Monday, November 11, 2019

Best Friends

Best Friends (Real Friends #2) Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2019. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

  First sentence: In summer, nothing ever seemed to change. The sky stayed blue. The air stayed warm. And friends stayed friends forever.

Premise/plot: I’m tempted to keep it simple and short and merely say Shannon Hale’s newest book should be required reading for humanity. It’s one of those meaning of life books. Those aren’t as common as you might believe. So what is this one about? It is the follow up to her previous graphic novel, Real Friends. Both books are inspired by her childhood. Both books are set in the mid-80s. This one covers her sixth grade year, 1985/86. But it does feature a few flashback sequences to earlier years. A young Shannon is trying to figure out the rules: rules about how to be liked, how to avoid being laughed at, how to make friends, how to keep friends, how to be true to yourself yet not so true as to be deemed a weirdo. Is there a way to stay popular/semi-popular and still be kind? Why does being kind require such bravery? Is lying ever justified?

Throughout it all, she’s also struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and a bit of OCD. Whether you personally struggle with these exact mental health issues or not—I think the book is an honest and thought provoking way for readers to experience what it is like and perhaps gain a bit of empathy.

Who hasn’t struggled at one age or another with friends—making, keeping, forgiving friends. It can be a traumatic, troubling thing—some may struggle a year or two before finding their people, their crowd, where they actually belong; some may spend decades struggling to find “real” or “best” friends. This book keeps it real, keeps it honest, and stays ever-relevant.

My thoughts: I love, love, love this one so much. It is so honest at times that it stings when bringing up memories from the past—my past. I think no matter where you fit on the spectrum of popular or unpopular, bully or bullied, it will give you food for thought. I hope it is an empathy builder especially for children reading the book. The book is incredibly amazing. I loved the glimpse into Shannon’s past. This one will be hard to beat as a favorite of the year.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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