Friendship and Self-Discovery
'Just Jaime' by Terri Libenson captures the truth of middle school – a time when friendships are haunted by worry over whether or not one fits in with the group. This issue plagues Jaime and her best friend, Maya, as they find themselves becoming more and more set apart. Maya begins spending time with a new friend who doesn't do much to make Jaime feel welcome. She disguises her jabs at Jaime as jokes, but Jaime feels hurt all the same. When Maya stops standing up for her, Jaime feels lost and worries that their friendship is ending, even though they have always loved hanging out together.
It is natural to desire acceptance from others, and Jaime does feel this need, but she comes to realize that one person's opinion isn't all-encompassing, and there may just be others out there who won't treat her poorly. She also comes to realize that there are things about herself that might need changing, as she discovers that her relationship with Maya wasn't always the best for her either.
As the novel progresses, both Jaime and Maya realize truths about themselves that shape how they plan to move forward with friends and issues about school, as they are ending seventh grade and entering their final year of middle school. Their upset with each other and the way that they miss each other despite not really wanting to are both palpable feelings that the author has crafted for her readers. All readers should be able to identify with the themes of the story, including friendship, lack of understanding, worry, and discovering uncomfortable truths about life and the ways in which it is lived. A fun and enjoyable read, 'Just Jaime' is great for both middle school readers and adults who want to step back in time for a short while.