Francis is hanging out alone during lunchtime at school--as he does--when a girl who is not appropriately dressed for the weather sits with him. He's worried that she is going to be cold, and he offers her some tea. She's shocked to learn that he can see and hear her because she's dead.
So begins a wonderful friendship. Francis and Jessica have a lot in common (despite their different stages of "life"). Francis has always been different than his classmates. He loves fashion, and he spends all of his spare time designing and sewing clothes. Jessica enjoys it too, and she has the added advantage of being able to imagine herself into any outfit so that Francis can test out his ideas on a (somewhat) real model before putting them together on the sewing machine.
Jessica also helps Francis manage school, and he learns that bullying isn't as difficult to deal with if you have a friend--even if that friend isn't seen or heard by anyone else.
Eventually the two of them bring others into their fold. Andi and Roland are different, too, and not just because they can see and hear Jessica. But all of the kids learn the power of friendship and belonging--and they figure out that being different isn't necessarily a bad thing.
FRIENDS FOR LIFE by Andrew Norriss examines the most difficult aspects of middle school: bullying, depression, friendships, family, otherness, and much more. Norriss does this through three wonderful characters who examine the intricacies of these issues with realistic wisdom and a lot of heart. The chapters are short, and the plot moves quickly. All of the characters are awesome (especially Francis), and every reader should be able to find someone with whom they can relate. The adults are evident, but they aren't overwhelming, and they each play important roles while remaining in the background.
In all, FRIENDS FOR LIFE is a fantastic book. I'd love it to be required reading for all middle school students. The troubles the characters face are universal, and the writing is wonderful. My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.