Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss
Released August 25, 2015.
One day when Francis goes outside to think in the bitter cold, he meets a girl named Jessica who doesn’t seem to feel the chill. He is shocked to find out that Jessica is a ghost and she is just as surprised because Francis is the first person whose been able to see her since she died. Francis doesn’t have any friends and is regularly bullied at school. He loves fashion and design, but keeps it as hidden as he can from those around him. Jessica though is delighted to find that he likes fashion, because she does too. Soon the two lonely teens are fast friends. When Andi moves in down the road, Francis’ mother asks Francis to meet her and talk to her about his school. Francis is very reluctant but then Andi comes over and is also able to see Jessica. A similar thing happens with Rupe a little later. But why can these people see Jessica and no one else? Could it have to do with Jessica’s death?
Norriss creates a modern ghost story here where there is little fright about seeing Jessica and a lot more friendship. The idea of a lonely and bullied teen loving having a ghost for a best friend is wonderfully refreshing. Their friendship evolves naturally as does that of the other teens who can see Jessica. While the book is fast moving, there is plenty of space to allow relationships to change and grow. As time passes and Jessica feels pressure to return to the site of her death earlier, everyone including the reader feels the tension build. The book shifts into a mystery to discover the cause of Jessica’s death in the hopes that it will help her. And yet, that same help may just be what causes her to leave forever. It’s a wonderful plot that has no simple answers.
My only quibble with the book is that the ending gets a little too much about telling and not showing. I would have loved less explanation and more demonstration of what is happening. At the same time, the weighty issues feel like they need real closure and the book does provide that. Bullying is put into its place as the teens discover that if they don’t care what someone says, it really has no impact on them and the bully moves along quickly. The power of friendship to change someone’s outlook is also shown clearly.
This British import is a fast read worthy of being shared and discussed in classes thanks to its engaging solution of friendship to combat bullying. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.