A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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.
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.
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Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Minor characters always use verbal bullying like calling names to humiliate. "Butt."
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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.
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.
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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