New Review: Friends to the End


Fiction, Middle-grade, Paranormal (ghosts)


Blurb: Twelve-year-old Zach is convinced he’ll never be happy without his best friend Jeremy by his side. But both of their lives changed with a bang five months ago, and as far as Zach’s concerned, it’s his fault Jeremy will never see his twelfth birthday. When Zach moves with his family to a Chicago suburb, he quickly becomes friends with a group of thrill-seeking kids trying to find a disappearing haunted house. But Zach’s not worried. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, so he follows them into a wild, dangerous encounter that becomes a battle to decide what’s real and what’s not. 

Thoughts: Wow. This is a great story—one to tell on a dark night during a sleepover (preferably while safe in a parent’s house!). It’s happy/sad/funny/distressing and more, but has a good ending that leaves you smiling.

Zach and his family moved from Chicago to a suburb, Nothiningness (Interesting name). Zach lost his best friend Jeremy to a drive-by shooting that Zach blames himself for. He doesn’t want to move, to start a new school, to make new friends, but all those things happen. His friends—Dom, Josh, Morgan (a girl)—take him on and they go about their lives being kids—which means getting into mischief. Like looking for the legendary vanishing house on Wayward Lane. They’ve been ordered to stay away from there, so of course they go. At midnight. During a full moon. And end up in more trouble than they can imagine.

What I liked: The characters are all well-done and believable, though I wish the author hadn’t made the teachers so…stereotypically nasty. I liked the way Dom, Josh, and Morgan take Zach into their group and how Morgan keeps Zach’s secrets although she knows what happened to him. I especially liked Jeremy’s ghost telling Zach he was okay and at the end with the baseball. Perfect.

What I didn’t like: Just one minor thing: how do they explain the gash in Zach’s leg to the parents when they were supposedly sleeping in the basement all night? One minor thing I would have liked to have seen tied up.

Recommendation: Even if you don’t have kids, if you like ghostly stories, pick this one up. It’s well-written, has scary parts, and a good ending that leaves you smiling.

Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

February 27 Writing tips, tricks, thoughts

Birthdays: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807), Laura E. Richards (1850), Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. (1888), John Steinbeck (1902), James T. Farrell (1904), Peter De Vries (1910), Lawrence Durrell (1912), Irwin Shaw (1913), N. Scott Momaday (1934), Ralph Nader (1934), Uri Shulevitz (1935), Ken Grimwood (1944), Alexandra Bracken (1987),

Laura Richards won the Pulitzer for a biography of her mother Julia Ward Howe

John Steinbeck won both the Pulitzer for Fiction and 1962 Nobel for Literature

N. Scott Momaday won the 1969 Pulitzer for Fiction for “House Made of Dawn”

Uri Shulevitz won the 1969 Caldecott Medal for “The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship”

Quote: “Write what you want to read and don’t even THINK about trying to be published until after you’ve produced something you love and believe in. Easier said than done, but when you genuinely love something it comes through in your writing.” – Alexandra Bracken

Tip: Writing is not supposed to be torture. Yes, there are days when it’s difficult, but if you are dreading it, then you may be writing the wrong thing. Try changing your point of view and try to have fun with it.

Jumpstart: Watch TV without the sound on, using closed captioning. Do you feel like you’ve missed anything? Then turn the sound on but turn away from it so you don’t see it. Again, your feelings? (Note, for those who are hearing or visually impaired, try doing something that tests a different sense)