A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
Stands out for positive messages.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Friends Forever is a graphic novel that continues author Shannon Hale's memoir about her childhood begun in Real Friends and Best Friends. Shannon's in eighth grade now, so some kissing and romantic dynamics become a big part of the story. A few illustrations show kissing that's partly obscured. An incident of sexual harassment is vaguely illustrated, but the victim's fear and disgust afterward is clearly shown. The author also talks more about it, and how to handle it, in the note afterward. Bullying kids at school use name calling to humiliate and physically harass a smaller student. Eighth-graders bring alcohol to a friend's house, and the narrator has a strong, negative reaction. The narrator experiences symptoms of depression, which offers a good chance to talk with readers about mental health. The author talks about it and her OCD symptoms in the afterward, and provides online resources for help and information. Faith also plays a part in the narrator's journey toward self-acceptance in a way that's personal and not preachy.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
FRIENDS FOREVER continues Shannon's story now that she's in eighth grade. When the year starts, she feels pretty good about it. She's figured out how to navigate junior high, has a variety of friends, including best friends, and has a lot to look forward to. But she isn't always happy. Lots of times she feels confused, or like she's not good enough, or that she should have figured out who she's supposed to be by now. Her parents tell her that if she isn't happy it's because she's not trying hard enough to be happy. Movies, magazines, and other media tell her that only beautiful women have value. She has a few setbacks, like when auditioning for the school play and campaigning for student body president. Her feelings that she's not good enough to succeed and be happy start to get stronger, until they're too much for her to handle, and she has a real crisis. How can she get through it? Will she ever start to feel good about herself again?
Is it any good?
This is a touching, uplifting memoir that tackles serious issues of depression and sexual harassment realistically, with heart, so that it's sure to inspire empathy for 13-year-old Shannon. Friends are an important part of Shannon's life in Friends Forever, but the real focus is her personal struggle with depression and how she's able to start accepting and loving herself just as she is. It also stands well on its own, recapping enough of the previous books so that readers who start with this one won't feel like they're missing anything. Tweens and middle schoolers, especially girls, will easily relate to Shannon as she tries to make sense of herself and her life while big changes and feelings are going on all at once.
The graphic-novel format makes it a great choice for reluctant readers, with dynamic illustrations that convey big emotions and subtle facial expressions equally well. It's also a good opportunity to talk to kids about mental health issues, and what they can do if they experience or see "creepy" adult behavior.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how depression is shown in Friends Forever. Does it seem realistic and understandable? If you have symptoms of depression, or know someone who does, how can you get help, or help someone else?
Shannon experiences sexual harassment from the mall Santa. How does she react? What kinds of feelings does she convey? If you experience or see something similar, how do you think you'd react? What would you do?
Why are graphic novels so popular? What do we love about them? What are some of your favorites, and how does this one compare?
- Author: Shannon Hale
- Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Friendship, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: First Second
- Publication date: August 31, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: September 21, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love friendship tales and stories involving depression
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.