Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Graphic Memoir Review: Real Friends

As part of my unofficial Nonfiction November, I enjoyed reading the middle-grade graphic memoir Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. It's the real-life story of Shannon's difficulties with friendships during her pre-adolescent years, difficulties that many girls that age share.

Starting in Kindergarten, Shannon had a best friend named Adrienne. The two little girls were inseparable, playing pretend and Barbies at home and sticking close to each other at school. Shannon has a talent for making up awesome stories to act out, which reminded me very much of my own two sons when they were young. As they get a bit older, though, she finds she has to compete for Adrienne's attention. Adrienne is pretty and popular and becomes part of a group of girls known simply as The Group, a quintessential insular clique. A girl named Jen is at the center of The Group, but Adrienne is a close second, with Shannon allowed "in" only due to her long-standing friendship with Adrienne. Though Shannon is glad not to be left out, she doesn't always like the way the girls treat other kids and even each other, like ranking The Group in terms of who are Jen's best friends (hint: Shannon is often near the bottom of the line-up). One girl in particular, Jenny, is Jen's best friend and is especially nasty to Shannon.

Pages from Real Friends
The graphic memoir follows Shannon and The Group through the next few years, to the end of fifth grade, as Shannon learns about true friendship and how to stand up for her own values, with a pleasing twist at the end. It's clear that the author remembers what it's like to be at this tender age, when being snubbed by a friend can feel like the end of the world, and alliances between girls can change at the drop of a hat. The story rings true and feels real, especially with Pham's pleasing and realistic drawings. I loved how Shannon survived all those challenges and finally came to appreciate her own talents and values. It's a warm, funny, gentle story about friends and learning to trust your own instincts that is perfect for real kids caught up in the dramas of on-again, off-again friendships.

213 pages, First Second

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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  1. This book sounds like it would be an important one for girls to read. To learn they are not alone in this experience and, perhaps, to see the damage they can do.

    1. Oh, yeah - I had two sons, but my friends with girls have said this sort of stuff is very common!

  2. I would enjoy this book. It would be great for required reading in elementary school.

    1. It would, Vicki! And kids will love it, too.