The Take-Over Friend

The Take-Over Friend
Publisher Name
Fitzroy Books
Age Range
Release Date
September 27, 2022
"A really good story about the very complex world of trying to find out who you really are."—Judith Katz, author of The Escape Artist and Running Fiercely Toward A High Thin Sound
On the second day of ninth grade, introverted Frances meets Sonja, a wildly funny newcomer from France, and the girls form a fast friendship. Frances adores Sonja’s worldliness, and Sonja adores Frances’s family, especially her older brother, Will. Frances and Sonja immediately declare themselves “The Poets” and rally their homeroom to enter the homecoming parade with a poetry-mobile built from Frances’s father’s old band bus. But respective family crises begin to escalate, and tensions come to a head when Sonja temporarily moves in with Frances's family—forcing each friend to decide how close is too close. Alternatingly funny and poignant, The Take-Over Friend is a smart page-turner that focuses on the importance of finding your own voice in relationships.

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The Take-Over Friend
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THE TAKE-OVER FRIEND by Carol Dines is about Frances, a high school student, who has found herself practically friendless until Sonja takes over her world like a storm. Sonja is sophisticated, a borderline genius, and deeply alone. For Frances, it’s perfect. Sonja fills up all the holes in Frances’ life until Frances isn’t sure if there’s enough space for herself anymore. As such, when Frances tries to assert her own independence, Sonja gets very angry and desperate. After everything Sonja’s been through, there’s nothing to lose, which makes her liable to do anything.

I really enjoyed this book as it captures how complicated and fraught female friendships can be, especially when you’re a teenager. Frances’ sense of belonging, or lack thereof, comes from those around her, her siblings, her parents, and the kids at school, so when Sonja takes interest in her, it’s almost like validation that she’s worthy of someone’s attention. Unfortunately, Frances doesn’t realize exactly how much attention Sonja will demand. This dynamic is relatable on so many different levels as it’s easy to compromise what we want in order to fit in or be accepted, especially when someone else has such a strong worldview.

Unlike Sonja, Frances has a hard time immediately naming how she feels, but throughout the story, Frances’ connection to her gut and intuition grows stronger. I am thrilled Dines includes this theme as it will resonate deeply with many. It is so easy to self-censor and betray yourself in order to make others feel comfortable, particularly as a young girl in today’s world. Frances’ journaling is a great reminder of tools we can use to discover our voices, but I also really like that Sonja pushes for honesty and open communication, even though for her it may be a means of control, it’s still a good reminder that we are allowed to take up space with our thoughts.

Aside from that, the prose in this book is fantastic. There’s a dangerous, dark quality to it from the very first page that carries a sense of foreboding to the final chapters. Though the circumstances of the characters’ lives are unique, the precarious feeling related to having such a close friend rings true. If the friendship were to end, not only would there be pain from the loss of it, but there would also be the possibility of one party weaponizing all the intimate details gathered during the relationship. The book certainly explores the idea that those who love you can hurt you the most, but in equal measure dissects how we can let that happen. All in all, the prose is atmospheric and suspenseful, while still being deeply real.

Overall, THE TAKE-OVER FRIEND is the perfect moody book for fall. It captures the tone of a grounded Pretty Little Liars, but as self-described by Sonja, she and Frances are “authentic.”
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