"You have a better friend in this class…." or A Secret Friend

This blogpost is dedicated to Elissa. (Elissa, if you still want the book, I’ll send you mine. Just message me on Facebook with your address).

Can I tell you how much I fucking loved Barbara’s outfit on this cover when I was a kid? So denimy! And the banana necklace. You could totally see Claudia making that necklace. Wendy’s outfit is cute, but I’m so not digging the white sneakers with the plaid kilt and knee socks look. Jessica’s outfit makes her look like a 40 year old soccer mom.

This book is really not great. It’s surprising that it was written by the same author who wrote the Amy and Laura series and the Veronica Ganz books, all of which I remember loving (and which I may review in the future if they ever pop up at the used book store).

So the book follows 5th grader Jessica, a shy quiet “mama’s girl” who recently lost her best friend. When I say lost, I don’t mean she died. I mean that her friend, Wendy, broke up with her to be besties with Barbara. Jessica has no idea why. I know why. Because Wendy’s a fucking bitch, that’s why. She’s Regina Fucking George, and I’m trying to decide if she’s Cunt Log worthy.

Jessica decides she wants to ‘win’ Wendy back. So she starts writing notes to herself, signing them A.S.F (a secret friend) hoping to make Wendy jealous. The notes draw some attention to Jessica from classmates, including Wendy. But things don’t work out quite the way she intended. Because Jessica, is kind of dim and actually starts believing in the notes even though she’s the one fucking writing them. While she’s looking throughout her class for potential new friends, she is still trying to win over Wendy.

It doesn’t work. But Barabara has a tendency toward friendliness to Jessica, which pisses Wendy the fuck off. And in the end Wendy gets pissed at Barbara because she (Barbara) suggested that Wendy was writing Jessica the notes just to get under Jessica’s skin. So Wendy and Barbara end up friends and Wendy becomes besties with Susie Edelstein, who at one time had been the object of Wendy’s ridicule. A very Blubber-esque ending if you ask me.

  • We never quite find out why Wendy turned on Jessica, though that’s because Jessica doesn’t really know. Wendy, we are told, is a girl with a real mean streak. And everyone in school is afraid of her. When Wendy would get mad at Jessica in the past, for something that was all Wendy’s fault, Jessica would end up apologizing. The whole relationship sounded really dangerous and kind in the territory of abusive-boyfriend. It was so creepy, and I couldn’t figure out why Jessica wanted Wendy back so badly.
  • One of the classmates that Jessica is considering as ASF is Randy Jackson. Dawg.
  • Right on page four! “In most of the books that she read, a person was either bad or good, but life wasn’t like that.” A point I’ve made about YA lit several times. Everyone is either black or white (not as in race), there is NO gray. This book tries to go against that, but is unsuccessful. It demonstrates Wendy being a total fucking bitch, and comments only slightly about her good qualities, the only one being that she’s “fun.”
  • Not only does Jessica have a warped relationship with Wendy, she does with her mom too. Mom is a total hover-parent, who never quite forgave Jessica’s two older sisters, Helen and Arabella, for growing up. So she’s incredibly clingy with Jessica, and the worst part is that Jessica totally realizes it, but is constantly trying to act like a child instead of an adolescent to appease her mother.
  • Also, Jessica should weigh about 800 pounds. Mom writes cookbooks for a living and makes really decadent food. Everytime there’s a scene with mom, it includes brownies or cookies or cake. At one point, she gives Jessica FOUR brownies as an after school snack.
  • Ahhhh…the poison lockets. Jessica and Wendy got them two years earlier, put powdered jello in them and told everyone it was poison. They wore them everyday. Wendy, when she broke up with Jessica, gave hers to Barbara. Jessica tried to throw hers away, but couldn’t because of her pathological need to be in this horrible relationship. At the end, Barbara and Jessica end up with the lockets.
  • Another person Jessica attempts to befriend is Rachel Ross (whose name makes me think of Friends). Rachel is known for always having her nose in a book. Which all the kids think makes her a dullard. At first, I was offended on Rachel’s behalf. But then she had some dialogue and holy shit, that girl was fucking stupid. She doesn’t have a favorite book, she “likes them all the same.”
  • Possibly Jessica’s healthiest relationship is with her 16 year old sister, Helen. (Arabella is off being brilliant at college). Helen takes time to actually talk with Jessica about Wendy and about finding friends, etc. More of a help than mom was, anyway.
  • This confused the fuck out of me as a kid. “For the most part, only the black kids got to ride the school buses.” I was like…what? In this city were white people being discriminated against as payback? Come on, I was like ten or eleven, cut me a break. Of course now I realize that the black kids were bussed. (For any of my non-American readers, bussing was the act of forced desegregation in schools. After segregation was outlawed, most schools were still de facto segregated. So black kids were bussed from their neighborhoods in to mostly white schools to help integrate them. The practice pretty much fell out of favor in the 80’s, though I’m not quite sure why). In this case, these kids lived in the city (San Francisco) and all the white kids walked, because it was their neighborhood school. The black kids lived far away and were bussed to this particular school. God, I hadn’t thought about bussing in YEARS til I re-read this book.
  • Fun-fact. The county I live in practices socio-economic bussing. No kidding.
  • Overall, I give this book a grade of….meh.

About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
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4 Responses to "You have a better friend in this class…." or A Secret Friend

  1. The part about the best friends lockets is all coming back to me. The poison jello. Oh my god. I remember thinking, right, what a cool idea.

  2. God I remember reading this! Great blog, cant wait to catch up on your old posts! xx

  3. Meg says:

    For the last month, I’ve been rediscovering the books I read and re-read as a kid, which led me here – and I can’t believe that someone else read this book. I actually loved this one – and to me, it rang true in a lot of ways. Love your blog, and you’ve really helped me to remember some of the titles that were just out of my reach that were driving me crazy (Fourth Grade Wizards almost drove me to drink).

  4. Tori says:

    Ya know this book doesn’t seem that bad.Who knows!(Sorry I’ve just started reading your blog)

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