Thursday, May 19, 2022

Dear Friends

Greenwald, Lisa. Dear Friends
May 10th 2022 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Eleni has been friends with Sylvie since they were born; their mothers were in a prenatal class together, so their friendship has a deep history. As 6th grade approaches, however, things are changing. After a difficult time at summer camp, where her camp friend Maddy prefered spending time playing soccer than hanging out with her, Eleni returns home to help Sylvie plan her birthday party, only to find that she is not one of the three girls invited to the sleepover. She's given Sylvie a cool denim jacket, and has one just like it, but the chances of the two twinning at school look bleaker and bleaker as Sylvie continues to hang out with Annie, Zora, and Paloma. Eleni  starts to worry about her ability to make and keep friends, and enlists the help of Adelaide, the daughter of one of her mother's friends with whom she is occasionally forced to hang out, to look back at her FriENDships. There's neighbor Will, who quit hanging out with her when it became uncool for boys and girls to play together; Brenna, from Hebrew School; and Charlotte, who moved away. She starts to write letters back and forth to Charlotte, and tries to reconnect with her former friends to try to figure out what she did wrong. In the meantime, she does have a new group, which includes Rumi, Elizabeth and Anjali. This is good, because the 6th grade overnight trip and Halloween party are on the horizon. Eleni's been looking forward to them for years, but it's not the same without Sylvie, who continues to freeze her out and be mean. This cause issues with Eleni's mother, who is very snappish at the best of times. Eleni discovers that she was meant to be helping Adelaide, not the other way around, after the two have a bit of a falling out. Will Eleni be able to find some closure with her other former friends?
Strengths: Yep. Just about everyone loses at least one friend in middle school. Interests change, distance creates difficulties, and sometimes, people just become mean. Friend drama is one of the top requests for topics in books. I loved the inclusion of Eleni's Hebrew school, and the fact that she rather enjoyed learning about her religion. I spend a LOT of time at church in middle school, and religion doesn't often show up in middle grade stories, which is probably fairly representative of the population, but food to see occasionally. All of the characters are very well developed, and it's easy to see, in retrospect, what happened with Eleni's friendships. The 6th grade ovenight is a good theme to move the story along, and the changes that are made to it because of parental pressure are very realistic. This has a somewhat exotic setting, since Eleni goes to New York City. The cover is great, and I can't wait to hvae a copy of this to hand to students!
Weaknesses: Eleni's mother and Will's father had some serious stuff going on that wasn't well addressed. I'd actually love to see a whole book about Will and how his family is dealing with his father losing his job because of anger management issues. Eleni's mother seemed like she needed a lot of help, but nothing is ever discussed. 
What I really think: Defnitely purchasing, since Greenawald's books (My Life in Pink and Green (2009), Sweet Treats and Secrets Crushes (2010), Reel Life Starring Us (2011), the Dog Beach (2014) series, TBH This is So Awkward, (2018) and 11 Before 12 remain popular titles in my library. This definitely shows some deep dives into the anxiety in modern tween culture. I'm not sure if my students would ever undertake a project like Eleni's to investigate their failed relationships, but I do think they will enjoy reading about it. 
 Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I think my favorite Katie John is the one where the other girls get boy crazy but she isn't. The angst of being left out even if you know the mean girls aren't worth it is universal.

    I have a friend from before I was born - her uncle was my parents' best man and we wound up in college together. She was very pretty and too cool to talk to me then. In recent years, she has gone through hard times and will call at midnight my time/ 9pm hers to tell me her troubles. I could count on one hands the times she asks about me. But I alway think my father would want me to be kind, so I try to give her half an hour of patient listening. Once I went to bed with the phone by my ear and fell asleep as she rambled. I doubt she even noticed! Thank goodness for real friends!