A girl faces a serious disruption of her friendship with a classmate.
Janelle was injured by a car while riding her bike and spent the summer in the hospital. Her best friend, Dana, couldn’t bring herself to visit there. When Janelle finally returns home, the controlling Julia has taken over Dana’s position. The sixth-grader is bewildered. Every time she tries to reach out to Janelle, Julia actively interferes—a situation that the placid, oblivious Janelle does nothing to remediate. The theme is timeless, even if the situation is somewhat novel. A secondary plot—that Dana has fallen for Jason, who may or may not feel the same way—adds a bit of spice to an otherwise gently bland re-exploration of well-trod ground. A mildly funny recurring theme, that Dana’s energy-conscious mother makes her ride her bike to school in miserable weather, offers potential for additional humor, but the presentation remains stolidly earnest. When Dana finally does effectively connect with Janelle, her friend sums up Julia: “I guess I was her project for a while.” Even Janelle doesn’t fully embrace the conflict in the situation. It was mostly all just a monthslong…misunderstanding. Dana’s voice is diminished by the third-person presentation; her own words might have more effectively conveyed her innate and ultimately attractive spunkiness.
Illuminating and genial but not especially memorable. (Fiction. 9-12)