Real Friends by Shannon Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Phamo

By Anna, 11 June 2018

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“Once upon a time there was a girl with red hair who believed her destiny was to ride alone. But an old evil was rising in the north lands. At the final moment, when all seemed to be lost, she cried out for help. The many friends she had made on her journey heard her call. And they came running. After all, no one’s destiny is to ride alone.” – Shannon

In kindergarten, Shannon meets Adrienne and they become best friends. Shannon thinks that she and Adrienne will be friends forever.

But in third grade, Adrienne starts to hang out with Jen, the most popular in their grade, and the leader of The Group, a group of popular girls that hang out together. Shannon tries to fit in with The Group, but Jen’s best friend Jenny doesn’t like Shannon.

Shannon doesn’t want to be part of The Group, but if she isn’t then she would lose Adrienne as a friend. As fifth grade comes, Adrienne and Shannon get farther and farther apart.

I think this is a really good book because it explains difficult friendships and how they never last forever (I agree, friends are tricky sometimes!). The illustrations are also well drawn. I would recommend this book for ages 8 and up because it’s slightly complicated and hard to understand at times.

Mum’s take: Real Friends is about the tangled world of girl friendships.  Navigating the social waters through junior and middle school isn’t easy.  As a mother of a 10 year old daughter who was once adrift in those turbulent waters myself, I know first-hand how distressing and demoralising girl – as distinct from boy – playground politics can be.

It’s easier said than done, but Shannon comes to realize that she can only be her own authentic self.  In the end, she learns two other important lessons: that being kind and inclusive gives you the best shot at true happiness, but conversely, sometimes self-preservation dictates that you exclude those who are just too toxic to be around.

Come to think of it, those lessons are equally applicable in the adult playground too.

For ages 8 and up.

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