I love reviews by Trish. They read the way she speaks about books…with great insight, with passion and with sighs and eye rolls. I can just imagine her reading this book and trying to work it all out and justify it’s cover. Don’t ever tell me not to judge a book by its cover. We all do it…and publishers these days spend time and money getting the cover exactly right. So when a cover doesn’t work but the internal text is strong something needs to be said about it. Although Trish? I quite like the cover of this one! Ha!
For all Trish’s reviews of YA books here on the blog see the ‘guest reviewer’ tab. Her last post on transgender books for young people struck a chord with many of you and is beautifully and sensitively written.
My Best Friend is a Goddess Tara Eglington
This text is a conundrum. I am not sure what target market its unappealing cover is trying to reach. Younger teens who spend endless hours on Instagram and Snapchat, using their funky filters and taking selfies of fashion choices? Or older girls, who might glimpse the Venus statue or the Dia de Los Muertos (day of the dead) mask, placed on the edges of the cover, more subtle and sophisticated? It’s quite a hefty book too, at 390 pages, and I am not sure many younger teens, looking for something light and flirty, will be willing to commit to something so long.
And yet, for most of its length, the story is sweet, focusing almost entirely on the decline of a friendship over a five or six month period. It moves slowly, with layers of detail, conversations and flashbacks, providing enough information about Emily and Adriana, that we know these girls intimately, who both have our sympathy, so when the friendship falls apart, we will have to take sides. It’s not an light read, but in some ways it feels like it is.
We are privy to both Emily and Ade’s points of view, but we do spend more time with Emily. The author does a great job of transforming Ade from ordinary into extraordinary, who is yet oblivious of her beauty and its effect on others. She is stuck grieving her mother, and recalling the humiliation when she was rejected by a boy. She’s also mad at her father, and these feelings finally reveal themselves when Ade rebels, resulting in the friendship upheavals with Emily. It’s clever that it’s not one thing that pulls them apart, instead a string of misunderstandings, lack of communication, and misplaced assumptions that build and build.
The story also includes an insight into bullying. When the dreadful Tatiana doesn’t return to school, there’s a vacuum in the top group of girls known as the ‘tens’, and Ade is surprised to find herself slotting into it. There is a powerful message here about teen pressure, conformity, and acquiescing to avoid conflict. While it’s a terrible thing, it’s also a social reality for teenagers. Eglington is spot on with her characterisations and her insights. Considering the book’s focus seems to be on romance and friendship, the seriousness of the hard truths may be unwanted for some readers.
There’s also much about family, and grieving, and in a sub-plot that develops at a crucial moment, Emily’s search for her absent father parallels Ade’s attempts to accept her mother’s death as a tragic accident, in a poignant and heart-breaking way. The light is placed squarely against the dark, challenging me to find the right audience for this story.
I did love the last third. The path to forgiveness, acceptance, and back to friendship is traversed slowly and authentically. It’s a resolution of hope, and finally happiness, and what I can say to readers is, ‘you might have to make it through some tough moments, but there are rewards if you can stick it out’. I may sound like this is not appealing, but that’s not the case at all. It’s just a messy, complex exploration of Emily and Adriana, and there are times when it’s hard to agree with their decisions, and hard to accept the consequences they face. But that’s real life, isn’t it?
Tara Eglington is evolving as an author, and her books continue to surprise and challenge me. I look forward to being surprised again.