Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Kind of Friends We Used To Be - Frances O' Roark Dowell (audio)

“The Kind of Friends We Used To Be” was a featured book on our Scholastic Book Fair this year, so when I stumbled upon the audio in the library, I thought it might be a good selection for the kids and I to listen to in the car. It was pretty short – only four discs – so we were able to listen to the entire story during a few errands and our Mother’s Day roadtrip to the beach this weekend.

Kate and Marilyn have been best friends and neighbors since grade school. They are now entering 7th grade, however, and it is becoming more and more apparent that they have very little in common but their shared history. Marilyn is a cheerleader and has gotten caught up in makeup, fashion, and becoming an elected member of the student government. She also struggles with her parents’ recent divorce. Kate is a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl, and has recently decided to learn to play the guitar, write song lyrics, and has added a big clonky pair of lace-up black boots to her wardrobe.

Each girl has her own middle school challenges. Does Marilyn dare befriend the slightly odd new girl who is an amazing artist, and risk the scorn of the other cheerleaders? Does she even care? Is there anyone she can talk to about how inconvenient and empty a broken home really feels? Kate doesn’t feel like she fits in. She surprisingly finds music as a common ground with the pink-haired older girl down the street that used to torment her, and forms a close friendship with a boy in her creative writing class but is confused about her feelings for him. Each girl sadly misses “the kind of friends they used to be”, but have moved on.

This was a light, moderately entertaining book. While the characters are primarily girls in the 12 to 13 year old age range, my 11 year old daughter and 9 year old son were actively interested. The themes weren’t inappropriate and were within the realm of their understanding. The storyline, however seemed to be without purpose. Yes, there were some lessons in there, but it meandered too much to leave much of an impact at the end. I questioned the kids this morning after we finished the audio and before we reached school, and both of them said in monotone voices “it was good”. I couldn’t get much more out of them. Neither really wanted to help review it. I guess I have set the standard with Lois Lowry books and The Hunger Games, and I can’t blame them for their lack of excitement.

Sandy's rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Emma and Ryan's rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


Unknown said...

That is the problem with reading amazing books - the bar is now set so high that a lot of books will be a disappointment. I hope you manage to find something to capture their imagination again soon.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

You caught my attention with the first few sentences of the description -that "drifting apart" happens to most kids, I think. I've tried to explain "people can grow apart in their different interests" to my older kids, but it can be a struggle.

sorry to hear that the story didn't live up to your expectations ... or to the higher standards set by some of the other audios you've shared with your kids.

Beth F said...

Nice review and I like your kids' responses! I think Jackie is right, the next book after a winner is bound to suffer.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - we just got back from the library and have a couple of audios that have potential...we will see!

Dawn - there definitely ARE issues in this story that are common to just about every kid of that age. I see it happening to my daughter even. The audio was very well-read and was easy to listen to, just not pulled together as tight as I would have liked!

Beth - well, we are on to different pastures. Hopefully we can pull out of our slump!

Iliana said...

Isn't it hard to find a good book after several amazing ones? It's hard for any to live up to that.

Hopefully the next book you guys read will be a winner. And, actually how cool that your kids also like audio books!