Date: 29 December 2013
Books Completed: 216
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”—George Washington
I recently read Wendy Mass’ other new book this year, Pi in the Sky. It was a sci-fi book, so a bit of a departure for Miss Mass, not to mention the on-target sense of humor she gives her characters was not as much in evidence as usual. She did, however, incorporate her other trademark device (one that I so count on as I read her books), and that is friendship.
Miss Mass’ specialty is the relationship between a boy and girl who are best friends. This scenario seems to be becoming more popular in children’s books, but in general, best friends tend to be just boys or just girls. And the portrayals of these friendships are often my favorite parts of children’s books.
Most of us gravitate to characters and experiences that mirror the people and experiences in our own lives. I certainly am no exception. All my life, I have been more of what Washington described above—the kind of person who is friendly with many people, but friends with just a few. My friendships are usually solid and relatively sans drama. In elementary and junior high school, Carrie T was my best friend, in high school it was Diana G, and in college it was my sophomore-through-senior roommate and suitemate, Kelly S and Polly Z. I am still in touch with all these ladies to varying degrees (thank goodness for Facebook!) so while we are no longer close, there is still a bond.
As I said, these friendships were pretty drama-free. In fact, I don’t remember any drama with Diana, Kelly, and Polly, and just a little with Carrie.
Carrie and I met in kindergarten and kept the friendship going strong until we went to different high schools. Things between us were smooth sailing until middle school and the boys started to flock—to Carrie. She was pretty with long blond hair, blue eyes and inborn flirting skills. I was shy and a bit overweight and never knew what to say or do, so the boys pretty much ignored me. Carrie was quite interested in them and all the attention (how could she not have been) and I was still interested in the music, books, and TV shows we liked and used to talk about when we just hung out. In retrospect I can say we were growing apart, but at the time I just remember feeling sad and a little left out.
This is why Winnie in Lauren Myracle’s Eleven and Callie in Winnie Mack’s After All, You’re Callie Boone resonate so strongly with me. Winnie and Amanda have been friends forever, but while Winnie is still interested in the games and activities they’ve done all their lives, Amanda is now too “grown up” to have fun in the same ways and is very interested in boys and dating. Callie faces a similar situation. She and Amy have been best friends forever, but now Amy has other interests, including a new best friend who shares Amy’s new delights in clothes, boys, and dating. Fortunately, Carrie and I never had a “break up” of our friendship in the way that Winnie and Callie had to experience, but I understand and empathize when one friend goes in one direction, leaving the other friend behind.
What I so totally don’t get is what I call turncoat friends. Frenemies. Honestly, why would someone want to be friends with a person who would be equally willing to help or hurt you? Frenemies are not in my personal experience. There have been girls I didn’t particularly like or trust, but I would never have called them friends. We might have been friendly, but not friends.
Because of this, it surprises me a little how much I love the Mother-Daughter Book Club books. Throughout the series, I identified strongly with Emma (shy, a bit socially awkward, a bit overweight, not into fashion, voracious book worm, wants to be a writer—sound familiar?), even though Cassidy eventually emerged as my favorite (her experiences with her own Mr. Darcy certainly may have influenced that!). My least favorites were Megan and Becca—the frenemies. Interestingly, it was Megan who actually annoyed me more. From start to finish I didn’t like Becca because she was a Mean Girl over the course of the entire series, although those sharp edges did mellow enough that I had least had some sympathy for her by the last two installments. But Megan, on the other hand, she inspired the most anger. She and Emma had been friends in elementary school, and then they grew apart with dissimilar interests. Painful, but OK, it happens. What so angered me was the fact that Megan still liked Emma and never stood up to Becca when Becca was downright cruel to Emma. Never once told Becca she was out of line, even though Megan was very uncomfortable with Becca’s behavior and still considered herself Emma’s friend. In my book, friends don’t do that. I know it’s hard, going against the popular kids, but friends don’t abandon each other. If you’re going to be friends with two contradictory people, at least have the decency to have both friends’ backs. Mrs. Frederick does a good job detailing Megan’s struggle, but ultimately Megan was someone I would not trust and therefore not want as a friend.
My friendships and reading patterns have not altered much over the years. I still am friendly with many and friends with few. These days, Natalie T and Ruth C are my confidantes, and my relationships with each of these amazing ladies have greatly enriched my life and been decidedly drama-free. I still like reading about relationships between true friends and not frenemy turn-coats. I suspect that my tastes in friends and reading material will, indeed, stay as they are.
“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”—Louisa May Alcott