Just Pretend

Just Pretend
Age Range
Release Date
May 18, 2021
Buy This Book
Fans of Real Friends and Be Prepared will love this energetic, affecting graphic memoir, in which a young girl uses her active imagination to navigate middle school as well as the fallout from her parents' divorce.

Tori has never lived in just one world.

Since her parents' divorce, she's lived in both her mom's house and her dad's new apartment. And in both places, no matter how hard she tries, her family still treats her like a little kid. Then there's school, where friendships old and new are starting to feel more and more out of her hands.

Thankfully, she has books-and writing. And now the stories she makes up in her head just might save her when everything else around her—friendships, school, family—is falling apart.

Author Tori Sharp takes us with her on a journey through the many commonplace but complex issues of fractured families, as well as the beautiful fantasy narrative that helps her cope, gorgeously illustrated and full of magic, fairies, witches and lost and found friendships.

Editor review

1 review
Drawing Her Own Story
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
In this graphic memoir, we see Tori as she is going into 7th grade. She and her friend spend a lot of time creating pretend worlds, both in written stories and in playing. This is an escape for Tori from her family. Her parents are divorced after bickering a lot, and while her dad's new girlfriend is nice, it's still not a great family dynamic. Her older brother is especially troubled, and Tori has to tag along to her older sister's ballet classes since her mother won't let her stay home alone. Even these lessons are a point on contention. As things worsen, Tori distances herself from her best friend, who has her own struggles and secrets.
Good Points
There are so many good graphic novels out now, and an ever increasing number of graphic memoirs. Copeland's Cub, Tatulli's Short and Skinny, Bell's El Deafo, Harper's Bad Sister and, of course, many of Raina Telgemeier's books all give a closer look into the lives of the author/illustrators. They also provide a perspective into different points of history, and this seemed to have a '90s sort of vibe to it, especially based on some of the middle grade novels that were being read!

The illustration style is very appealing, and I especially like the color palette. It's interesting that in the book, the main character is also working on a graphic novel, and we get to see a little of that style as well. Using writing as an escape from reality is almost as good as using reading! (Or, some would say, better!)

Friend drama and family drama are always big draws, especially for graphic novels. It is good to see more books about how divorce affects families, since many more children have to deal with that than have to deal with the death of parents. Hand this one to readers who liked the depiction of shared parenting in Murphy's Dear Sweet Pea or Draper's Blended, or who enjoyed the creative energy of Barshaw's Ellie McDoodle series.
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