Just Pretend

Little, Brown. May 2021. 320p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780316538893.
Gr 5-8–In this graphic memoir, Sharp describes how fantasy offered a safe haven from the complications of reality. Tori and her best friend, Taylor, are navigating seventh grade separately—unfortunately, they don’t have any classes together. Some party-pooper teachers put the kibosh on their attempt to stay connected, which inadvertently puts a strain in their friendship. Not having a best friend around for moral support makes things tough as both girls deal with family problems: Taylor’s stepmom is super strict, and Tori’s divorced parents have a contentious relationship. Plus, Tori is exhausted from trying to keep up with homework while being dragged around to her sister’s dance rehearsals. Her brother is rude and rough with her and argumentative with their mom, and while her dad clearly loves her and enjoys her company, he’s always busy at work. Tori’s refuge is a fantasy novel she’s writing, filled with elves, magic crystals, and shadow villains. Sharp deftly intersperses illustrations from her young self’s first foray into becoming an “authoress” to break up the mounting tension in Tori’s life. Many readers will connect with this relatable, gracefully illustrated story. While most of the cast seems to be white, Taylor appears to be Asian and several background characters appear to be people of color.
VERDICT Make room for this one on your shelves, but don’t expect it to spend much time there. A recommended first purchase.

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