Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Friends Like These

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Author

Delacorte Press,  Fiction, Nov. 1, 2022

Suitable for ages: 12-17

Themes: Teens, Parties, Dating, Revenge, Mystery, Crime, Assault, Suspense  

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A Party 

A Betrayal

A Girl who disappears

Mistake number one . . .

Fun-loving Jake tells his girlfriend, Jessica, that they have to go to Tegan’s end-of-summer party in their tiny California beach town. Jessica doesn’t like parties, and she doesn’t like Tegan, who has an obvious, obsessive crush on Jake. But she agrees to go, to make Jake happy. 

Mistake number two . . .

Something awful happens at the party. Something so embarrassing that Jessica doesn’t know if she can ever get over it—and Jake will do whatever it takes to earn her forgiveness. And now a girl is missing. Everyone is a suspect. And Jake seems to have a lot to hide. . . . 

When a body is discovered at the beach, friends start turning on friends, and lies start piling up on lies. What happened could destroy their lives. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer? Mistake number three . . .

Why I like Friends Like These:

Jennifer Alvarez’s has written a gripping and haunting psychological thriller that will take readers on an emotional journey. So hang on tight! The setting, compelling characters with a dark edge, and a realistic plot are so brilliantly intertwined that they create an extraordinary reading experience.

The narrative is superbly written in three alternating voices of Jessica, Jake and Tegan and is divided into three parts. It is fast-paced — don’t blink — and addictive.  The tension is palpable. Alvarez doesn’t let up until the very end. You may think you know the guilty parties as your read, but you won’t. There are more twists and turns in this story that will keep readers off-balance. And there is a huge cliff-hangar at the end.  Readers may want to think twice before they go to unsupervised parties! 

There is a large cast of characters that are complicated. I’m only focusing on the threesome.  Jessica is kind and spunky. And she’s in love with Jake who has recently lost his dad. His anger over that loss causes him to act out. Tegan is the rich mean girl who gets what she wants at any cost. She dated Jake for six weeks until he breaks it off. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the story for readers. After you read the story make sure you read her author’s note at the end.

With two outstanding YA fiction novels in the last two years, including Lies Like Wildfire, Alvarez will certainly become a beloved author for many high school students seeking a good mystery. For younger readers, check out her MG fantasy series mentioned in her bio.

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is the author of a YA  Lies Like Wildfire and two middle-grade fantasy series The Guardian Herd and Riders of the Realm. She earned her BA in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the Sonoma County coordinator for SCBWI. Jennifer splits her time between Northern California and Middle Tennessee. When she’s not writing books, she travels with her husband in the overland RV, dreaming up new stories to tell. Visit her at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

 

Birdie by Eileen Spinelli

Birdie

Eileen Spinelli, Author

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Novel in Verse,  Apr 9, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 9-14

Pages: 208

Themes: Family life, Grief, Friendship, Dating, Multigenerational families, Birding, Verse

Opening: I pick the hairs / from my brush. / I put them in / my pocket. / I will drop them / on the grass / on my way to / Mrs. Bloom’s. / I do this / every Saturday.

Book Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Roberta “Birdie” Briggs loves birds. They bring her comfort when she thinks about her dad, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. The past few years without her dad haven’t been  easy. At least Birdie still has Mom and Maymee, and her friends Nina and Martin.

But then Maymee gets a boyfriend, Nina and Martin start dating, and Birdie’s mom starts seeing a police officer. And suddenly not even her beloved birds can lift Birdie’s spirits. Her world is changing, and Birdie wishes things would go back to how they were before. But maybe change, painful as it is, can be beautiful too.

With compelling verse and a light-hearted touch, Eileen Spinelli captures the poignancy of adolescence and shows what can happen when you let people in.

Why I like this book:

Eileen Spinelli’s Birdie is a tenderly-crafted coming-of-age story filled with love and hope. Birdie is coping with the loss of her father and a move to a small town to live with her grandmother. Much of her conflict is emotional and dealt with internally. It also involves a lot of change.

Birdie’s voice is strong and perceptive, and it works well as a novel in verse. Spinelli’s realistic verse is deceptively simple, but expresses the disappointment, anger and fear that Birdie experiences as she worries about losing her friends, her mother’s love and her father’s traditions. I particularly felt an intimacy with Birdie, that I may not have felt if the story was told in prose. Spinelli assigns a title to each poem, which feels like a guide for readers since the novel was free from chapters.

I also love multigenerational stories. Maymee is a hoot. Widowed, Maymee finds love again, which shocks Birdie at first, but it gives her a chance to see how time heals and how people can love again.

Birdie is a quick read and a perfect way to introduce readers to poetry. Birdie would be a nice addition to any school library.

Eileen Spinelli made her debut in 1991 with Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, which won a Christopher Award. Since then she has written more than forty children’s books, including Thankful, When No One Is Watching, and Jonah’s Whale. She lives in Pennsylvania with Jerry Spinelli, her husband and fellow children’s author. Visit Spinelli at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.