Review: Best Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
Picking up where Real Friends left off Best Friends sees Shannon starting sixth grade as a part of the in-crowd, and as the best friend of Jen, the most popular girl in the school. Unfortunately, sixth grade is still full of problems--among the group there are rules that seem to change constantly, and plenty of spying and backstabbing. Shannon finds herself caught between two worlds, of wanting to be loyal to the lessons she learned about being the good kind of popular kid, who lifts others up, and wanting to be loyal and accepted by her group of friends. Eventually, after some humiliating life lessons she finds herself at a crossroads. And maybe, just maybe this time she will be able to make the right decision.
This was an entertaining but heartbreaking graphic novel. Although intended for middle grade readers, plenty of adults will find Shannon's situation relatable as this sensitive pre-teen struggles against the tide of mental illness, changing friendships and peer group pressure. There are also some sections devoted to the book that Shannon was working on as an eleven year old--the story isn't that interesting, however, the fact that a young woman from a tight Mormon community who was more or less taught that women could only aspire to be school teachers or mothers, is pretty noteworthy in itself. (As is older sister Wendy's journey to work as a model in LA.)
Best Friends is a great read for any kid who is experiencing uncertainties with changing friendships or peer group pressure. I found the ending empowering and I hope that other readers (especially ones in the target audience) do as well.