Best Friends

­Macmillan Audio. (Friends: Bk. 2). Aug. 2023. 311p. $14.99. ISBN 9781250891716.
Gr 4-8–Hale and Pham’s splendid three-part “Friends” series—Real Friends (2017), Best Friends (2019), and Friends Forever (2021)—based on Hale’s middle grade experiences have hit bestseller lists and earned plenty of lauds. Thus far, only Best Friends has an audio adaptation—and yes, a stellar full cast presents a wonderfully immersive production, augmented with 1980s music and background sound effects. The result is a sensational rollercoaster ride epitomizing the ups and downs of middle grade relationships (who’s in, who’s out, who’s saying what to whom) and so much more. Although choosing aural means missing Pham’s whimsically emotive art, the recording offers something the page can’t: Hale warmly, reassuringly reads her “Hey you” author’s note in which she’s especially revealing about her own anxiety. And then listeners get to hear Hale and her twin daughters—“real-life sixth graders from current day”—in rollicking conversation about school, books, and, of course, friends. Hubby Dean even has a cameo!
VERDICT Hale and Pham have already proven evergreen popularity with their printed series; libraries should expect the same demand for audio.

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