Best Friends by Shannon Hale

Shannon is entering sixth grade, her last year of elementary school. Soon, she and her friends will move on to middle school, but, for now, they rule the school! Even better, Jen, the most popular girl in school, has declared Shannon her new best friend. Now that she’s finally part of The Group, surely this will be Shannon’s best year ever. Friendship is never easy, though, and getting older seems to come with a whole new set of rules: rules for boys, rules for what’s cool, and rules for best friends. As Shannon tries to hang on to her newfound popularity, she finds herself struggling with anxiety and seeking solace in her writing, the only place she can let her imagination run free.

Based on the author’s own childhood, Best Friends, by Shannon Hale, is an engaging, funny, and endearing look at adolescence and what it means to be a good friend. The graphic novel format, expertly illustrated by LeUyen Pham, offers a new spin on a perennially important topic, letting readers literally see Shannon’s anxiety and emotions. Hale and Pham also manage to seamlessly blend the plot with excerpts from Shannon’s writing, taken directly from Hale’s real-life sixth grade journals. Shannon’s fantasy novel ties in with the struggles she faces in her daily life, so that readers finds themselves cheering for both the sixth grader and the fantasy heroine she longs to be.

While this book is a follow-up to Hale and Pham’s Real Friends - and fans will certainly want to read both - Best Friends stands on its own as an authentic view of the struggles facing many older children. Readers who enjoy this slice-of-life graphic novel should also seek out Raina Telgemeier’s Guts or Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl, while those intrigued by Shannon’s fantastical imagination will probably enjoy Hale’s graphic novel take on a fairy tale, Rapunzel’s Revenge.