Title: Real Friends
Author: Shannon Hale
Artist: LeUyen Pham
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: First Second Books (Macmillan imprint)
Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top... even if it means bullying others. Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?
Real Friends is smart and honest, highlighting the complications of making friends while young and the joy felt when a connection is finally made.
Little Shannon is kind and creative, looking to find her own place in a big family where she isn't really close in age to any of her siblings. At school she has someone, her best friend Adrienne, but as the years go by other girls want Adrienne to be her friend. Girls like Jen. And so begins the awkwardness and the confusion, the groups within groups. So begins Shannon being part of the group one day but not the next.
The artwork is wonderful. The detail of the classrooms and the playground of the school. The expressions on the characters' faces, the sorrow and the confusion and the happiness. The way the lines of the panels would disappear whenever little Shannon would daydream or pretend with her friends, how that fantasy world would take up the whole page.
This book so accurately portrays the struggle and confusion surrounding making friends when you're young, or at least it's rather accurate to how I remember making friends when I was younger. Kids are just starting to figure out what they like, who they like, how they want to act, and so they can be really blunt and sometimes mean. Testing the waters, seeing what reactions will get certain results. Changing their favourite TV show or musician day after day. Kids can be cruel, especially when you're awkward and shy. I would definitely recommend this to kids looking for graphic novels to read as well as adults, partially because of nostalgia and partially for their own education in terms of understanding their kids.. Considering the number of people who were little Shannon when they were younger, it's possible their kids are going through the same thing.
(I received an advance copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)