Review of Not the Worst Friend in the World

Not the Worst Friend in the World Not the Worst Friend in the World
by Anne Rellihan
Intermediate    Holiday    272 pp.
2/24    9780823454792    $17.99
e-book ed.  9780823457663    $10.99

In this pitch-perfect middle-grade novel, Lou (short for Louise) copes with her deep shame over some unkind words she said in anger to Francie, her (now former) best friend. Lou can hardly believe that new-kid Cece wants to be friends, but she’s intrigued by the girl’s conviction about having been kidnapped by her father. Lou’s first-person narration is punctuated with her notebook entries trying to sleuth out if Cece is correct and with flashbacks documenting her friendship with Francie, from kindergarten to “The Tenth Day of Sixth Grade”—the day everything changed. Parallels with Harriet the Spy are spelled out, so what happens to that notebook and the emotional ramifications that follow are no surprise. Lou’s tart perceptions of her Catholic school, her family (her white mother, Black stepfather, and two young siblings), and the emotional dynamics of sixth grade are sharply observant, as is her journey to understanding that people change. Other themes include Cece’s keen interest in astrology (and insistence on interviewing a local reader for a “Christ Is Alive!” school project) and Francie’s mother’s depression; the depiction of the hot and humid Missouri setting is another strength. The mystery and plentiful conversation help keep the momentum going all the way to the end.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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