Friends Forever

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Friends Forever Book Poster Image
Third graphic-novel memoir tackles tough issues with heart.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

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Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Stands out for positive messages.

Educational Value

The author's note at the end has a brief explanation of her experiences with anxiety, depression, and OCD. It also offers reassurance and several web sites readers can visit to learn more, or if they're experiencing symptoms themselves. She also talks briefly about when she was sexually harassed by an adult and emphasizes that it's never the kid's fault, and encourages readers to tell a trusted adult if anything similar happens to them. A note from the illustrator shows how her drawings progress to the final version, and she briefly explains her artistic process.

Positive Messages

You are just right, exactly as you are. You don't need to be anything else other than yourself. Do things that you're interested in or passionate about, not what others think you should do. You're not perfect, nobody is, and you're going to make mistakes sometimes, but that's OK. It's hard and it takes practice, but try to accept and even love yourself, just for who you are, as you are.

Positive Role Models

Shannon's a positive model for integrity and perseverance. She doesn't let people copy her homework, and doesn't have any alcohol when it's offered at a party. Even though she has lots of insecurities, she bravely tries new things. Eventually she discovers a technique that starts to help her feel better and accept herself with a lot less worry about what she thinks is wrong with her. She and her friends are loyal and supportive. Her family relationships are tense; family members say she's too sensitive so she feels like she has to suppress her emotions around them.

Diverse Representations

Shannon and her family are all White. Her friends, fellow students, and faculty have a variety of skin and hair colors. Race or ethnicity aren't mentioned. No other types of diversity are shown like body type, identity, ability, sexual preference, etc.

Violence

A mall Santa tells Shannon he "wants" her while touching or patting her buttocks. The drawing doesn't make it very clear, but she's very upset by it. The author's note mentions it again and encourages victims to tell a trusted adult if they have a similar experience. Bullying kids physically harass a smaller student.

Sex

A few illustrations show partly obscured kissing. A girl and boy go into a closet at a party; later the girl says they were kissing but the boy kept trying to do more. Some mild romantic dynamics and lots of thinking and talking about "going with" someone.

Language

Minor characters always use verbal bullying like calling names to humiliate. "Butt."

Consumerism

A very few food and retail outlets mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Eighth graders drink alcohol at a friend's house. The main characters doesn't have any and doesn't like the way it smells.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byChris L. September 29, 2021

Middle School Follies Forever

Anyone trying to navigate eighth grade needs all the help they can get. This third installment of Shannon Hale's autobiographical graphic novels provides s... Continue reading

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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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love friendship tales and stories involving depression

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