Bad Best Friend

Viking. Mar. 2020. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451479457.
Gr 5 Up–Eighth grader Niki Ames is trying to navigate the complexities of middle school friendship and feelings. Early on, she discovers her best friend, Ava, might not be her best friend after all. This sad realization prompts Niki to second-guess herself and her behaviors as she weighs each of her words and actions against how Ava may perceive her. She deals with the push-and-pull of texting; she regrets there isn’t a delete for sending a message. She worries she’ll tell people too much about her family, especially about her younger brother, who is on the autism spectrum. She has a loving and supportive family, but her brother’s behavior can be challenging for both her and her parents. There is a plethora of middle school concerns that will prompt thought and discussion, including a first, and unwanted, kiss; maintaining and acquiring friendships; being and feeling left out; supporting siblings; and more. All are handled with Vail’s deft hand and balanced with keen insight and a splash of humor. The story unfolds in Niki’s authentic voice. The conflicts, though numerous, do not make this a “problem” novel but rather an insightful look at the dramas surrounding students in middle school. Readers will see good and bad elements of the many characters, just like real life, and will be curious to understand their behaviors.
VERDICT This page-turning, solid friendship story will be savored by middle grade students. A welcome addition to library collections.

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