her little sister down, stares her straight in the eye, and gives her the kind of blunt, funny, rude advice that will forever alter the course of her life.

Courage is packed with dozens of stories that lead by example. Patricia Smith's "Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah" tells the story of Smith's own name. Her mother pulled for Patricia Ann, the name of a woman who "would never idly throat the Lord's name or wear one of those sparkled skirts that flirted with her knees." But her father preferred Jimi Savannah, a name guaranteed to "shoot muscle through whatever I was called" and label her "a tricky whisperer with a switchblade in [her] shoe." Smith doesn't clog up the end of the poem with an easy, insincere moral; she just tells her story and gets offstage, which is exactly the right thing to do.

These are not all stories of empowerment. Shanny Jean Maney's "The Thing I Said That During Gym" reflects on a tossed-off cruelty she dropped on another child, something so mean, "I knew I ruined his everything." The poem is a lament, a broken heart spiked on a fence post, to warn other girls who start down the path that it leads somewhere distant and dark...

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