THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS DO by Cathleen Barnhart


Age Range: 8 - 12
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A careful introduction to consent and sexual harassment for a middle-grade audience.

Sammie Goldstein and David Fischer have been best friends since forever, but lately David has realized that he has a crush on Sammie, and he’s nervous about telling her. When Luke Sullivan, an extremely cool new kid, moves to New Roque, the New York City suburb where they live, David sees him as immediate competition. But all Sammie wants is to continue being friends with David, to keep her spot on the baseball team (she thinks that softball is for girls and that anything for girls must be inferior), and to avoid a romantic entanglement with the obnoxiously aggressive Luke. When David accidentally touches Sammie’s chest, their friendship begins to unravel fast, but Sammie discovers a newfound camaraderie with the girls she had always dismissed as being too, well, girly. Told in the rapidly alternating perspectives of the two white Jewish young people, the plot drags a bit in the middle as the two stumble painfully through constant failures to communicate; the antagonist, who embodies the worst of coercive male attitudes toward girls and women, is not given similar interiority or growth. These flaws aside, the middle grades need more books that address both the ways that misogyny and rape culture surface at that age and how it’s hard but necessary to get the help you need.

A worthy, timely, ambitious debut. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-06-288893-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2019