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Not the Worst Friend in the World : A Librarian’s Perspective Review

I loved this! Not the Worst Friend in the World is from debut author Anne Rellihan, who clearly understands 6th grade girl drama well. Is she a 6th grade teacher? A mom of multiple girls who were once 6th graders? No idea. She knows her audience though.

Mystery
Not the Worst Friend in the World

Author: Anne Rellihan

Publication Date: February 6, 2024

Genre: mystery, realistic fiction

Setting: Catholic school in Mayfield, Missouri

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: fighting with best friend, remorse over things said, kidnapping, proving oneself, family problems, making new friends, helping others, observation notebooks, bullying, parental abandonment, depressed mother, anxiety, OCD/counting

Protagonist: female, age 11, white, 6th grader; her stepfather is Black and two half-siblings are biracial

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Booklist

Pages: 272


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

It’s the thirty-fourth day of sixth grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Missouri, and eleven-year-old Lou wishes she could rewind time.

Lou wants to go back to the ninth day of sixth grade—the day before she fought with her best friend Francie and said the terrible, horrible things she can’t unsay. Or better yet, she would go back to fifth grade when Francie was still the Old Francie.

Then the new girl, Cece Clark-Duncan, passes Lou a mysterious note. It says she was kidnapped. (!) If Lou can help Cece, maybe she can prove she’s not the world’s worst friend.

But as observant Lou uncovers the complicated truth about Cece’s family, she starts to panic. Can she help Cece without hurting her? Or will Lou end up losing another friend instead?

THE SHORT VERSION

Wonderful! Highly recommended for Grades 3-7.

WHAT I LIKED

It’s authentic! The author really understands sixth grade girls and the friend drama that often occurs in middle school. We have Louise (Lou), who has a nice, supportive family and isn’t quite ready to wear make-up or flirt with boys.

Her former best friend is Francie, whose mother is likely dealing with depression. While the mother does live at home with Francie, she is emotionally absent and described as “sleeping or praying” all the time.

At the beginning of the story, we learn that Francie and Lou had a major falling out a few weeks ago. We don’t know exactly what happened except that Lou feels a lot of guilt over the terrible things she said to Francie. These come to light at the end, but for most of the book, we don’t know what terrible things Lou said to Francie.

Anyway, we add in a new student, Cece, who believes her father has kidnapped her. Lou befriends Cece and tries to help her figure out what happened to her mother and why her mother has not contacted her in weeks. This all sets up a dynamic with Francie, who seems jealous of Lou’s new friend and tries to befriend her herself.

As a former 6th grade girl, I felt ALL of this! Not one of these girls did anything wrong. No one is mean or a bully, even though they have said some not nice things. It was all just so well done, and I commend the author for that authenticity.

I also loved the family dynamics in all three girls’ families. Lou’s family is the one we know most about. Lou has a stepfather, who is kind and supportive and downright awesome. She has cute half-siblings. Lou’s mother seems a bit scatterbrained at times, but she’s also supportive and a good mom. Lou shows some ambivalence and awkwardness around her biological father, but this is realistically-written as well. I love books that show blended families in such a positive way!

Francie’s and Cece’s families are dealing with some more complicated issues, and the girls are handling that as best they can. The author describes the girls’ emotions and behavior sensitively and realistically. Chef’s kiss!

The possible-kidnapping was a nice mystery. I can see where Cece would think she was kidnapped – she certainly had some great evidence! As a reader, I loved trying to make sense of Cece’s clues right along with the characters.

Oh! And that Catholic school setting! I loved this glimpse into a private Catholic school. This also felt very authentic. This isn’t Christian fiction, and there are no religious messages or written prayers. But characters do attend confession at school. They have to complete a “Christ is Alive” project for class. They attend church events, and there’s a flashback to a Nativity play in 5th grade. It all adds to the story’s authenticity and makes Not the Worst Friend in the World a unique addition to library shelves.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

I loved the entire book! It’s engaging, well-paced, and character driven. I think many tween readers will identify with the three main characters.

DIVERSITY

Most characters are white. Lou’s stepfather is Black. Her two younger stepsiblings are biracial. All main characters are Catholic and the kids attend a private Catholic school.

ARTWORK/ILLUSTRATIONS

No artwork. Cover is okay but a little boring. I don’t think students will automatically pick this up based on the cover alone.

LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW

Would adults like this book? Well, I sure did! I think adults who enjoy reading middle grade literature will find much to love.

Would I buy this for my high school library? NO – it’s too young for high school. Characters are 6th graders.

Would I buy this for my middle school library? 1000% YES. No reservations – this is a must for middle school.

Would I buy this for my elementary school library? Again, YES! No content worries for elementary, and I think the friend drama will resonate well with 4th and 5th grade readers.

MATURE CONTENT

Language: none

Sexuality: 6th grade girls flirting with 6th grade boys; it’s all very innocent and age-appropriate. One does briefly kiss a boy on a playground.

Violence: some mean girl bullying – tween readers will certainly relate

Drugs/Alcohol: none

Other: parental abandonment

OTHER REVIEWS OF NOT THE WORST FRIEND IN THE WORLD

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