Review of Best Friends

Best Friends
by Shannon Hale; illus. by LeUyen Pham; color by Hilary Sycamore
Intermediate, Middle School    First Second/Roaring Brook    250 pp.
8/19    978-1-250-31745-2    $21.99
Paper ed.  978-1-250-31746-9    $12.99

In this follow-up to her graphic memoir Real Friends (rev. 5/17), Hale straps in to the roller coaster rides, both real and metaphorical, of her sixth-grade year in 1980s Salt Lake City: maintaining her place in “The Group” of popular girls, navigating how much she should “like” or “like like” a boy, figuring out what she’s suddenly become too old to do—at least according to her so-called friends. Young Shannon also begins to explore her burgeoning hope of becoming a writer, challenging the societal message that “the most important thing for a girl is to grow up and get married.” Hale offers a frank look at the callous and cliquish tendencies of her social circle as well as her struggles with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Pham’s panel illustrations deftly convey the intensity and depth of the characters’ emotions and delineate between Shannon’s lush, dreamy, imaginative world and the sometimes stark space of the real one. A natural suggestion for fans of Cece Bell and Raina Telgemeier, this book offers an honest, empathetic, and encouraging narrative for young readers braving the ups and downs of the tween years.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Grace McKinney
Grace McKinney

Grace McKinney holds an MA in Children's Literature from Simmons University and reviews for the Horn Book Magazine. She works at a Montessori school in St. Louis, Missouri, and writes about children's books and Montessori on the blog Cosmic Bookshelf.

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