In a perceptive slice-of-life novel, Dowell (Dovey Coe) knowingly portrays the changing dynamics of middle-school relationships. Neighbors Kate and Marylin, who have been best friends since nursery school, find themselves drifting apart at the beginning of sixth grade. Marylin suddenly focuses on her appearance ("As much as Marylin hated to, she had to admit it: She was the sort of person who cared about toes"). Kate pays more attention to other issues, like the health of her father, who suffers a heart attack early on ("Her dad would probably never got to eat another sausage pizza in his life. For some reason, that seemed like the saddest thing Kate had ever heard"). Alternating Kate's and Marylin's points of view, the novel progresses episodically, with large gaps of time separating "milestone" incidents in the girls' movement along different paths. Marylin makes the cheerleading squad and becomes popular, but happiness always seems just beyond her grasp. Meanwhile, Kate feels abandoned by Marylin and strives to develop new friendships with other classmates at school. Much of the plot matter is familiar-both girls fall in and out of love, sample different social circles and end up realizing that they miss each other-as Dowell offers insight and evenhandedness, not novelty. Girls will recognize their own dilemmas here and feel encouraged by the author's honest and sympathetic approach. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The forever friendship of 11-year-old pals Kate and Marylin is put in doubt when older, self-assured, manipulative Flannery moves into their neighborhood. The fact that her family chooses to buy the house right between Kate and Marylin is a first indication that Flannery is planning to wedge herself between the girls. Before the "know-it-all" arrives on the scene, their innocence is a given. Flannery's arrival signals a change in course, and it may not be for the better. She has a lot to say about everything, and she says it with authority. "Flannery always varied her opinions as though they were facts you could look up in an encyclopedia." Suddenly, the friends are faced with growing up issues such as the meaning and responsibility of friendship, what it takes to be popular even to the point of abandoning individuality in favor of acceptance, giving in to peer pressure, insecurity caused by families growing apart, and the first pangs of puppy love. The story is alternately advanced from the perspective of Kate and Marylin. All three girls, Flannery included, learn difficult lessons as they choose to move in different social circles. Marylin learns perhaps the saddest, but truest lesson of all. "The hard part about having so many new friends was that the old ones got lost in the shuffle." The characters are well developed and are effectively used to give a realistic account of preteen struggles. 2004, Simon & Schuster, Ages 8 to 12.
Gr 4-6-Kate and Marylin have been best friends forever. The 11-year-olds begin to drift apart, however, when manipulative Flannery moves into the neighborhood. Partly motivated by unhappiness and insecurity, the older girl influences the passive Marylin to turn against Kate. Marylin joins the cheerleader crowd while Kate eventually gravitates toward classmates who don't follow the herd. Told from various points of view, including those of characters closely involved with the events as well as others on the periphery, the story follows these girls as they struggle with hurt feelings, peer pressure, acceptance, and self-image. Although Marylin believes Kate to be totally immature, it is ironically Kate who ends up romantically involved with a slightly geeky boy who appreciates her kindness and growing sense of self-worth. Flannery grows increasingly disconnected, but Kate learns to stand up to peer pressure. Her hard-won self-possession serves her well when she is the target of a mean prank in which Marylin participates; the tide turns, and kids will admire Kate's handling of the situation. Perhaps a bit unbelievably, the book ends with the repentant Marylin phoning her ex-best friend. Excellent characterization, an accurate portrayal of the painful and often cruel machinations of preteens, and evocative dialogue will make this tale resonate with most readers, who will see themselves and some of their peers in its pages.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kate and Marylin, best friends from nursery school, find themselves increasingly out-of-sync as the rigors of sixth grade test their friendship. Kate loves basketball and doesn't care (much) what other people think, but Marylin finds that she is turning into "the sort of person who care[s] about toes." The penetrating text follows both girls through the course of the year, the third-person perspective moving back and forth between the two as Marylin and Kate drift apart. The ructions to friendships brought on by middle school are hardly new to children's literature. What makes this offering stand out, however, is Dowell's ability to maintain the reader's sympathy with both girls: instead of painting the social-climbing Marylin as a villain, the nuanced characterization shows that she is equally a victim of forces beyond her understanding. Less successful is the use of some secondary characters: a nonconformist girl seems to be introduced solely to provide a model for Kate, and Marylin's little brother threatens to steal the show at points. Still, it's a solid treatment of a subject in which there will always be an interest. (Fiction. 9-12)