Saturday, July 18, 2015

Best Friend Next Door, by Carolyn Mackler

Hannah hates the fact that her best friend next door has moved away and that a new girl named Emme has moved in to the very same house.  She is initially determined to hate the new girl, but it is hard when they share an amazing list of things in common (same birth date, taste in clothes and food, favorite sports, and even a shared love of palindromes!).  Ultimately, it is Hannah's cat that brings them together.  Once they get over that initial hurdle, there are yet more challenges to come as so much is changing around them.

Mackler has written a number of great MG and YA books over the years and she always does a great job of exploring the friendships and anxieties of tweens and teens.  This book captures life as a ten year-old pretty convincingly, but beyond that, the story meanders and doesn't really have a purpose.  There are plenty of challenges -- a lost cat, bullying at school, a new sibling, changing tastes, evolving relationships with family and friends, a birthday trip, and so on -- but not really any overriding story.  For the young reader who simply wants to enjoy following two sympathetic fifth-graders as they navigate their pre-adolescent world, this will be an enjoyable read, but it lacked the substance to create a really great work.

[Disclaimer:  I solicited and received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.  I am donating the book to my local public library when I am finished.]

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