I loved 12 BEFORE 13, the second book in the “Friendship List” series by @lisanngreenwald! It’s so much fun, so funny, and gosh, so true to how friendships work in middle school. This series is about best friends Kaylan and Arianna. Their birthdays are one day apart, so they make lists of things they promise to accomplish together before their next birthday. The first book, 11 BEFORE 12, stars Kaylan, and this one is Arianna’s story. I loved getting both girls’ perspectives and thought that was such a fresh, clever way to structure a series. (And I think the third book might have both perspectives!).
Ari’s story starts during the summer before seventh grade, when she’s away at a Jewish sleepaway camp, and it spans the beginning months of school, as she’s adjusting to being back home, preparing for her bat mitzvah, and dealing with some family and friendship struggles. I LOVED Lisa Greenwald’s depiction of camp. I didn’t go to sleepaway camp, but I had good friends who did, and I was sort of mystified by the intensity of the friendships they formed there. This book provides such an authentic look at the intimacy of camp friendships! I also loved watching Ari reflect on what she wants to say in her bat mitzvah speech and what it means to her to be Jewish. There aren’t a whole lot of middle grade books depicting kids who connect with their religion; I love that this one does! Like every book I’ve read by Lisa Greenwald, this was a delight!