Review: The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelley

Middle Grade Madness

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

Val and Lanora have been friends forever. Val expects their relationship to stay the same. But after they start middle school, Lanora decides to reinvent herself. Her parents have split up, and she wants to rise above that. Unfortunately Lanoraʼs choices lead her into trouble. Val hates watching her friend lose her way. She wants to rescue Lanora, but how? Val doesnʼt know what to do until a stray cat leads her to a strange boy who lives in an even stranger bookshop. Together they embark on a quest. Will they be able to save a lost friend? Will they get lost themselves? Or will they find a way to help each other become who they want to be . . .

Title: The Book of Dares for Lost Friends
Author: Jane Kelley
Publication date: July 14, 2015

I won The Book of Dares for Lost Friends on Goodreads.

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Is it a middle grade contemporary with the usual story of one friend ditching the other for popularity? Or is it a fantasy? It wants to be both and succeeds at neither. The fantasy elements are more confusing than interesting and the story about Lanora and Val’s friendship isn’t strong enough to save the book.

Part of the problem is that I don’t understand or like Lanora at all. Her entire identity crisis seems to stem from her parents’ divorce. That’s it? Probably half the kids in her class have divorced parents. It’s not ideal, but it’s not worth dumping your best friend over either. And when her bid for new, cooler friends, doesn’t work out, she starts getting into trouble, the kind of trouble that involves the police and reform schools.

Val, on the other hand, is better off without Lanora. Her new friends might not be cool and mature, but they’re willing to help Val out when she needs it — even if she doesn’t ask. Or maybe they’re just curious about what Val is up to, but in any case, they’re there for her. I really wish there had been more emphasis on these new friends. They’re around, but I wouldn’t even really consider them her friends until the end of the book. Until they come through for Val, they’re more people she sits with so she doesn’t have to sit alone.

Too bad for me that Val isn’t as ready to give up on Lanora as I am. Val watches as Lanora gets into trouble but she’s not just going to sit back and let Lanora get sent away. In setting out to “save” Lanora, Val proves once again that she’s a better friend and a better person than Lanora is. This is when the book, the cat Mau, and the strange boy Tasman come in. I’m not even going to go into it because this was the confusing and boring part of the book. I love cats, so I was disappointed that the cat as a character didn’t work for me.

I do like Val’s younger brother Drew. Although he gets annoying (and not just to Val, but to me too) at times, he’s entertaining. He’s a normal kid brother. He and Val’s new friends are the best characters in the book.

By the end of The Book of Dares for Lost Friends, I was just skimming and waiting to be done. I’m not even sure I actually finished it. I remember having a few pages left and just no desire to continue. At that point everything had been resolved and all there was left was the wrapup. I don’t care whether Val and Lanora become friends again, so I might have just it down and considered it done.