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The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

Review

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

In THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS by Jane Kelley, Val and Lanora are the best of friends, inseparable for all time --- or so it seems. When the two girls are just about to start middle school, Lanora wants to reinvent herself. She’s left bitter by her parents' divorce and sees her new school as a chance to start fresh. She ditches Val and joins the A-Team, a group of beautiful but cold girls who rule the student body and whose after-school activities include shoplifting.
 
But Lanora can’t quite pull off the A-Team lifestyle, so they drop her and she is left as a social outcast. Sinking into a depression, Lanora withdraws and even stops going to school altogether.
 
Meanwhile, Val is in despair. She thought that she and Lanora were friends forever and imagined going through middle school with Lanora by her side, business as usual. How can she save her best friend from this trouble? Luckily, one very clever cat leads Val to an antiques store, where she meets one very clever boy. Together, the boy and Val crack open THE BOOK OF DARES and begin an ancient spell to bring Lanora back.
 
The opening of THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS is told through the point of view of Mau, the cat. At that point, I was already sold --- any book that is partially narrated by a cat is bound to be promising. The story is sweet, charming and at times quite sad. Kelley’s strong point is her lovable cast of characters, from courageous Val to the socially awkward and highly intelligent boy she meets, Tasman. I loved aloof Mau and Val’s imaginative, silly and deeply caring little brother, Drew. Val’s brother and parents are the perfect family, providing a contrast to Lanora’s withdrawn father. 
 
Kelley’s strong point is her lovable cast of characters, from courageous Val to the socially awkward and highly intelligent boy she meets, Tasman.
 
The book’s storyline --- two friends entering a new school and one deciding to reinvent herself, dropping the other in the process --- is as old as time. This makes the novel very relatable but also puts it in danger of being unoriginal. Kelley avoided this problem by giving Val a very unusual approach to getting her friend back --- a spell book! Luckily, the ending wasn’t cliché either, and Kelly left a lot to the reader’s imagination.
 
I delighted in reading about how the elements of the spell that Val used related to other parts of the plot and her friendship with Lanora, though the last element, I think, should have been introduced earlier in the story. Still, it was interesting to see how the genuine effort to bring Lanora back also brought Tasman and Val closer together. Though Val initially started the attempt to bring Lanora back on her own, more and more characters such as Drew and Tasman get pulled into her journey. This reflects the very real-life way that one person’s life affects so many others’. 
 
Overall, I loved the characterization in THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS and the wondrous twists and turns of the plot. The novel is fast-paced and an easy page-turner, and I felt the characters coming alive at every moment. Whether the reader is in middle school or not, he or she will relate to each person’s struggle. I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with a friend becoming more distant or fitting in, or anyone who simply wants a sweet and moving read.

Reviewed by Sydney Scott on July 13, 2015

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends
by Jane Kelley

  • Publication Date: July 12, 2016
  • Genres: Relationships
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • ISBN-10: 1250079837
  • ISBN-13: 9781250079831