Two white, female best friends enter sixth grade, and their friendship becomes complicated.
Tink, 11 going on 12, decides to change her childhood nickname to something more grown-up, and Jackie, her best friend since kindergarten, suggests “Chris”—the abbreviated version of Tink’s given name, Christine. It is Tink’s wrestling with what it means to be the more adult “Chris” that forms the basis of this extraordinarily perceptive story. Jackie and Tink come from different backgrounds: Jackie is the only child of Bess, a single parent who is currently dating a twice-divorced man with two children, while Tink lives with her parents and three siblings in a middle-class home. Jackie, unsurprisingly, has matured emotionally faster than Tink and is now preoccupied with being part of the in “circle” of the sixth grade, to Tink’s confusion and dismay. Young’s deliciously fresh, perspicacious narrative is told in third-person from Tink’s point of view, punctuated with wry telephone conversations between the girls relayed in scriptlike format. She maintains a spot-on, getting-ready-to-leave-behind-childhood-but-not-yet-adult narrative tone as she relays the complex world of sixth grade—a world of cliques and betrayal and, in Tink’s case, the courage to try to sort it all out. Patronization and pandering are completely absent in this original treatment of the theme of belonging.
A lovely, lovely tale full of warmth, humor, and intelligence that validates its readership. (Fiction. 10-12)