Review: Best Friends by Shannon Hale

Best Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham cover shows a group of kids at the top of a roller coaster ride.

Best Friends (Friends #2)
Shannon Hale
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
MacMillan Audio
Published August 8, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Best Friends

The creators of Real Friends Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham are back with a true story about popularity, first crushes, and finding your own path in the graphic novel, Best Friends.

Follow your heart. Find your people.

Sixth grade is supposed to be perfect. Shannon’s got a sure spot in the in-crowd called The Group, and her best friend is their leader, Jen, the most popular girl in school.

But the rules are always changing, and Shannon has to scramble to keep up. She never knows which TV shows are cool, what songs to listen to, and who she’s allowed to talk to. Who makes these rules, anyway? And does Shannon have to follow them?

Best Friends on Goodreads

My Review

This book was originally published in 2019 as a graphic memoir, and now it’s available as an audiobook. I have never read a graphic novel or memoir converted to an audiobook, so I was curious how the story would translate. I hadn’t read the original, so I went into my reading without any reference for the story.

The recording features a full cast and some setting effects, such as footsteps and other sounds to help anchor the reader in the scene. I thought that worked really well to preserve the feeling of reading spare text, the way you would in a graphic memoir.

Shannon Hale narrates the book herself, which is really cool. I feel like the voices of the characters fit pretty well for the most part. At first, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep all the characters of Shannon’s friends straight, but the narration or dialogue helped label who was talking, so it was pretty easy.

The story follows a sixth-grade Shannon as she tries to figure out the changing rules of friendship and relationships between boys and girls in her grade. I absolutely identified with some of the challenges she related and the heartbreak of friends leaving her out or excluding her.

She also includes passages from a story she was writing at twelve, which I loved! It shows how writing helps her process what’s happening and becomes a safe space for her to be proud of who she is.

A short interview with the author and her twelve-year-old twin girls follows the book. A lot of what they talked about was how things changed between the 1980s, when their mom was in middle school, and now. They brought up a lot of interesting points, and listening to them talk to one another was fun.

Best Friends on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Shannon, the main character, is white. She has undiagnosed anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (which the author mentions in the interview following the book).

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
A girl kisses a boy on the cheek. A boy and girl kiss for a long time in front of another girl (to try to hurt her).

Spiritual Content
Shannon prays for her family and home to be safe. She thinks about how Jesus would want her to stand up for kids who were excluded or bullied.

Violent Content
A boy accidentally drops another boy, leaving him with a concussion. Girls gossip about one another and say hurtful things.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything but help support this blog. I received a free copy of BEST FRIENDS in exchange for my honest review.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

2 Responses to Review: Best Friends by Shannon Hale

  1. That’s so cool that Shannon narrated the audio book. And it’s great that the graphic novel was so good to listen to. I wouldn’t be sure of that either.

    • Kasey says:

      I always like hearing authors participate in narrating their books. It’s interesting to hear how they read things. Yes! I thought they did a great job.