When I first heard that Shannon Hale was writing a graphic novel memoir I knew that it was one of those books that I was going to have to get my hands on. Thanks to NetGalley, my daughter J and I were able to read this before it actually came out, but I also still have a copy of it pre-ordered in my Amazon account.
Shannon Hale is one of our favorite authors who has written books from the Princess in Black Series to Ever After High and the Princess Academy series. You can check out some of our comments on those at an earlier post about Princesses who Defy the Rules. The characters that she writes about are strong, spunky, and take chances to be their own best self. Combine our love of her writing with the ever-trendy graphic novel format, and I knew there was a winning combination.
In her new book, Real Friends (being published this May by First Second), Shannon Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham bring forth a graphic novel about growing up and the realities of friendship and cliques.
Young Shannon is a bit afraid about starting school, but immediately hits it off with Adrienne. Things are great until Adrienne moves away after first grade. When Adrienne returns right before third grade starts Shannon thinks that everything is perfect, but Adrienne gets in with the popular crowd and Shannon struggles to figure out her place.
Hale adeptly deals with a number of issues that young girls face – fitting in, self-doubt, cliques, popularity, mean girls, and anxiety….Shannon is an extraordinarily creative young girl who is on the edge of being in the popular crowd. As a parent, I noticed things that my 10 year old definitely did not, such as the fact that she suffers from mild OCD and anxiety displayed in headaches and stomach problems.
By 5th grade, Shannon finally starts standing up for herself and even winds up meeting some girls that are kinder and more accepting, girls that allow her to be her quirky, fun self.
In the background of all of the issues that Shannon is dealing with at school are additional issues between her and her older sister, Wendy. Wendy is a very angry teenager who takes it out on Shannon a lot. Throughout most of the book she comes across as just a difficult kid, but in the chapter where she is the main focus, the reader does get to see some of the background that made her that way – some of the same issues that Shannon had dealt with in school but handled in a different way.
Both my daughter and I really enjoyed this book. Of course we looked at it in very different ways, but I think this is a great book for a wide variety of readers. It definitely felt true to life and true to the age in a way very similar to Raina Telgemeier’s honesty in Smile and Sisters (which I’m shocked I never wrote about). Shannon Hale also wrote a wonderful author’s note at the back of the book which is good for all readers to pay attention to.