Friends Forever by Shannon Hale

Read 10/4/21

Highly anticipated as I loved the first two and was eager to see how Shannon continues to deal with adolescent friendships. I was not quite prepared for this one to be quite a bit more mature than the first two, although it obviously makes chronological sense. I mean, it is her life and she is getting older.
Shannon does reflect on and refer to the friendship groups she had in the first books, she once again seamlessly mentions her faith (Jesus seems like a nice pal of hers), but now there is a lot boy-girl relationships that she faces, as well as a real mental health crisis. Some boys (and girls) seem willing to make out with anyone, but she’s pretty sure that’s not for her. She’s also realizing that 1980s Utah is super sexist and experiences anxiety/depression that no one seems to really notice. [I really wanted to step into the book and have a word with her parents.] She also has an icky experience which adult Shannon addresses in an afterward.

I really felt badly for her and while it’s terrible knowing that that’s what went on in her life, as least you know she DOES grow up to become a very successful and happy author.

Best Friends by Shannon Hale

This was one of the most hotly anticipated publications this fall for my students (and me), along with Telgemeier’s Guts. I thought Real Friends was so terrific that we own a copy, I promote it a lot at school, and I gave it to the guidance counselor to read. I wouldn’t call it warm and fuzzy, but very realistic (as it should be–it’s her life) about the ups and downs of childhood friendships. With an added layer of Shannon having very real anxiety (and ocd.)

Just like my own kid, Shannon is now in 6th grade. Things have changed a bit since her tumultous 5th grade year, but she still struggles to figure out who is a best friend, can you be a best friend and not leave someone out, and more.

As solid as the first one.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

I had a lull of good books last week and told myself to just look around my house and pick up something. Right there on a ledge was Princess Academy. I’d bought a nice paperback copy for a quarter hoping Tabby would read it and wanting to reread it myself. I read this when I was a new book but it’s been so long I forgot what it was all about and have been having a hard time recommending it at school. So I picked it up and oh it was a delight all over again. Shannon Hale is such a good writer. And now I remember the story! Miri lives in a small village on a mountain, an outlying territory in the kingdom. They are isolated, but happy, digging linder out of the mountain-a beautiful rock that only comes from there. One day a king’s messenger arrives and announces that priests have divined that the prince’s bride will come from that village and all the eligible girls must leave the village to attend a “princess academy.” A mean teacher will whip them all into princess shape. So basically it’s boarding school! With a horrible cruel mistress, girls bickering, and much coming of age and self-discovery.  I loved the mild elements of fantasy (the linder stone is a sort of conductor for “quarry speak” between the villagers), the transformation of the girls as they are educated (no one knew how to read), and Miri’s growth. Very enjoyable and I can now happily recommend this to all!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious

I didn’t even know a second volume of this was out until I saw it on display at the library! I’m not doing a great job of keeping up with sequels lately. I  really enjoyed the first one so dove right into this as soon as I got it. The same humor and same Doreen Green aka Squirrel Girl. As before my favorite parts, like the candy of the book, were the pages of group text between her and the Avengers (no group texts please, asks Black Widow immediately.)  These cameos by Iron Man, Captain America, etc are hilarious. Oh! and Thor. Everything with Thor.

Once again Squirrel Girl and her hearing impaired bestie Ana Sofia are figuring out a Hydra plot when everyone else is oblivious. The mood here is high campiness and amusing commentary about social media manipulation and commercialism and a whole bunch of other stuff made hilarious.

I liked this one just as much as the first and one thing I noticed in here that makes me think of  Hale’s wonderful graphic novel Real Friends, were the bits about Ana Sofia and Doreen trying to figure out how to be good friends (new territory for both of them.)

A real treat.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon & Dean Hale

squirrelI’ve really enjoyed the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics, so I was SUPER PSYCHED when I saw that Shannon and Dean Hale were writing a sanctioned novel about Squirrel Girl. I love all of Shannon Hale’s works, including Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack (graphic novel fractured fairy tale retelling), and I knew that she would be the perfect author to write a full novel of Squirrel Girl.
This did. not. disappoint.  SG was witty and charming and so funny and eager. I loved how much backstory this novel gave me and how it really flushed out the character for me. A great origin story, if you will. And explaining her tail and everything I’d wondered about.
I had truly forgotten that as she’s part of Marvel there is some funny interplay with the Avengers. SG’s texts with them and fandom (Thor! Black Widow!) are hilarious.
So here in this novel we have SG, new in town, meeting her new bff, Ana Sofia, and  doing some sleuthing to find out what was up with all the bad stuff happening in town, and coming into her own as a superhero.
This was just all around terrific good fun and I sure hope they are working on more.