Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Real Friends

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...

Title:Real Friends
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1626724164
Number of Pages:214 pages

Real Friends Reviews

  • Betsy

    The autobiography assignment. I don’t pretend to know precisely why teachers give it out or what they hope child readers will get out of it. About ten years ago, when I was a children’s librarian in New York City, it was to be feared. A small child would walk into my room, belly up to the reader’s advisory desk, and ask for an autobiography. You mean a biography? No (of course not, silly librarian). An AUTObiography, see? And there, clear as crystal, was the printed assignment. So like any good

    The autobiography assignment. I don’t pretend to know precisely why teachers give it out or what they hope child readers will get out of it. About ten years ago, when I was a children’s librarian in New York City, it was to be feared. A small child would walk into my room, belly up to the reader’s advisory desk, and ask for an autobiography. You mean a biography? No (of course not, silly librarian). An AUTObiography, see? And there, clear as crystal, was the printed assignment. So like any good librarian I’d take the child to the biography/autobiography section and we’d start to hunt and peck. As it happens, middle grade authors of books for kids really like writing autobiographies. So depending on the age of the child I’d load them down with

    by Jerry Spinelli or

    by Ralph Fletcher or maybe one of the Beverly Cleary ones like

    . Not like there was a lot to pick and choose from. Then, like magic, something changed overnight. Authors started writing more autobiographies and, glory be, they were done in a graphic novel format!!!

    and

    by Raina Telgemeier,

    by Jenni Holm,

    by Cece Ball, and

    by Jimmy Gownley. Sure, there aren’t a ton of these books out there, but they sure pep up the autobiography assignment, I can assure you of that. Now Shannon Hale joins the illustrious crew with a book that zeroes in a single topic: friendship. The good. The bad. The seriously-why-is-this-so-freaking-DIFFICULT!?

    When you’re really little, making friends is easy. You sit next to someone in Kindergarten and suddenly they’re your best friend for all time. For Shannon, Adrienne was that friend. Yet when third grade rolled around, things started to change. Suddenly Shannon, Adrienne, a popular girl named Jen, and a whole bunch of other girls are in The Group. That includes Jenny, Jen’s best friend and a dyed-in-the-wool bully to Shannon. Figuring out if she’s out or in can be exhausting for Shannon, and that’s before you even consider her violently unpredictable older sister Wendy or her own OCD. But that’s the thing about true friends sometimes. They sure as heck don’t come easy.

    In her Author’s Note at the end Shannon says that “

    it he story I’ve been telling myself about my elementary school years,” yet also acknowledges that “memories aren’t 100 percent accurate.” She mentions that the idea of writing a memoir was a relatively recent one considering the fact that from a drama perspective she had a pretty stable home life. That, naturally, is the allure. With

    Hale zeroes in on a single aspect of childhood: friendship. It’s something a lot of kids have to contend with. In her own Author’s Note, artist LeUyen Pham says her heart, “is still convinced that somehow you [Shannon] crawled inside my memories and handpicked all these events and feelings and insecurities from my childhood and called them your own.” I think that’s the true allure of the title. This is a mirror for a lot of kids who are struggling with friendships. They’re going to see what LeUyen saw and feel it too. There was a movement not too long ago where people on YouTube let teens know that “it gets better”. Shannon’s message is the same. As she puts it, “If you haven’t found your ‘group’ yet, hang in there. Your world will keep growing larger and wider. You deserve to have real friends, the kind who treat you well and get how amazing you are.”

    But how do you do it? How do you take faulty memories and etched-in-stone feelings from the past and turn them into a book? On a recent episode of the podcast RadioLab, a lot of discussion was made of the fact that to even access memories, a person needs a lot of imagination. The same could be said of conjuring up memories for a graphic novel. Hindsight may be 20/20 but memory is 3/10. Sometimes it’s necessary to plug the details up with creativity. In a way, Shannon probably had a lot of this book mapped out in her head already. Dwell on something enough and you turn it into a story, complete with dramatic shifts in tension and morality. I particularly appreciated the moments when Shannon, the character, was in the wrong. This book doesn’t usually break down into “good” and “bad” people, but rather into the casual indifferent cruelties of childhood. The off-handed comment you don’t even remember saying that burned a small hole into your friend’s soul. The fact that Shannon’s just as capable of this as anyone gives the book a bit of extra weight.

    There’s one other aspect of the book that sets it apart from the pack. Heck, sets it apart from pretty much every children’s graphic novel from a trade publisher I’ve ever seen: religion. Shannon grew up in a Mormon household and so religion is just a regular event in her life. We see prayer, Sunday scriptures, and the occasional Jesus cameo when Shannon is feeling particularly down in the dumps. The only other middle grade graphic novel (comics for 9-12 year olds) I’ve ever seen from a large publisher that incorporates worship as seamlessly would be the books in the

    series by Barry Deutsch, and that was Hasidic. Someone once commented that the only sitcom you see on your television these days where a family regularly goes to church is

    . In children’s books that topic is almost entirely regulated to small religious presses. So I appreciate that

    doesn’t shy away from something that, for a lot of people, is a regular part of life.

    And now, a word in praise of LeUyen Pham. Pham and Hale are hardly strangers to one another. For years now they’ve collaborated together on the delightful Zorro-esque

    series. That said, I haven’t seen Ms. Pham do a graphic novel since she worked on the far older

    back in 2008. They take a bit of time to do, after all. What’s more, all the autobiographical graphic novels I mentioned at the beginning of this review were written and illustrated by the same person (always excepting

    which is a brother/sister team). If you bring in an artist to basically illustrate your life, you want someone you can trust. Good thing Ms. Pham is a stickler with accuracy. When she illustrated the nonfiction biography about Paul Erdos

    she went so far as to clarify in her Illustrator's Note at the end that she had to imagine the physical appearance of the boy’s nanny.

    isn’t nonfiction in the strict sense of the word. Characters are combined, timelines are moved up, and names are definitely changed. Still, just looking at the setting you really feel you’re in the 1980s. Pham’s attention to detail is given full reign, whether you’re checking out the computers, the clothes (oh the clothes, the clothes, the clothes) or even the furniture. Not that it’s all coke bottle glasses and Thompson Twins. There’s enough pretend and imagination in these storylines to allow Pham to really stretch her muscles and engage in spy sequences, fantastical journeys, and even the occasional Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader.

    In many ways the book

    feels the closest to in terms of content and tone is

    by Cece Bell. Both books are quests for true friendship. Both take place in the past (though Bell’s is probably set eight or so years before Hale’s). And both are autobiographical memoirs that look at bad friendships, hurt feelings, and the ultimate reward that all kids can relate to: a good friend. A fun strong book to show kids that even when you haven’t got a real friend in the world, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    For ages 9-12.

  • Elise (thebookishactress on wordpress)

    The cover on my arc edition is so much nicer!

    Oh my god, this was awesome.

    is a brief yet heartfelt tale of being the outcast in a middle school.

    This book stands out from other books about the same topic because of its

    Never does this story feel fake or fictional; it's effortlessly real. That's for a reason, given that this book is based off the author's own experiences. It was very easy to empathize with the main character.

    I loved the emphasis on being real with

    The cover on my arc edition is so much nicer!

    Oh my god, this was awesome.

    is a brief yet heartfelt tale of being the outcast in a middle school.

    This book stands out from other books about the same topic because of its

    Never does this story feel fake or fictional; it's effortlessly real. That's for a reason, given that this book is based off the author's own experiences. It was very easy to empathize with the main character.

    I loved the emphasis on being real with your friends, on the ability to laugh at anything.

    It's such a great message for middle-grade readers.

    The art style is clean and pretty, with good shading. I could tell everyone apart with ease.

    VERDICT: A fantastic middle-grade graphic novel. Definitely recommended towards any children, but it's honestly so short adults could read it and love it too.

  • First Second Books

    Following little Shannon's life from kindergarten through fifth grade, Real Friends captures the emotional roller coaster ride of friendship, from navigating the tricky waters of cliques and bullies to her never-ending struggle to stay in "The Group." Shannon’s honest and heartfelt story reminds us of how hard it was to learn what real friends are—and why finding them is worth the journey.

  • Lola  Reviewer

    No way. I can’t believe how great this book is. If I were a wealthy schoolteacher, I’d gift this to all of my students.

    This is unlike any memoir I’ve ever read. For starters, it’s a graphic novel, so it’s not your usual memoir. Also, since Shannon Hale is obsessed with stories, there are stories within this story. It’s really special.

    Truthfully, the plot isn’t exceptional. I mean, it’s about a girl in middle school who has trouble making friends, and even when she makes them, she has trouble k

    No way. I can’t believe how great this book is. If I were a wealthy schoolteacher, I’d gift this to all of my students.

    This is unlike any memoir I’ve ever read. For starters, it’s a graphic novel, so it’s not your usual memoir. Also, since Shannon Hale is obsessed with stories, there are stories within this story. It’s really special.

    Truthfully, the plot isn’t exceptional. I mean, it’s about a girl in middle school who has trouble making friends, and even when she makes them, she has trouble keeping them. There is bullying involved, but lots of happy moments as well.

    I’m sure there are thousands of books exploring friendship in middle school. So what makes this story worth your time? Mini Shannon Hale, that’s for sure. She is absolutely relatable. She, herself, is not the popular type, and yet, her honesty, quirkiness and friendliness make her someone you’d want to be around. She sees the world differently and that makes her interesting.

    I remember having trouble making friends in middle school as well. Like Shannon, things started well, but kids have a flare for drama, so there were tears and sadness involved in my childhood too. Shannon Hale wanted readers to be able to say, ‘‘That’s exactly how I felt!’’ and I think she succeeded.

    Because it’s a memoir illustrating S. Hale’s life from first grade to fifth grade—those are five years!—it progresses really fast. I liked that about it. Not too fast to seem like the author doesn’t touch on anything substantial. Just very, very well. But then again that’s how it has to be, since this is a short book.

    The graphics are wonderful. I know I’ve only praised S. Hale so far, but the reality is this book wouldn’t have been half as engrossing if LeUyen Pham hadn’t done such a fantastic job of bringing S. Hale’s past to life. I can’t wait to read THE PRINCESS IN BLACK, since I read she was the illustrator for that one too.

    I can’t stress this enough. Kids need to read this book.

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  • Melki

    Why is it so much easier to have virtual friends than real friends? Couldn't we just walk up to someone, and say, "You wanna be my pal?"

    Shannon Hale takes a look at the difficult prospect of making and keeping friends in this terrific graphic novel. We follow the author through her sometimes lonely years at elementary school when her best (and only) friend joins a clique comprised of popular girls. Shannon gets to hover around the periphery of the group, but never really "belongs" to the gang.

    T

    Why is it so much easier to have virtual friends than real friends? Couldn't we just walk up to someone, and say, "You wanna be my pal?"

    Shannon Hale takes a look at the difficult prospect of making and keeping friends in this terrific graphic novel. We follow the author through her sometimes lonely years at elementary school when her best (and only) friend joins a clique comprised of popular girls. Shannon gets to hover around the periphery of the group, but never really "belongs" to the gang.

    This one brought back memories from my own childhood - the constantly shifting loyalties, hurt feelings, and jealousy over old friends' new relationships. You meet someone you have a lot in common with; you should be lifelong friends, right? It seems like it should be so easy, but it's not.

    I'm glad our library ordered a copy of this book. I'm planning on pressing it into the hands of many of the little girls I encounter.

  • Monica Edinger

    Shannon Hale's

    was a 

    challenge for me. That is, as a child and still today, I'm not much of a group person, most likely related to my introversion. From childhood on I can recall being part of groups of people I liked, but they almost always wanted to spend way more time together than I did. Shyness is probably also a factor as we moved a lot and so I was never in a school more than three years. This made me happy to find just a single friend. Now

    Shannon Hale's

    was a 

    challenge for me. That is, as a child and still today, I'm not much of a group person, most likely related to my introversion. From childhood on I can recall being part of groups of people I liked, but they almost always wanted to spend way more time together than I did. Shyness is probably also a factor as we moved a lot and so I was never in a school more than three years. This made me happy to find just a single friend. Now Shannon wanted this too, but in her case the single good friend always seems to be tied to bigger group politics which was not my experience. So I wasn't gravitating to read this one, but did because of Gene's challenge and because this is so much the reality of many children and especially my students.

    That is, I've been a classroom teacher for decades and have observed and helped kids navigate friendships throughout that time. Sometimes it is one person snubbing another, sometimes it a group thing (with the popping up of clubs always a sign that someone is probably being excluded), sometimes it is sweet and lovely, and sometimes it is mean and vile and intractable. And so while I didn't read

    for nostalgic or personal reasons, I did read it because it was so real and raw in terms of many children's reality.

    Shannon's description of the ups and downs of friendship and, especially, the complicated dynamics of groups and popularity are vividly and honestly done. For kids for whom this resonates this book will be a life-saver, something that will speak to them, that they will see themselves in. Or perhaps they are yearning to be part of a group --- this may help them understand it isn't necessarily nirvana. I appreciated that Shannon isn't represented as perfect when part of a group by any means  --- she doesn't do the usual forgiving of one culprit, she doesn't significantly help another bullied child (authentically being too self-absorbed in her own woes to do more than recognize her and talk to her when they are thrown together). Kudos to Shannon for being so authentic and real and honest. As an adult, I found the family dynamics most potent, especially her relationship with her big sister. Shannon doesn't hold back and, boy, is some of it rough. Fortunately, there seems to be the start of a better understanding at the end and more in the afterward that is reassuring for any who worried about Wendy.

    A piercingly honest view into the complicated social life of one young girl that is certain to resonate for all who have observed, participated, or otherwise experienced the difficult dynamics of school friendships.

     

     

  • Kelli

    I got this graphic memoir from the library for my 5th grader. I can't believe I have a 5th grader. She has the kindest heart, she is much smarter, funnier, and more athletic than I ever recall being (ever) but guess what? I still hear reports about girls calling her weird, about girls forming groups, about the timeless, treacherous terrain of elementary school friendship. Children today are educated about bullying and my girl puts up with nothing, but at the end of the day, we all just want to f

    I got this graphic memoir from the library for my 5th grader. I can't believe I have a 5th grader. She has the kindest heart, she is much smarter, funnier, and more athletic than I ever recall being (ever) but guess what? I still hear reports about girls calling her weird, about girls forming groups, about the timeless, treacherous terrain of elementary school friendship. Children today are educated about bullying and my girl puts up with nothing, but at the end of the day, we all just want to feel loved and valued. I love this book for putting it all out there and presenting a relatable tale that explores the ups and downs of making friends for this age group. The illustrations were fantastic and offset what was overall a pretty sad but realistic story. The Author's Note adds some clarity and depth, while driving home the core message that everyone deserves kind friends who appreciate them.

    Tomorrow my oldest friend is coming down with her teen girls. We have been best friends since junior high. I always remind my daughter when she has had a rough day that the truest gems aren't easy to find...and I tell her that I'm not friends with a single person I knew in elementary school, but my closest friends are spun gold. I can't wait to discuss this book with my daughter. I will edit my review to add her thoughts. 4 stars

  • Eve

    I didn't realize this was a memoir about Hale's elementary school years! That made it all the more awesome. I hate cliques, so I could relate to Shannon's loneliness when her best friend joins "the group." I sometimes wish I c

    I didn't realize this was a memoir about Hale's elementary school years! That made it all the more awesome. I hate cliques, so I could relate to Shannon's loneliness when her best friend joins "the group." I sometimes wish I could go back in time to grade school as the person I am now, and just not care so much about what people thought. But like Hale quoted above, that's just the way we understand things when we are young. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves as adults that we deserve friends that will treat us kindly. Highly recommend to everyone!

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