Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Frenemies by Alexa Young

What happens when two besties become full-blown worsties?

Avalon Greene rules the fashion scene at her sunny SoCal middle school with a diamond-clad fist, calling out classmates for their fashion-do's and most unfortunate clothes-pas. She's determined to host the social event of the season—a soiree in honor of her forever-friendship with Halley!

Unfortunately, Halley's new look is one thing Avalon just can't celebrate. . . .
Halley Brandon is just back from art camp and can't wait to share her funky new style with her best friend, Avalon. But when Avalon cries fashion foul, Halley realizes her best friend's true colors may clash with her own. Has their ultra-fabulous friendship finally gone out of style?

From sharing custody of their puppy, Pucci, to drawing up a list of who gets which friends, Avalon and Halley discover what happens when you battle the person who knows everything about you—and isn't afraid to use your secrets to get what she wants.

Best friends. Worst enemies. Frenemies.

Grade: A //

In light of Alexa Young's reply (click) to my review of Nothing by Robin Friedman on Monday, I'd just like to say that if I paid attention to some of the other reviews this book got, I wouldn't have read it. Now, it was a nice touch in the overall scheme of things that this book was actually sent to me (SIGNED AND EVERYTHING--thank you, Alexa!), but this just goes to show that yup, people's opinions may not always correlate perfectly with your own. (But I still maintain that Nothing was just awful.)

Anyway, I think it's just about time to get on with this review, eh?

I'm bad at listing out reasons I liked certain books. Frenemies is one of those - I can't pinpoint exactly what worked here. If I had to take a guess, I would say it's the execution. The plot itself wouldn't be able to carry the novel as strongly as the writing did. For that Alexa Young deserves a commended performance. Her snappy, subtly-engaging narrative is brilliant, graceful and effortless. Tip of the iceberg though.

I'm sure we all remember what it was like to be thirteen, when even the slightest weird sidelong glance from our best friends would shake our self-confidence. So it's no wonder that when Halley comes back from art camp and is styling in a whole new (and weird, according to Avalon) way, Avalon's quips about her new fashion choices put a strain on their friendship. It's a fast transition, and before they know it, they're parting ways.

My only criticism for this novel comes in here, at the friendship portion: We never really see just how good of friends these two girls are. There isn't a lot of back story, which is fine since this is a series. Alexa assures me she's working on making people realize how deep this friendship runs. (Which means character development and character soul-searching, and that makes me go squee!) That said, the split was handled particularly well in the sense that the reader gets to really feel the hardship it poses on both Halley and Avalon. While they're both working hard at establishing new scenes and new personas, they both also miss each other very much, even if they'll never admit it. This rang true. Very much so.

I know some reviewers seem to think this book is either immature or too fashion-focused. They're entitled to their own opinion, of course, but I respectfully disagree with both. If anything, I thought both Halley and Avalon were, all things considered, very mature girls. Sure, they got childish when playing pranks to get back at one another (friendship feud, hello), but who doesn't? Some of the things they did were outright hilarious. And the fashion thing was there, sure, but it didn't reach overkill levels; in fact, I hardly even noticed it. Then again, this isn't something that really bothers me.

I will never bash Gossip Girl, A-List, It Girl, The Clique, or any other Poppy novel because of their shallow and somewhat unrealistic characters. Those books are serving their marketable purpose and they're pretty damn good for what they're designed to do, which is be guilty pleasures. All I know is this: if Alexa Young set out to create a series resembling any of the Poppy books for the younger set, she failed. This book embodies good writing, fashion, friendship and foes seamlessly. Frenemies isn't the cheap-entertainment good; it's the genuine kind.

Strong recommendation from Reviewer X. I'll be following this series very, very closely.

Note: I want to apologize to you, Alexa, for being cryptic about this review for the past week and for leading you on to believe Frenemies would receive a negative review. What would be the fun of telling you I loved your book through e-mail? Hope this makes up for it. :)


Unknown said...

SERIOUSLY? You are making me want to cry--sure, joyfully, but also with bitter, bitter disappointment. (And I hope you're planning on penning a few mystery novels in the future 'cause you sure had me going.) Seriously, I'm BEGGING you. Please say something bad. I've been telling everybody that a reviewer for whom I have immense respect is going to PAN my book today...and this is what you give me? I totally thought I was going to have to figure out how to still like and respect you, given how much you clearly hated my book. And now I'm speechless. Really. Just. Wow. XOXOXOXOXOXO

Heather said...

I admit, I'm a bit skeptic about Frenemies, despite any good reviews (or bad ones) it just doesn't seem like it would appeal to me, but I got a copy from Alexa last week and it's about two books away on my TBR list. Now I'm ready to see what I think of it...

hm...this should be interesting.

Great review as always, Steph!

Amee said...

Great review, Steph! I have read Frenemies (review on my blog tomorrow) and I thought the name dropping part of the fashion was actually a little heavy. But I figure that's just because I'm a fashion dunce. :P

Anonymous said...

Alexa's right- she even told me today that you were giving her a bad review, lol.

Glad to see you enjoyed the book. Great review! :)

Nurin said...

;) Great review. I hope I (or whichever one of us reads it) likes it as well.

Khy said...

Great review. I loved this book too.

But something that bugged me while reading was the fact that, while Halley was opening her locker or, it said that Avalon was born in '96. Which would make her 11 years old if the book is set in 2008. The rest of the book I kept thinking "How can she be 11 and the 8th grade? And be this fashion obsessed? And mean? This must be set a few years ago. It must."

That probably does not bug anyone else though...I'm just weird.

Steph said...

Alexa, Alexa, I told you! I think your book is great just the way it is! I'll reread it though (like I said in my email ;D) and see if I can come up with anything. Oh, and sorry to disappoint -- there's always the next three books, if you want me to snark it up ;)

Heather, personally loved it. No two ways about it. I am pretty sure you'll like it as well. At least, I hope so! :)

Ambeen, after reading the latest It Girl novel, no amount of fashion name dropping will ever scare me away :P

BC, hahaha I wonder if Alexa *wanted* an F. I may have to do a parody review just to please her -- an A AND an F. What more can an author ask for? :P

RR, not sure if it's your type of book, but I hope either you or your sister enjoy it all the same!

Khyrinthia, what page? And is it an ARC or a finished copy? If it's an ARC, it's probably corrected by now. I hate factual errors as well, and if it's on a finished copy, we could probably alert the publisher to correct it in future editions. :)


Khy said...

Bottom of page 58. Mine is a finished copy.

Roseywinter said...

I saw your review on Amazon for Oh my Goth and just HAD to take a peek at this blog. It's an awesome blog! And I totally agree with (and thank you for) the review for Oh my Goth...

Unknown said...

Loving all these comments. Seriously, if anybody has anything they want to say against the book, please do. I know the name-dropping is a bit much, but since the book is told from Halley and Avalon's POV (alternately), it's true to who they are as fashion-obsessed girls. (And I'll be honest: I checked EVERYONE'S labels back in middle school. Mine all had to be Guess, Calvin Klein, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren or Esprit. Yes, I was tragic.) Kyrinthia: You are a math whiz! (I thought I was too. Until now...) I'd pretend this book is supposed to be set a couple years in the future but, uh, anybody with a 2008 calendar could easily call me on that. DOH. I'll have to tell the editors about that one (since they added that little detail...I SWEAR!), and if the first 100,000 copies sell out quickly (a girl can dream), we'll totally correct it in the next printing. :) Seriously. GOOD EYE. Can I hire you to proof future manuscripts??? xo

Liviania said...

Frenemies is one of those that didn't sound like my thing (the guilty pleasure books like Gossip Girl, etc. aren't my guilty pleasure), but then I keep seeing wonderful reviews and really need to get a copy. Probably a library copy, since I'm still a little skeptical of the plot, but I do intend to read it.

Rachael Stein said...

i still think the girls were immature, but i forgive them bc they're only like in middle school.

i liked the fashion bit tho :D

great review

Unknown said...

Book Muncher: At what age did you feel like you were mature? Or have you always been that way (wise beyond your years?)? That sounded snarky, but I'm actually curious to know...totally sincere...not joking or trying to be, um, immature (although I'm a good two decades older than my protagonists and still feel kind of immature...maybe that's the problem!). XO

Melissa Walker said...

As soon as I stop playing with the holes on the cover (LOVE THAT) I am going to read this book. The fashion talk inspires me... I really like fashion books (surprise).

Steph said...

Livinia -- Give it a shot. You'll never know if you don't try ;)


Stephanie Kuehnert said...

This book is next on my to-read list. I know it totally doesn’t sound like the kind of book I’d read being the punk rock writer chick or whatever, but I don’t fit into boxes very well, especially when it comes to what entertains me. So here are the reasons I’m excited about this book: 1. I read the first chapter online and thought it was very well-written (and Steph backs that up, so awesome!) 2. I had a lot of friendships fall apart at 13. 8th grade was the year of the frenemy for me, so I have a feeling I’ll relate. 3. Even though I didn’t care about fashion at all when I was 13, it fascinates me now in that “reading Star magazine in the hair salon” way, so I’m interested. 4. Alexa’s cool. Maybe that’s a bad reason, but whatev. If I take issue with the book, I’ll still definitely tell her. 5. This review. Great job, Steph! You totally peaked my interest.

Caroline said...

I'm really excited to read this book. I am definately curious about it... It does look like a Poppy book (the cover kind of scares me), particularily The Clique, but I've heard so many good things about it!
And while I profess hatred for It Girl/The Clique/Gossip Girl books, and I do, somewhere, deep down, really dislike them, I continue to read them all. I'm not sure why. I think it has something to do with the amusing conversations I get to have with my friend Allison about them, but I really do not know. It' weird. Ask me, "What do you think about Gossip Girl?" And I will say, "I think that the book is terrible crap and the show is a slightly more entertaining version of said terrible crap," but hand me a book or put me in front of a TV playing the show and I will read/watch without complaint.
It's weird.

Heather said...

You're weird

almuderas said...

Weeza ALL WIERd babeh!

I personally enjoy the firefly television series personally. Mercenary ship vestiging through the frontier of space. You can't get better than that. Middle school drama won't get me all riled up and hot like that can. Sorry, but this book will have to get a pass.

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph