Abigail and her two best friends are poised for a life of pom-poms and popularity. But not only does Abigail end up in a different homeroom, she doesn’t make the squad. Then everyone’s least favorite teacher pairs Abigail up with the school’s biggest outcast, Gabby Marco, for a year-long “Friendly Letter Assignment.” Abigail can hardly believe her bad luck. As her so-called best friends and entire future of popularity seems to be slipping away, Abigail has to choose between the little bit of fame she has left or letting it go to be a true friend.
Title: Always, Abigail
Author: Nancy J. Cavanaugh
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Publication date: August 5, 2014
I received Always, Abigail from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I knew from the start that three girls being best friends meant trouble ahead. It’s hard for three girls to be best friends without someone being excluded. In this case, it’s Abigail (NOT Abby) who’s left out. Her best friends Alli and Cami even have a portmanteau: AlliCam. Notice that there’s no Abigail in there. AlliCam are in the same homeroom and have the same classes all day long, while Abigail is in a different homeroom with the grade’s outcast Flabby Gabby and a strict teacher, nicknamed (behind her back, of course) Old Hawk. Things go from bad to worse when Old Hawk partners Abigail with Gabby for Friendly Letters. Then the worst thing ever happens: AlliCam make the pom-pom squad without Abigail, who only makes alternate. Poms has been Abigail’s dream for years. It’s her key to popularity and fun in middle school.
Abigail starts feeling out of the loop as AlliCam start bonding with the other girls on the pom-pom squad. They share inside jokes from being together all the time, and outside of school, poms and pom politics are all they want to talk about. Abigail, who only attends pom practice once a week, can’t even begin to relate. It’s sad, but true-to-life, to watch her being left out so many times. Friends grow apart, but it doesn’t make it any easier to be the one left behind. Although I’m glad this book was entirely in Abigail’s voice, I do wonder what AlliCam are feeling. Do they miss Abigail or are they having too much fun without her?
Abigail is a champion listmaker and most of the book is made up of her lists. With headings like Three Reasons Making Pom Poms Is MORE Important Than ANYTHING Else and Something That Was Supposed to Be the BEST Thing about Sixth Grade Is Turning Out to Be the WORST Thing, these are not short bullet-point type lists. There’s plenty of story there, too. Abigail and Gabby’s Friendly Letters are also included. Through these letters, Abigail begins to get to know Gabby better. They even start more spending time together when they’re paired again on another project. Eventually, Abigail realizes that she and Gabby have a lot of fun together, more fun than she’s having with AlliCam these days.
I really like Abigail. She’s very realistic, but I was a little disappointed in her because she is, for a very long time, afraid to do the right thing. Maybe it’s too much to ask for a sixth grader to stand up for what’s right, but I don’t think so. It’s a credit to Gabby that she forgives Abigail time and time again for not doing anything when others are bullying her. Gabby’s a great character who doesn’t have an easy life. She has more important things to worry about than being popular. No one can ignore bullying forever, but Gabby doesn’t let it get to her easily, and she doesn’t show it when it does. Abigail can — and does — learn a lot from Gabby.