A Sweet YA Romantic Comedy
JUST FRIENDS by Dyan Sheldon is a sweet YA romantic comedy featuring Josh Shine, a music-loving, ponytailed, chess-playing, short high school student who falls for new girl Jena Capistrano the first time he sees her. By happy coincidence, Jena lives across the street from Josh's long-time friend, Ramona, so Josh actually gets to meet and talk to Jena even though she has been embraced by the popular crowd--a group that wants nothing to do with Josh and his equally geeky friends.
JUST FRIENDS chronicles the time from Josh's first glimpse of Jena on the first day of school through the spring of that school year. In typical crush fashion, Josh bends over backwards to be the friend that Jena needs while trying to figure out how to tell her that he more than likes her... he LIKES her. Josh's focus on Jena causes a strain on his other friendships, and his core group is more patient than he may deserve.
Many of the characters in the book are the same as others you'll find in a host of storylines focused on high school. There's the jock, the mean-but-popular girl, the flaky parents, the concerned mom, and the close group of nerds. None of these stereotypes are fleshed out enough to feel real, but Josh is wonderfully quirky and witty at his best, and he more than makes up for the hollowness of his friends. I would have in particular liked to spend more time with Ramona--I was always sad when she left the page. Equally disappointing is the fact that the amazingly good times that Ramona and Josh have shared are referenced a lot, but they are only references.
Though the outcome of JUST FRIENDS is predictable, it is a light, fun read, and Josh's kindness and humor will appeal to fans of teen romance. My thanks to YA Books Central and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
A light, fun read
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?
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.