Vail, Rachel. Unfriended.
25 September 2014, Viking Juvenile
Truly used to be friends with Natasha, but after Natasha dumped her in 6th grade, she started hanging out with Hazel, who is a bit quirky, while Natasha joined the popular table and now (in 8th grade) has lunch with Brooke, Lulu, Jack, and Clay. When Natasha asks Truly to eat lunch with her group so they can work on a History Day presentation, Truly leaves Hazel without so much as an apology or backward glance. This isn't good, because Hazel is not only quirky; she's smart and quite vindictive. Truly treads cautiously in the new group, not believing that Natasha is up to any good, and having a pretty low sense of self esteem. Jack, who accidentally injures Truly at lunch, takes a liking to Truly but isn't quite sure how to let her know; Natasha and Clay have broken up, which makes it hard for Brooke, who may like Clay herself. Everyone has problems that they don't necessarily share with the group-- parents out of work or divorcing, difficult or absent siblings, trouble with school work. Natasha supposedly says nasty things online about some of the group, and then Truly picks up the reins and starts posting pictures and unflattering messages-- or does she? This is why you should never share your passwords with friends-- someone has broken into her accounts and used them to sow dissension in the group. Told from six different view points, this is a good picture of what happens when middle school students don't use social media responsibly.
Strengths: Very accurate picture of the ins and outs of middle school. The awkward romances, the using of secrets against people, the quirky students who cause a lot of their own problems. The messages about using social media are fairly good as well. Also, a painfully correct picture of some of the really awful History Day projects that unfold. No group plays with people playing multiple characters, people. Just don't do it!
Weaknesses: Maybe I was just too tired when I read this, but there were a lot of unanswered questions for me. Entirely possible that I was too tired! There were parents whose business was going under, parents possibly divorcing, a student struggling with school-- didn't feel that we got a lot of answers. I wasn't quite convinced of the resolution between Hazel and Truly, either. I had a friend who stopped talking to me after 6th grade, and we never really spoke again! Good book, just wish some of the multiple issues had been tidied up.