Goodreads: Friends Forever
Age Category: Middle Grade
Shannon is in eighth grade, and life is more complicated than ever. Everything keeps changing, her classmates are starting to date each other (but nobody wants to date her!), and no matter how hard she tries, Shannon can never seem to just be happy.
As she works through her insecurities and undiagnosed depression, she worries about disappointing all the people who care about her. Is something wrong with her? Can she be the person everyone expects her to be? And who does she actually want to be?
With their signature humor, warmth, and insight, Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham have crafted another incredible love letter to their younger selves and to readers everywhere, a reminder to us all that we are enough.
Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham return with another charming book about growing up and trying to fit in. This time, Shannon is in eighth grade and, though she has found new friends, she still lacks confidence. She thinks that, to be likable, she has to be perfect. And she has to have a boyfriend. But she quickly realizes that fame, beauty, and romance are not in her immediate future. Now she has to figure out how to like herself just the way she is. A relatable book that feels like talking to a friend.
I have enjoyed all the books in the Friends series, but this one especially feels really poignant. Shannon initially believes that leaving her old, toxic friend group will mean everything is better, but the reality is that life is never perfect. So, she starts seeking the next thing, the one thing that will make her feel safe, happy, loved, and secure. Teen magazines and the media suggest that she needs to be a certain way to have all that. But, each time she sets out to achieve a goal–to look gorgeous in the school photos, for instance–the results are never what she wanted. Part of growing up is realizing that life is not like a movie, and there is never really any final resolution, but the let-downs are hard for Shannon.
Watching Shannon grow up through the series so far has been bittersweet. She has survived hurtful friend groups, low self-esteem, and undiagnosed depression. Watching her come out on the other side, however, has been both heartwarming and inspiring. I would love to see this series continue into high school so that readers can continue to see that, although there is always a new challenge to be met in life, there are always good friends who can help us along the way.