Review Detail

 
Young Adult Fiction
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0

Just in time for Valentine's Day

Josh is into old movies, old music, and doesn't mind taking yoga classes with his best friend, Ramona. He also has a two friends who are equally off-the-beaten-path for high school students, Sal and Josh. When Jena Capistrano moves to town, Josh falls for her hard. He wishes that she would just speak to him one day, but through a series of circumstances, the two become "just friends". Jena opines that it's hard to be friends with a boy when they could make a move at any moment, but she knows that Josh would never do that. To complicate matters, Ramona has a bit of a crush on Josh, but they've known each other forever. Sal likes Ramona. Jena manages to fall into a crowd of popular kids, so starts dating a hunky football player, and every time the two fight, she goes running back to Josh, which only gives him hope. Will Josh be able to distance himself enough from Jena to move on with his life and relationships?

Good Points
Sheldon's books are wonderful because they cover high school romances in ways that are still appropriate for middle school students to read about. This is a bit of a departure because the story is really Josh's. Even in middle school, there are a lot of boys who want romance books, but they really prefer them to be from the boy's point of view. Josh's feelings are so well described, and his insecurities and confusion about what to do will definitely ring true for boys just starting their romantic lives, no matter what their ages.

The characters in Just Friends are really what make the story. They are all very diverse, with unusual interests or quirky families, and none are stereotypical. While both Josh and Jena have a deceased parent, this is no dwelled upon. The adults in the story are supportive, and Josh even has a father figure in his Uncle Walt, who is helpful. Ramona's parents have a gift shop/new age story that is described in such an appealing way that I wouldn't mind going to Parsons Falls to shop there, and then maybe have some tea at Hava Java!

Romance books are always in demand, and the readers who enjoy them are usually voracious. I love the covers on Sheldon's newer titles-- they are very bright and appealing, and this one is very gender generic, which is excellent for the audience who should be reading it. This is a great book to hand to readers who have moved beyond Byars' Bingo Brown or Paulsen's Crush books and have enjoyed Korman's Son of the Mob, Finnegan's Not in the Script and Scott's Jingle Boy.
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