The Take-Over Friend

Friendship can sometimes be difficult to sustain, especially as people grow and change. Frances Tannen knows this all too well; her childhood best friend has recently moved away, leaving Frances friend-less as she enters ninth grade. Lucky for her, a fascinating girl named Sonja has recently moved to town from France, and she and Frances become fast friends. Things begin in a positive and enviable way, as Sonja and Frances grow ever closer; but clues soon begin to reveal themselves that show Sonja in a completely different light.

Through a first-person narrative, this book immerses readers into Frances’ thoughts and beliefs as she navigates the turbulent waters of her freshman year of high school. The story often reads like a journal, especially as Frances explains truths about her family and her feelings that she does not express out loud. Coupled with these inner thoughts is ample dialogue between Frances and the many important people in her life, each of which has a strong and memorable voice. Readers will often cringe at the decisions Frances makes, especially as they recognize similarities from their own lives.

This book is anchored firmly in reality, even though the characters involved within it are fictional themselves. Mental illness appears in several different forms, and readers are able to witness the cause and effect of actions pursued by characters within the novel. One person’s idea of perfection is unique to them, and when jealousy becomes difficult to manage, terrible outcomes can result. As Frances clearly demonstrates, it is important to choose one’s friends wisely since there is often more happening beneath the surface than is initially obvious. And it is up to each person to stand up for themselves to avoid being destroyed by personalities wishing to overpower them. This realistic fiction novel is a cautionary tale for high school students, encouraging them to remain true to themselves even in the face of compelling opposition.

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