Seventh-grader Lara Zany’s reign as the self-appointed “Potts County Middle School official Friendship Matchmaker” is in peril.
Lara tackles her mission to aid the lonely with determination. Attempting to decipher the social nuances of middle school life, Lara busily compiles the “Friendship Matchmaker Manual,” a guide to help the friendless discover their perfect BFFs. However, readers soon realize that Lara the matchmaker mysteriously remains without close friends. When new student Emily defies the status quo by questioning Lara’s rigid rules of behavior, a friendship-matchmaking challenge ensues. As Emily and Lara endeavor to find BFFs for two friendless students, the reasons for Lara’s adamant rules—and her reluctance to have a BFF—are slowly revealed. Despite her aloof demeanor and exhaustive rules, Lara remains an amiable, sympathetic character. Her vulnerability and inherent kindness shine through, as when she defiantly defends students against the school bully. While the tale’s conclusion arrives rather abruptly, its encouraging message will appeal to readers.
Abdel-Fattah demonstrates a savvy understanding of the middle school experience in this keenly observed tale. (Fiction. 10-13)