The Kind of Friends We Used to Be Book Poster Image

The Kind of Friends We Used to Be

Accurate and heartwarming story about tween friendship.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

There are some mean girl tendencies in this novel, but they are counteracted by acts of kindness and true friendship.

Not applicable

Boy/girl relationships typical of this age.


Mild name calling like "jerk" and "mean."


Types of guitars are mentioned, but nothing excessive.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there isn't much to worry about here. Some parents are divorced, and there's some religious discussion, but there's nothing inappropriate.

What's the story?

Marilyn and Kate are trying really hard to be friends again. They used to be best friends, but last year things changed. Marilyn thinks life for Kate would be a lot easier if she just took her advice on fashion, and Kate thinks Marilyn spends too much time thinking about her hair and what other people think of her. Will they ever get on the same page and get their friendship back on track?

Is it any good?


Dowell does a great job of capturing the ups and downs of tween friendships, as well as the way friendships can naturally change as kids discover their own interests and passions. Marilyn and Kate are wonderful, warm characters that girls can really identify with, and the middle school situations they find themselves in are common and very well written, with a nice touch of humor.

Kate's fascination with guitars and huge black boots are completely opposite from Marilyn's love of cheerleading and fashion, and there doesn't seem to be much common ground. The novel does an effective job of showing how much work friendships can be, but also shows how important friendships are, and that the effort is worthwhile.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the difference between dreaming about what will make you happy versus what will actually make you happy. Marilyn had the perfect 7th grade school year in her mind, but she finds that she's not totally happy once she begins to live her dreams. What does your perfect school year look like? Is it realistic? How does your vision fit with the friendships you currently have?

Book details

Author:Frances O'Roark Dowell
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 6, 2009
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of The Kind of Friends We Used to Be was written by

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Kid, 11 years old August 21, 2010

Recommended for girls entering middle school.

This book was very good especially for rising 6th graders or middle schoolers. It has a very helpful message and is easy to relate to.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old February 24, 2011

Yay! It's a good book

It's a really good book. I like how the author follows both of the girl's lives instead of just one girl's life.
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old August 30, 2010
What other families should know
Great messages