Today, we did a book blast + giveaway for Caela Carter's My Best Friend, Maybe, and now we're following up with a review!
I had a pretty good idea of what the book was about going on, but I still really liked how Caela approached a lot of the subject lines in the story.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Readers will cherish Carter's frankness and honesty with tough subjects, and her underlying message that family - as much as we may love them - may not always have the best answers. This is a coming-of-age novel at its best.
Synopsis via Goodreads:
When Sadie tells Colette that she needs her old friend to join her on a family vacation to the Greek Islands, one that leaves in only a few days, Colette is shocked to hear their old magic word: need. And she finds herself agreeing.
Colette tries to relax and enjoy her Grecian surroundings but it’s not easy to go on vacation with the person who hurt you most in the world. When the reason for the trip finally surfaces, Colette finds out this is not only a fun vacation. Sadie has kept an enormous secret from Colette for years...forever. It’s a summer full of surprises, but that might be what Colette needs.
Colette has been kind of a social loner since her former best friend Sadie abruptly ended their friendship at the start of high school. However, Sadie randomly seeks Colette out one day, and proposes the impossible: asking her along with a family trip to Greece.
Colette goes back and forth on the idea - she's already committed to going to Costa Rica with her boyfriend. However, the idea of trying to figure just why Sadie ended their friendship, and why Sadie needs her now, is too much to resist. She commits to going, and begins to learn just how her best friend has viewed their separation.
Much like her debut novel, Me, Myself and It, Carter continues her trend of touching on tough teenaged subjects, by approaching these subjects with refreshing, almost blunt honesty. Throughout the novel, Colette never shies away from questioning just how, when and why she and Sadie drifted apart, which is made all the more poignant by interspersed flashbacks depicting the early days of the friendship.
While the Colette-Sadie friendship is definitely the heart of the story, readers will also appreciate some of the other ideas that Carter brings to the foreground of the story - e.g. the struggle for parental approval acceptance, and how the desperation to win that acceptance can cause emotional heartache for many a teenager.
Colette and her friends struggle with the idea of being "perfect" for their families, and it's refreshing to see Colette stand up for herself when she feels like her mother is pushing her idea of perfection onto her a little too far. Her decision to take matters into her own hand will undoubtedly feel familiar, while also making many a reader cheer.
Though Sadie's ultimate reason for "needing" Colette in Greece feels a bit anticlimactic, Carter explains Sadie's rational and thought process in a way that is both understanding, and true to the heart of a teenaged girl. Readers will undoubtedly appreciate Carter's candid honesty by explaining Sadie's reasoning, while also liking the fact that the two girls both have very different explanations (and partially-formed pictures) as to why they fell out in the first place. The reaction of both girls is measured and honest, and makes for a nice reminder that growing up sometimes involves learning that you don't always get the full picture, until you ask for it.
Things to consider:
I'll be honest: it was tough for me to read the negative criticisms of the LGBT community by those characters. I've had adults in my life who have said things similar about the LGBT community in real life, and I was both embarrassed at how cliched my real-life counterparts must have sounded, much like the characters in the book - but even more that I didn't say anything to them at the time, unlike a brave character in the latter half of the novel.
So, I would say, go into the book with the understanding that if you've ever been in the position I've been in, you'll probably find it tough to be reminded of what some of your real-life adult counterparts have said about the LGBT community.
But also go into the book celebrating Caela's refreshing approach to the subject. We don't always get books where authors so clearly show how certain types of thinking may not always be correct, and we should appreciate them when we get them.
Even though I admittedly couldn't fully relate to everything that both Colette and Sadie went through, there were elements of their stories that resonated with me very deeply - particularly when it came to the story lines about Colette and Sadie's respective families - and I can only imagine that it would be the same for other readers.
I also think that Carter's willingness to tackle issues like LGBT relationships in such a empathetic but no nonsense manner, is very important for readers who may be experiencing some similar issues. I've had friends who've experienced what the characters go through, and I think books like My Best Friend, Maybe would have definitely helped them feel less alone.
I highly recommend this for fans of YA contemporary fiction, and fans of contemporary fiction in general.