Girl + Book: The Take-Over Friend by Carol Dines

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Released in October 2022, Carol Dines’s The Take-over Friend is a young adult novel about friendship and growing up.

Starting her freshman year of high school, shy Fran meets outgoing Sonja on the second day. They start a friendship that seems as though it would last forever. With the girls having opposite personalities, they compliment each other. Of course, friendships do have their ups and downs as they discover along the way.

One of the things I enjoy about young adult novels is they are usually written in first person, and Carol does that with this novel. Once I started reading it, the story pulled me in—that plus I could definitely relate to the shy Fran. Growing up, I moved a couple of times in middle and high school, and I was that shy girl much like Fran. Eventually, I befriended a girl who had a similar personality as Sonja. I could understand the problems the two girls were having because I had been there myself. Throughout the novel, I cheered for Fran to find her voice, but at the same time I felt sorry for Sonja and her own situation—her mom’s attempted suicide.

Carol makes these characters real and memorable, and I think that helps draw readers in as well. Nowadays, we read so much about mental health, and Fran and her family are dealing with that—her dad has bipolar disorder. Some readers may prefer to get lost in books that don’t deal with real issues, but honestly, I think it helps us understand them better even if it’s in a fictional setting.

As I approached the ending, I predicted what I thought would happen, and I was caught in an unexpected turn. If you enjoy young adult realistic fiction, I highly suggest you give The Take-over Friend a try.

The Take-Over Friend

By Carol Dines

On the second day of ninth grade, introverted Frances meets Sonja, a witty and outgoing newcomer recently moved from France, and the girls become instant soulmates. The two teens are euphoric about their blossoming relationship, relishing a depth of understanding for each other they’ve never experienced with anyone else. Frances is charmed by Sonja’s energy and worldliness, while Sonja adores Frances’s sense of calm and dependability. She’s also taken with Frances’s close-knit family, especially her older brother, Will. Led by Sonja, the girls declare their goal to become “visible” at their high school, dubbing themselves “The Poets” and rallying their classmates to enter the homecoming parade with a poetry-mobile built from Frances’s father’s old band bus.

But as their friendship grows, so do the expectations. Family crises impact both girls—Sonja’s parents are caught in a bitter divorce, and Frances’s father suffers from bipolar disorder. When Sonja’s mother attempts suicide, Sonja temporarily moves in with Frances and her family. Sonja’s dominating personality begins to overwhelm Frances, causing her to doubt herself and her own talents. And when Sonja’s infatuation with Will becomes obsessive, Frances feels manipulated and attempts to set some boundaries. For Sonja, there is no middle ground, and she sees Frances’ efforts to regain her independence as the ultimate betrayal.

Article originally Published in the September / October / November 2023 Issue: Global Reads.

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