You Go First

You Go First
Age Range
Release Date
April 12, 2018
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Twelve-year-old Charlotte Lockard and eleven-year-old Ben Boxer are separated by more than a thousand miles. On the surface, their lives seem vastly different—Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Ben is in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana. Charlotte wants to be a geologist and keeps a rock collection in her room. Ben is obsessed with Harry Potter, presidential history, and recycling. But the two have more in common than they think. They’re both highly gifted. They’re both experiencing family turmoil. And they both sit alone at lunch.

Over the course of a week, Charlotte and Ben—online friends connected only by a Scrabble game—will intersect in unexpected ways, as they struggle to navigate the turmoil of middle school. This engaging story about growing up and finding your place in the world by the winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature will appeal to fans of Rebecca Stead and Rita Williams-Garcia.

Editor review

1 review
One Good Friend
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
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Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, and Ben lives in Louisiana. They've never met, although they have played online Scrabble together on many occasions. When they both have particularly bad weeks, Ben calls Charlotte, and they actually talk. Having one good friend is helpful to both of them in getting through their weeks. Charlotte's somewhat older father has had a serious heart attack and is in the hospital, and Ben's parents have told them that they are getting a divorce. Combined with the normal middle school drama both are experiencing, (such as Ben's attempts to run for a school office even though he is regularly bullied) these new additions to their world are almost overwhelming. Despite the distance that separates them, they are able to help each other navigate the tricky waters of adolescent life.
Good Points

Kelly gives a believable reason for the two to have connected on line, and there is some discussion of online safety, even though Charlotte later makes some bad decisions and sets off for the city on her own. Technology is present in many children's lives today, so it is realistic to include it, but hard to do so in a way that won't become dated very soon. (Myspace or pagers, anyone?)

The problems that both children face are ones that are fairly common. Parents become ill, many parents get divorced, and other children at school are not always kind. It is good to see that both Charlotte and Ben do have some caring adults in their lives, but sometimes a friend can offer much different help from an adult.

Readers who enjoy introspective books that cover serious topics, such as Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt, Bauer's Almost Home, Palaccio's Wonder and Sonnenblick's Falling Over Sideways will enjoy learning how Charlotte and Ben deal with the difficulties that life hands them.
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