Monday, February 17, 2020

Friendship-Blendship? 12 Before 13 by Lisa Greenwald

Dear Ari/Arianna/Little Miss Cool Camp Girl/BFFAE,

How's camp? I still can't believe you're gone! I might never get used to it!

Sooooo, things here are fine. I've been hanging with the lunch table girls a ton. I feel like we're all really bonding! We went to the comedy night at the performing arts center. We had the best time! BTW--did you get the big P again?

I miss you more than those sparkly Mary Janes we had in fifth grade!


Arianna is loving her first sleep-away camp, Camp Silver. Her bunkmates are like soulmates already, and she's beginning to get into the sessions on Judaism, especially since she's facing her Bat Mitzvah in the fall. There's even a cute, funny boy nicknamed Golfy who seems to like her a lot. But Kaylan is her BFF, and Ari can't help feeling a touch of jealousy thinking of Kaylan "bonding" with their lunch table girls and worrying about facing eighth grade alone if Kaylan comes to like them more than her while she's away.

And when Ari returns home, she does find it hard to get that special relationship with Kaylan back to the pre-camp level, especially since she misses her camp friends so much. She and Kaylan still work on THE LIST, thirteen things they want to achieve before their thirteenth birthdays, but Ari finds it hard to watch how much fun Kaylan is having with the lunch table girls and how hard it is to fit back into that group. Item #1 on The List is "Keep our Friendship Strong," and Arianna never dreamed that that one would be so hard.
"Let's just take a break from each other, okay?" yelled Kaylan.

I lean against the brick building and cry. I take the list out of my bag and rip it to pieces. Barely any of it even makes sense to me anymore.

I don't need to "tell a boy how I really feel." I need to tell Kaylan how I really feel.

Seventh grade means that it's not easy to mesh with two groups, where loyalty to one sometimes seems disloyalty to the other. School work is harder, and with Bat Mitzvah classes, she seems always to be rushed. But when her dad loses his job and Ari discovers that her mom is considering selling the house, she finds her emotions are torn three ways. One of the responsibilities of her Bat Mitzvah is to be a "woman in her community," and dealing with it all is making Ari realizes that her roles are changing, no matter how much she misses the security of her old life. Life was so simple back in sixth grade!

Lisa Greenwald's second book in her Friendship List series, both funny and serious, finds her two best friends turning thirteen and finding it hard to meet their own expectations, much less those of everyone else, in her Friendship List 2: 12 Before 13 (Katherine Tegen Books, 2019) narrated by Arianna. There is plenty of adolescent angst and teen drama as the two friends renegotiate their friendship and work their way toward maturity, but there is some powerful growing up going on as well. Fans of Greenwald's popular first book, Friendship List 1: 11 Before 12, written in Kaylan's voice will find this one a must-read, a moving and insightful page turner of the changing ways of being a friend, daughter, and "a woman in her community." And Greenwald's next in this series, Friendship List 3: 13 and Counting, is just out and ready for readers.

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