Today, I'm reviewing the clever and entertaining book The Friendship Riddle, by Megan Frazer Blakemore.
Blakemore has written an enjoyable mystery romp, about newfound friends who band together as they work to solve a series of riddles. It's a book that's highly reminiscent of The Westing Game, and sure to appeal to younger readers.
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens (first published January 1st 2015)
She prefers to be a lone wolf now that her very best friend, Charlotte Diamond, has moved on to a new, more socially acceptable group of friends. Ruth has been spending most of her time at the public library studying words for their school's upcoming spelling bee. She just knows that winning the bee will make people see her differently. Until she finds a mysterious note tucked into an old book.and in that note is a riddle. With no choice but to accept this mysterious invitation, Ruth sets off on a quest that could provide the answers to all her questions.
But when solving the riddles becomes too difficult to complete alone, Ruth must allow others in. And doing so means that she might just end up making a new set of friends who share her love of adventure.
Author Megan Fraser Blakemore introduces us to Ruth Mudd-Flaherty, a young girl who hasn't quite figured out her place at her middle school, especially now that she's grown apart from her former best friend. While Ruth focuses on winning the spelling bee to try and change how people see her, a chance encounter with a mysterious riddle hidden in a library book quickly sends her on an adventure...
There are so many things to love about The Friendship Riddle, beginning with Blakemore's recognition that the struggle to fit in at school can begin at any age. While Ruth keeps optimistic and occupied with her classes, Blakemore does a fine job of showing her internal debate as she tries to understand just why she is no longer close with former best friend Charlotte.
However, as Ruth begins delving into both the spelling bee and starts figuring out the riddles, Blakemore also begins to show how having the willingness to take on new events can bring new friends into one's life, including people that a person might have assumed that they didn't have much in common with. Ruth develops friendships with likable secondary characters, who both bolster her, and help her grow in confidence.
Outside of Ruth's main character arc, Blakemore does a great job of incorporating diverse elements into the novel, while also emphasizing the important of individuality. Ruth's mom and mum and Charlotte's dads are much-welcomed additions to the book, especially as Blakemore simply doesn't make a big deal about either relationship. Similarly, Charlotte is adopted and of Chinese heritage, but it's more of an interesting facet of her background, rather than a defining characteristic.
As for individuality, Blakemore reiterates time and again, that even if you think that you're the only one who thinks a certain way, odds are, you aren't alone. Without giving spoilers away, Ruth's quest - especially the endgame - is a wonderful reminder of both the merits of beating to your own drum, and just how high and far that drum may eventually take you.
The one area where readers may find issue with the book, is with Blakemore's fairly descriptive scenes involving bras, breasts and other puberty-related concerns. While I personally thought that the book did a nice job of touching on many of the bodily concerns of a young girl, another reviewer pointed out her concerns that those issues might limit the overall audience of the book. Ultimately, I think that it's up to the age and maturity of the reader, to determine how a potential reader might choose handle those aspects of the story.
Bottom line: As someone who was wowed by The Westing Game when she first read it, it was a delight to find an equally immersive and diverse novel in The Friendship Riddle. Not only are the riddles that Ruth and her newfoudn friends team up to solve are entertaining and
About the author:
MEGAN FRAZER BLAKEMORE is the author of The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill and The Water Castle, was listed as a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, and as a New York Public Library Best Book for Reading and Sharing. She is also the author of the young adult novel Secrets of Truth And Beauty which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was on the ALA Rainbow list. A former middle-school librarian, Megan lives in Maine with her family. Visit her online at www.meganfrazerblakemore.com or follow her on Twitter @meganbfrazer.