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Literature / Mick Harte Was Here

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Written in 1995 by Barbara Park, the story is told from the point of view of a girl named Phoebe Harte about her brother Mick. Specifically, how much the lives of herself and her parents have changed since his tragic death in a bicycling accident.

Tropes in this work:

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  • Adult Fear: Your child dying in a bike accident, and the knowledge that you could have prevented it just by being a little stricter...
  • All Deaths Final: Phoebe is forced to come to this when Mick dies.
  • Black Comedy: Sorta. Despite the serious subject matter, Mick was a huge goofball when he was alive, and a lot of the book is about Phoebe remembering the hilarious things he did.
  • Collector of the Strange: Mick kept a lot of strange things on his bookshelves, including a lame autograph collection (that's just two signed scraps of paper in a plastic cover), a ceramic eyeball he made in art class, an "It's a girl!" baby shower cigar that he named Helen, and a set of fly swatters he called his "mobile field unit".
  • Companion Cube: Walking home from school one day, Mick picked up a cigar with a paper band on it that read "It's a girl!", the kind handed out at baby showers. He thought it meant the cigar was a girl, and he named it Helen.
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  • Death by Newbery Medal: Mick's death and the aftermath are the focus of the entire book.
  • Disease Bleach: As the family is in the car, on the way to the memorial service for Mick, Phoebe stares at the back of her mom's head and notices several strands of gray in her hair.
  • Downer Beginning: Mick dies in the opening chapters.
  • Elmer Fudd Syndrome: Mick understandably had this as a child. Hence the family dog was named "Wocket."
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Well, Yeah. We get it from Phoebe, her words are a bit harsher though.
  • I Warned You: When the family went to Great-grandmother Harte's funeral, Mick begged not to be forced to go (because he felt guilty about not visiting her more), but his father forced him to, saying he had to confront his fears. Mick ended up busting out in hysterical laughter after seeing the lace hankie in his great-grandmother's hand. During the car ride home, Dad tried to scold him, but Mom stuck up for Mick and said that Dad shouldn't have made him go to the funeral if he said he wasn't ready.
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  • Law of Disproportionate Response: When Mick was a kid, his and Phoebe's mom made the mistake of showing him his christening gown, decorated with lace and ribbons. Mick was so horrified at realizing that people had seen him in a dress when he was a baby that, for the rest of the year, the only thing he would wear to Sunday school (and then regular school) was a black shirt with a motorcycle on the front and a pair of army-style camouflage pants. By fourth grade, he became so picky about his clothing that Mom and Dad flipped a coin to see who had to take him to buy school clothes. (Dad came home with some of his hair pulled out.)
  • Two Sane Women: Phoebe's best friend Zoe is there to help her through the trauma. Nana also helps by getting the family to eat together at the table without Mick.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Phoebe's parents goes through this after Mick's death. The father is overwhelmed with emotions and guilt for not forcing Mick to wear his helmet. The mother won't say Mick's name around anyone and doesn't go to work for a while. And the family as a whole avoids eating together at the dinner table, where they would have to see Mick's empty chair. Phoebe gets the worst of it and goes through the stages of grief.
    "My mother was a zombie. My father was some slob in slipper socks. And I was a jolly little monster who got my kicks by tormenting Mom with my brother's name."
  • Safety Gear Is Cowardly: Mick had this attitude about his bicycle helmet, saying it made him look "like a dork". The author takes great pains to point out that he would have survived had he been wearing it.
  • Stress Vomit: Phoebe remembers Mick doing this the day after their dog Wocket died. After dinner, he automatically got up to put food in Wocket's bowl like he usually did, remembered, ran to the bathroom, and threw up.
  • Super OCD: In Phoebe's words, her family "comes unglued if someone doesn’t follow the morning bathroom schedule."
  • Too Unhappy to Be Hungry: For a short period of time, Phoebe and her parents stop eating regularly after Mick's death.
  • Tragic Mistake: If Mick had worn his bike helmet, or if his parents had been just a little more strict about making him wear it, he would have lived.
  • Unperson: A Discussed Trope. After his dog, Wocket, died, Mick confessed to Phoebe that he was afraid of forgetting about her, because it would be like she was never there. So they went around the house finding pictures of Wocket and taped them to the mirror in Mick's room, and he would talk to them every morning, just like how he used to talk to Wocket. Phoebe thinks to herself that she never loved Mick more than when she heard him talking to those pictures.
  • Wet Cement Gag: One that comes with a Meaningful Echo, even. When they were little, Phoebe and Mick used a stick to write the word "fart" in a neighbor's concrete driveway. At the end of the book, Phoebe notices a freshly poured concrete sidewalk near the spot where her brother died, and uses a nearby stick to write in it, "Mick Harte was here."
  • Wham Line: When Mr. Harte gets home from the hospital after seeing Mick and Phoebe asks about her brother, he just pulls her close and whispers "He's gone."
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