Review: Best Friends by Shannon Hale, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

I wish I could gift the book Best Friends to my younger self. I guess that’s what you have little sisters for – to make their childhood a bit more bearable. Sequel to Hale’s graphic novel, “Real Friends“, Best Friends explores the confusing in-between period of time where you’re no longer a kid, aka sixth grade *cue scary sound effect*

Shannon Hale managed to yank out all those suppressed memories from those early school years. Everything covered in Best Friends reminded just how glad I am not to be in the sixth grade *shudders*. The boys being mean just to appear ‘cool’, the girls being in constant competition, the petty fighting, the gossiping. How did we all survive that? And more importantly, why do little kids act so mean? I guess that’s why I’m studying Psychology.

Speaking of, yes, I still cannot stop analyzing the characters I encounter in books. This must be like book editors who can’t mentally stop correcting the writing they read in their free time. It’s simply impossible after you read the DSM to not look for signs of a disorder in every behavior. Like Jon Ronson wrote in his book The Psychopath Test:

“I wonder if I’ve got any of the 374 mental disorders,” I thought.
I opened the manual again.
And I instantly diagnosed myself with twelve different ones.

So reading Best Friends where Shannon Hale covers anxiety and OCD (presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both) was really interesting to see unfold within such a young character. I can’t stop thinking about her spiraling thoughts.

I’d recommend this book for many reasons (relatability, mean girls, finding your voice), but the mental health aspect made the book stand out for me.

This here paints the picture so clearly. “The worries were wrong” is so powerful.

This showcases the cycle of obsessive thoughts and taking momentary comfort in repetitive behaviors or mental acts like praying or repeating words silently.

Oh, and the gorgeous art by LeUyen Pham grew even more detailed and colorful this time around. Here are some of my favorite parts of Best Friends:

I wasn’t sure at first of the story within a story aspect, but if you want to buy my immediate love feature the ocean in your book.

It was also interesting how she featured writing as a tool of escapism when her friends didn’t want to play pretend anymore. It starts with the little things and then grows into something bigger… I mean she has multiple books out now.

Don’t stop! I loved that her teacher encouraged her writing (and that Shannon Hale included the real paper her teacher graded.) Having a teacher believe in you grants so much confidence when you’re young – or at any age, really.

…Until she grows tired of you too. Ugh!!! Those friends. I forgot all about those friends… Don’t bring me back to sixth grade, please. Ever.

Oh, that art!! I loved it when the art would suddenly change in style. It brought the story to life for me. So good!!

This page convinced me. I want a third book with Shannon in middle school or high school, please!

Me during this pandemic. Hovering in this cruel cycle of wanting to know what’s going on but also coming out of it with less knowledge and more fear. I only noticed the fear mongering in the media when I compared watching the news VS watching something I enjoyed. Wow. What a difference in mindset afterward. Do an experiment and notice your emotions after watching the news VS after watching your favorite movie or favorite Youtube channel. It will make you want to never watch the news again. Who wants to feel full of despair and anxiety? Not me.

Ah! What a powerhouse. Like my favorite Sarah J. Maas quote: “My name is Celaena Sardothien,” she whispered, “and I will not be afraid.”

This is what this book granted me: solidarity. We’re not alone in our thoughts.

READ THIS BOOK! Gift it to your younger siblings, cousins, neighbors. It’s so insightful and fun and thoughtful. I want a third book!

Oh, and help out this college girl by buying my books on Depop. I’m selling my books on Depop because I’m moving soon. If you’re looking for popular YA books; poetry; books full of dogs: foreign editions of books… Come take a look here