Vrettos, Adrienne Maria. Best Friends For Never
April 26th 2016 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Hattie has moved from New York City to a small town where her father has bought a dental practice. Determined to reinvent herself, she sheds her fantasy book loving, cat t shirt wearing self, and managed to fit in with a group of friends. This leads her into some new interests, like joining the field hockey team. After seeing popular girl Zooey be publicly dismissed by her two best friends, Hattie starts to worry that the same thing might happen to her. The group is really excited about the local Harvest Festival, and at a sleepover preceding it, Hattie asks her friends to sign a "friendship pact" assuring that they will never be mean to each other. Her friends know how she obsessed about Zooey, so agree. The next day, however, they all pretend that they don't know her, and Hattie is beside herself. She ends up working on a school project with Zooey and slowly begins to realize that she has been cursed with the Harvest Jinx, and her best friends really don't know who she is. She and Zooey, with the help of History Society employee, Maude, investigate and try to figure out how to break the curse before it wears out on New Year's Day. How did Hattie lie to her friends, and how will she thwart the curse before it becomes permanent.
I've enjoyed Vrettos' work in the past, but it's definitely been more Young Adult. This shows a fine feeling for the need for middle school students to find a group of friends and do whatever they can to stay a part of that group. Hattie wears corduroy pants, a stripy hoodie, and Converse tennis shoes (which she actually rather likes) just like her friends, and participates in a sport to keep their approval. She also eats things she doesn't like, and is not free to talk about the passions she had back in NYC with her friend Rae. This all rings so true to life.
The leap into fantasy confused me at first, but made a lot of sense the more I thought about it. It plays off the fear that most 7th grade girls have-- my friends will all suddenly decide to NOT be my friends any more. It is nice that Hattie gets to know Zooey better, and the delving into town history has its moments.
Hattie's parents, as well as the other adults in the book, are wonderful and supportive, and make brief appearances taking the girls to activities and consulting about problems. This is a nice touch, instead of killing off all the parents!
Readers who enjoy magical realism, as well as middle school drama, will want to add Best Friends For Never to their bookshelves alongside Margolis' If I Were You, Hubbard's You Wish, and Standiford's Switched at Birthday, as well as Mass' Willow Falls series.