Review: Friends Forever by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Shannon Hale's third autobiography Friends Forever opens with young Shannon starting eighth grade. It is her second and final year at middle school. She's managed to break away from 'the group.' While she has a group of close friends, she's learned a valuable lesson about getting along with everyone and trying to include others as much as possible. That said, being in eighth grade comes with complications. Although she is a very talented writer, she wants to excel at other things, like drama, debating and even running for class president (against Jen, no less,) but she rarely succeeds at these things for reasons that are not always her fault. Meanwhile, her friends all have issues and insecurities of their own, and can be rather insensitive. This makes things very hard for Shannon, especially when her own issues with mental health come to the forefront.

Written with a great deal of sensitivity, this one tackles just how hard life can be in middle school. Shannon is a sensitive kid, and is often treated unfair by those around her, including adults. Her parents want what is best for her, but they don't always understand, and some of her ideas--like wanting to find a casting agent, end in disaster. The novel also has a lot to say about body image, and self image.

As always LeUyen Pham's illsutrations are superb, and bring something special to the page, fleshing Hale's work out to its full potential.

Although this is the third book in a series, it can just as easily be read as a stand alone. Friends Forever is a well told story of middle school, insecurities and living with an undiagnosed metal illness, written with sensitivity and a whole lot of heart.

Recommended.

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