The Science of Friendship

HarperCollins. Aug. 2024. 304p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063284746.
Gr 5 Up–Did you know that social isolation can be as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes per day? That fact is something Rylee Swanson learns in her quest to understand friendship. Just before eighth grade, Rylee is bullied at a social gathering. Not only is she humiliated and excluded, but she is also ignored. Rylee therefore enters eighth grade feeling lost, lonely, and friendless. However, in her journalism elective, Rylee meets DeNia, a self-assured girl who seems to be nothing more than a science geek with a colossal backpack. As the novel progresses, Rylee and DeNia are teamed up to write an article about friendship for the school’s newspaper, The Segrest Sentinel. The project forces them to navigate their differences, realizing they have more in common than they think; together, they seek out answers about friendship. Built upon the tenets of journalism that emphasize inquiry, this novel presents characters that thrive through the investigative process. The story portrays Rylee, a somewhat flawed girl when it comes to social connections and interactions, and her authentic social trajectory. Rylee’s research forces her to arrive at her own understanding of friendship and what it means. She reflects, responds, and make amends for her own mistakes. This is a beautiful depiction of what it means to be human as a middle school student and how one can learn from one’s own flaws about empathy, while also receiving validation and support.
VERDICT The perfect read for book-smart students seeking social connection and friendship stories.

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