I’m not much on realistic fiction typically. Living through upper elementary and middle school was hard enough the first time, right?! For some odd, quirky reason though, the realistic graphic genre has totally grabbed me. I get knots in my stomach every time a character hits an awkward spot and am cheering them on when they have a victory. The graphic format is just more powerful for me.
Real Life by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham is one of the best in this genre, by far. This should come as no surprise. This is the duo who has already blown us away with The Princess in Black series.
This new title though is one that unlike their fantasy series for early readers, lands us in the very real, very challenging topics of friendship, growing up, and finding your “tribe”. The friends who get you and have your back no matter what. Anyone who spends time with children knows friendship brings some of the highest highs and lowest lows. This book delves deeper into that from the child’s perspective. The anxiety, the fear of rejection and confusion surrounding why, the joy and peace of acceptance.
The story is actually a memoir written about Hale’s own childhood, revisiting the ups and downs of friendship, family, and change. As I read it, it brought back all the memories of the tumultuous nature of childhood friendships from my own childhood and the immense joy felt when you have acceptance and compassion.
The relationship between Wendy and Shannon is one I feel a lot of readers will connect too. Between family dynamics and mental health issues, these two characters are pushed apart but in the end, come to see that they actually have an ally in each other and are family, regardless of past hurts.