Sarah's Stars

Siobhan Vivian. A Little Friendly Advice
Scholastic $20.99  ISBN 978-0-545-00404-6  248 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

"Hello?" A voice greets me. It's gravelly, probably from the smoking. Tired. Like he's slept, but not all that much. The television is on in the background. Maybe he hasn't slept at all.

He asks "Hello?" a second time, in a space of silence too small for me to have responded anyway. He sounds anxious. He wants to assume it's me, in the lobby, waiting for him. He wants this to be real.

The third time, he says my nickname. Rubes. The hairs prick up on my arms. I hang up and run back toward my bike and pedal home as fast as I can.

It's Ruby's sixteenth birthday and her diverse crew of friends are coming over to help her celebrate: Beth, who's been her best friend since they were little kids, Maria, who goes through boyfriends like most people go through underwear, and Katherine who's the newest addition to their little group. She's a senior in high school with a lot of family issues, she just got dumped by all her other friends and Ruby still isn't quite sure if she can trust her. A vintage Polaroid camera from her mom meshes perfectly with Ruby's thrift-shopping, beat-up Converse-wearing self and it arrives just in time for Ruby to snap a photo of her dad who appears unexpectedly in her kitchen after being gone for six years. She thought she'd never see him again after he left; she didn't even know where he lived. Naturally she wants nothing to do with him, or so she thinks, and Beth agrees. Beth is and has been there for Ruby all those long six years since he left, counseling her in the way that best friends do and offering her advice on everything from what she should do about her dad and how she should handle her new boyfriend: cute, artistic and kind of nerdy Charlie. But when Ruby discovers a letter from her dad in Beth's pocket that Beth had no intention of giving to Ruby, she starts to wonder if Beth's friendly advice is so friendly after all.

Siobhan Vivian's A Little Friendly Advice is a sparkling debut novel filled to the brim with interesting characters, emotions, situations and developments. A few of the lesser characters don't really get too many chances to shine and show their personalities but Ruby's character is fully fleshed-out and real. I totally related to Ruby, not because of her situation but her character itself. I kind of felt confused with the general plotline because by the 100th page we knew that Ruby's dad was messing her head up again but we didn't quite know really about a plot to follow. Nevertheless, something still compelled me to keep turning the pages and even though there isn't really a particular goal to achieve or dilemma to be solved, the ending still wraps the whole story up nicely. It was an atmospheric novel that really drew me into all the thoughts and characters. It reminded me a lot of the quirky vintage-y worlds of Juno or Napoleon Dynamite. One thing that I thought was pretty cool was just how well all the girls on the cover match up to their characters within the actual pages. On a lot of book covers that portray characters on them, the images don't really match up to what's said in the book but for A Little Friendly Advice the photos of the girls are exactly how I would have thought of them in my head. Obviously I don't think many boys would enjoy this book but for teenaged females looking for an absorbing read, here's a little friendly advice: go pick up a copy of this book.

I give Siobhan Vivian's A Little Friendly Advice four out of five stars.


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