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Friction Hardcover – May 1, 2003
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Most well-known for her devastatingly poignant teen tales of urban desperation and redemption, renowned young adult author E. R. Frank switches gears and narrows her focus to the pivotal events of one 8th grade classroom. The progressive petri dish of Forest Alternatives middle school is stirred the wrong way when sophisticated, tongue-ringed Stacy makes the scene. Almost immediately, Stacy takes advantage of the schools relaxed and experimental atmosphere to start a little excitement. For reasons known only to herself, she begins to insinuate that Simon, the 8th grades idealistic, good-looking young teacher, is in love with Alex, Frictions mild mannered first person narrator. Embarrassed and infuriated, Alex tries to squelch the gossip, but only manages to make herself look more guilty to her classmates. When she finally confronts Stacy, Alex is horrified when Stacy tearfully admits that the reason shes been spreading the rumors is to draw attention away from the fact that Simon is actually molesting her. Confused and half caught up in Stacys stories herself, Alex makes the mistake of trusting her shifting feelings instead of what she knows to be true, irreparably harming her admired teacher in the process. Friction is a provocative, deadly accurate portrayal of puberty, in all its manipulative, perplexing, unmanageable glory. Alexs quest to discover the definition of truth is a journey every teenager makes, and teen readers of Friction will take great comfort in the fact that a trusted author, who clearly hasnt forgotten adolescence herself, is helping to chart the path. (Ages 12 to 15) --Jennifer Hubert
From School Library Journal
Grade 6-10-Alex, almost 13, has gone to Forest Alternative school for three years, and is a force on the otherwise all-male soccer team. Simon is her teacher, coach, and friend. He has taught his students with attention toward their intellectual, athletic, and emotional growth. When Stacy, a new girl, waltzes into this eighth-grade utopia, the balance of the classroom dynamics tips. She starts rumors about Simon's attraction to Alex, and casts a sticky web of sexual discomfort over the class. Everything Alex sees, feels, and knows becomes laden with ulterior meanings. Only Simon remains clueless about what's going on. He is a free spirit who neglects protocol and makes poor choices. On the class camping trip Alex sees his "thing" on her way to the latrine. Later, he climbs into the kids' tent to avoid a storm and lies down next to her. At novel's end, the only clarity is that the brash and troubled Stacy has caused the pain in her own life to seep over into those who've been previously spared. False accusations, dark family secrets, professional boundaries, and coming-of-age, all contribute to the novel's friction, reflecting a point of view that twists, turns, and confronts readers. Most of them will identify with Alex, her conflicting thoughts, and the events that she unintentionally unleashes. Her voice is convincingly genuine, and her confusion and self-doubt are powerful reminders of the navet and culpability of adolescence. The silent, if misplaced guilt that she absorbs will linger long after the book is closed.
Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
After Stacy continues to spread the rumor that Simon is attracted to Alex, Tim, a middle-school classmate, informs a bewildered Alex that, "Older men like younger women...Everybody knows it, Alex. Come on." Subsequently, Alex begins to think that maybe she likes her science teacher as well. She said:
"What if that slow, sliding feeling I've been getting lately is because I like him? Most of me knows it can't be, but then why am I suddenly restless sometimes, in the middle of the night or at school, or even on the soccer field? Why do I want to feel something light, maybe on the arm or the lips, and how come, even though I think it was an accident that time Simon touched my chest, I can't get it out of my mind?"
I'm not going to spoil the ending, but I will say that it involves another dramatic age-discrepant relationship that explains why Stacy insisted on spreading the rumor that Alex and Simon were having an affair.
Friction is a very accurate description of an eighth grade classroom and what can happen at a small school when you add a new girl, rumors, and the natural confusion that teens feel as their worlds change from bubble gum and Big Chief Tablets to their periods, puberty and sexual feelings.
E.R. Frank does a superb job of drawing the reader into the story, accurately and believably describing the gossip and rumor circles that can easily develop in this type of school setting, and showing how seemingly innocent rumors and drama can turn into very hurtful items.
All of the characters in this book learn a solid lesson about life and how important it is to say what you are feeling and speak the truth on behalf of those you care for, or lives can be drastically changed.
Friction is a story of life, love, learning, betrayal, repression, trust, friendship, honesty, lies, the importance of parents being there for their children and knowing when a child is crying for help.
E.R. Frank knows kids very well. She knows teens even better. Most importantly, E.R. Frank has not lost touch with the younger generations.
E.R. Frank is a gift to Young Adult literature, and Friction is just the latest in her series of unforgettable contributions.
The action was non-stop and always had you wondering what was going to come next. I would classify this novel as a mystery as some events occur that no one seems to know what really happened. This novel really caught me off guard when I learned what really happened and this is why that novel was so memorable for me.
However, even if it was a page-turner, I was confused about the gender of the main character, Alex, until about half way through the first chapter. I guess this wouldn’t make a difference to some people but the way she explained herself and the events around her, I assumed she was male until someone was talking to her and called her “she”. This caused me to go back to the beginning of the novel to read it with a new perspective with me knowing Alex is female.
Overall, I would recommend this novel to anyone over the age of 15. Some of the events would be too extreme for younger readers, but that is just my opinion. It deals with different types of abuse that younger readers may not understand. However, this novel portrayed how close some people can be with their teachers and how much teachers really mean to their students and how many lives they touch. So with this, I challenge you to say thank you to your teachers and let them know how much they have done for you.
Alex is a very generous person. She has many good qualities such as being really good at soccer and rooting for world peace. She likes Tim a lot and he likes her too. But, rather than have the whole school find out, the just don't talk about it. Alex is also very good friends with her teacher Simon. This later creates problems in the story because of Stacey, the new girl. Stacey is also one of the main characters and she is a real punk! She thinks that she is so cool just because she lives a huge house and has lots of friends. Another thing is she has a tongue ring. Its pretty disgusting. At first Stacey seems really nice, but the rumors she spreads are not so nice. Alex always tries to comprimise with her, but Stacey never listens. Simon also does some pretty bad things throughout the story as well.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes to keep reading and reading. This book is also for people who can relate to problems like bad rumors and struggling to find solutions. I also recommend this book to people who can relate ot real world difficulties, such as bad rumors and the struggle to find solutions to problems.