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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Book Review: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero O’Connell

Freddie's girlfriend, Laura Dean, keeps breaking up with her. Freddie's friends are sympathetic, consoling her and listening to her angst, especially Freddie's best friend, Doodle. They're obviously getting tired of the repetition, but they're also supportive. One day, in a seeming effort to try something different to convince Freddie this isn't good for her, Doodle brings her to her favorite comic book shop, where in the back room is a mysterious woman, who asks Freddie some questions, throws some runes, and finally tells her, you're caught in a circle. To break out of the circle, you have to break out. Instead of letting Laura Dean break up with you (repeatedly), you need to break up with Laura Dean.

Freddie listens to the advice but doesn't take to it right away. Laura Dean breaks up with her again. And asks Freddie to take her back again. We finally see them in a relationship, and it's... not great. Laura Dean invites Freddie to a party, ignores her, but is hurt when Freddie wants to leave, and completely blows off that Freddie promised Doodle she'd help her with something. As things between Freddie and Laura Dean spiral, Doodle disappears. She's no longer with the lunch crowd and doesn't seem to be at school. When Freddie finally notices and asks a mutual friend what's up with Doodle, the friend (rightly!) says basically, I can't believe you just now noticed, and I'm not going to explain anything to you. If you're really a friend, you'll try harder to find out what's wrong with Doodle.

This is a little spoilery here, but I don't think it'll be shocking to most that in the end, Freddie does see the situation in clear light, and makes things right. Personally, the part of the message at the end of the book that I liked most, was that Freddie realized when she was with Laura Dean, she, Freddie, was a bad friend. I think that's a really important message for teens to learn early. Girlfriends come and go (and come and go and come and go) but if you want your friends to stick around and support you when things are tough, you need to also be there for them, even sometimes when it's inconvenient.

Also loved the artwork. Beautiful storytelling. Felt like a real relationship and real friendships. Was nice at the end to see that cool chick Laura Dean also had some insecurities behind her behavior. A great read.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is being published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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