I had the pleasure of receiving an ARC of this lovely middle-grade graphic novel when I was at SALC2017 earlier this year. Now, while I love me some graphic novels, I’m not normally a fan of materials aimed at children and Tweens, but Real Friends caught me by the heart strings and completely knocked my socks off. I’d even go so far as to say that this is a must read for every young girl!
Title: Real Friends
Author: Shannon Hale
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Publisher: First Second Books
Publication Date: May 2, 1017
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Middle-grade Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Comics
Themes: Friendship, Bullying, Growing Up
Features: Personal photographs
My Rating: 5/ 5
Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends—and why it’s worth the journey.
When best friends are not forever . . .
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?
I can’t even begin to express how much I LOVED this book. It showed up in a conference goody-bag after attending an upcoming book talk and quickly became the highlight of my weekend. Admittedly, my ARC only had the first few pages in colour and the majority of the pages in shading but it was easy to see that the artwork would be beautiful and the colours highly engaging for audiences young and old. The imagery speaks volumes, and the visual metaphors are easily identifiable and incredibly impactful. As someone who often seeks out and recommends texts for reluctant readers, this book now sits at the top of my list as the minimal text and visual interplay creates an experience that can be enjoyed by readers of almost any level.
Let’s face it, girls can be cruel, even when they don’t intend to. And navigating friendships and group dynamics at any age can be tricky, even more so when youths are developing emotionally at vastly different rates than one another. This touching tale follows an outsider through her tricky friendships, emotional ups and downs, and heartbreaking encounters with the cruelty of her peers.
What I love most though, is that little Shannon shows incredible growth throughout the book, and displays both forgiveness and understanding in moments that matter. This is a book that encourages creativity, imagination, and comfort in discovering individuality. It highlights how people are perceived is often vastly different than their lived reality, and really encourages it’s readers to consider the outside influences that might be shaping one’s behaviour.
Would I recommend this book? A million times yes! For kids going through ‘stuff’ and parents looking to understand and support them, this book is an absolute must! That being said, I would recommend Real Friends to just about anyone as it’s one of those books that hits you right in the feels.
Also, there might be a slight possibility that I have gone and acquired several other Shannon Hale titles – because anyone that works on Squirrel Girl has got to be pretty darned awesome in my books…
Up Next: Her Blue-Eyed Sergeant by Linda Ellen