Parents' Guide to

Real Friends

By Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Painfully honest, hopeful memoir of coping with frenemies.

Real Friends Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 11+

Based on 8 parent reviews

age 12+


I think the fact that the kids are rating this for a higher age than even the adults is telling. My 7 year old got this book because one of her friends has it and my daughter loves reading, she just reads through everything and we welcome any suggestions. Never again will we take a new recommendation without scanning through it first....shame on us. This book in a nutshell is everything I am trying to shield her from. The subject matter of this book is way beyond a 7 or 8 year olds mental development- please strongly reconsider if your child is this age. The main character has crippling anxiety and no wonder given the life the author has constructed for her- her friends referred to as The Group in this story are constantly bickering and insulting and manipulating each other, there is a part where they rate each other on notebook paper on looks and personality, teachers are belittled multiple times, there is sexual assault (a boy holding one girl while the other kisses the other girl, and they plan it in the scene right before) where there is only imagined retaliation by the main character (a super hero scene) but in the story of the book the girl said she wanted him to kiss her (wow! After his friend physically held your friend and forced himself on you??!) there is physical abuse by the older sister on multiple occasions graphically illustrated and also intense emotional put-downs, she imagines her own death—- this book is a nightmare. My daughter kept wanting me near her as she was reading, I didn’t put it together until she said she wanted to read while she was sitting on my lap and then I saw. Of course I could not take it away, she was already 3/4 of the way through. She knew and I knew it was scaring her but to take it away would make it more desirable so I sat there full of pain while she read it. She was so shocked. . She just kept looking up at me. I am just.... am pretty astonished if you cannot tell. Be careful.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
2 people found this helpful.
age 13+


Everyone in this book has issues and everyone is abusive. It is normalizing abusing and it’s really badly written. Some boys force some girls to kiss them and the sister hits her own sister. The main character has crippling depression and wants to kill herself. Her friend group is awful and toxic and her mom doesn’t help her or give a therapist. It says stuff like “mY mOM’S bOyFrIeND” and it’s really messed up. It shows that being divorced is fun (it’s not) and more awful things.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
1 person found this helpful.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (8):
Kids say (25):

In a remarkable memoir, Shannon Hale writes with heartbreaking honesty about her struggle to form genuine childhood friendships, turning painful memories into an encouraging, relatable graphic novel. Real Friends unites Hale with LeUyen Pham, illustrator of the Princess in Black series. Together, the two create a vivid portrait of a shy, insecure young girl desperate for a kindred spirit.

Pham's artwork is full of tender details and whimsical imagery, depicting young Shannon's imaginative games of pretend and her sister in the form of a fierce bear. And Hale looks back on her elementary school years with sympathy for her younger self and an honest look at times she, too, failed to be a good friend to others. The cruelty of the bullying and Shannon's emotional distress at home can be hard to read. Unfortunately, many young readers will relate to her story and hopefully appreciate her message that it really does get better -- and being kind really does pay off in the long run.

Book Details

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