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A Little Friendly Advice Hardcover – March 1, 2008
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Realistic from the get-go and written in present tense, the rhythmic and funny narrative will grab readers right away. It all starts when four people come to celebrate with a birthday girl - one of whom was not invited.
The book begins on Ruby's Sweet Sixteen, when the birthday girl hanging out in her humble house with her mom, waiting for her friends to arrive. She has ziti, a whale-shaped ice-cream cake, and a foil party crown.
Shortly after receiving an old Polaroid camera from her mom, Ruby tests out her gift, capturing her mom in a little white square. The guests start to arrive, and Ruby takes a picture of each one. Her friends are very distinguishable, both in looks and in personality. First is Beth, petite, exuberant, the best friend ever. Next comes maudlin Katherine, who is far more Beth's friend than Ruby's, and two years ahead of the other girls in school. In bounces sassy Maria, thus completing the guest list.
Then the last person Ruby ever expected to walk through that door does exactly that. She takes the opportunity to run out of the door, her friends close behind her. His presence pushes the story forward, as his long-term absence has huge part of her past.
Along comes someone else, someone new. His name is Charlie, and he's a sweet, easygoing boy who likes to make buttons and conversation. Like a picture from Ruby's camera, Charlie will instantly capture the hearts of readers, but it will take a while for their relationship to develop - and he'll patiently wait.
There are plenty of laughs to be had and tears to be shed, sometimes simultaneously, as Ruby re-evaluates her friendships and her parents' divorce. Looking through her new-old camera becomes a way for her to both hide and seek. Stubborn to a fault, Ruby is caught between a rock and a hard place partially because she's put herself there, and she knows it.
Siobhan Vivian delivers her Advice free of clichés. Forgiveness is rarely easy, and friendships aren't always balanced or happy. This book offers subtle metaphors, realistic meanderings and dialogue, and believable events. It also has handmade scarves, Girl Scout badges, a treehouse, and hidden smiles. You'd be wise to consider Vivian's truthful Advice.
In this case, however, those high expectations were certainly warranted! I absolutely loved A Little Friendly Advice. It's a smart, funny novel that is mainly about people and their relationships (friends, love interests, and family). It all starts on Ruby's sixteenth birthday, when her father shows up unexpectedly after years of being totally out of the picture. She was planning on a nice celebration with her mother and group of three close friends (her longtime best friend, Beth, her boy-crazy sometimes-outrageous friend, Maria, and the new addition to their group, Katherine), but all that goes out the window when Jim comes through the front door.
One good thing does come out of Ruby's birthday, though: her mother has gotten her an old Polaroid camera, which she uses to document the events that follow. She realizes her best friend, Beth, has been keeping secrets from her, but with good intentions. She must make some difficult choices about her relationship (or lack thereof) with her father. A new guy steps into her life, Charlie; this is a new area for never-been-kissed Ruby! The friendship dynamics within her group are changing, too. The next few days are very eventful for Ruby, and it's all a bit much for a girl to handle alone, and her friends' advice may not always be for the best.
A Little Friendly Advice will ring true with readers; Siobhan Vivian's sharp, engaging prose captures people and their relationships perfectly. Her characters are fully drawn and three-dimensional, and the story she tells is full of important truths. She understands that life is not always black-and-white, and people and their actions are not always clearly for the best or worst. Life is complicated, and Siobhan Vivian's portrayal of that is honest and moving. She has quickly become one of my new favorite authors! Siobhan Vivian is a fresh new voice in YA literature, one to watch, and you should all read this book as soon as possible!
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