Author: Jane Kelley
Synopsis: 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 . . .
Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!
I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelley. I admit, I’m not familiar with her work, but what I was from this novel was a beautiful written, if somewhat confusing narrative.
What you need for this novel is that it’s very much an adventurer’s quest — Val wishes to save her friend Lanora from becoming someone different. From growing up and being forgotten. Interestingly what we have are two female heroines, both seemingly voiced as being older than they are, but with the maturity not quite being there yet. I actually appreciated that portrayal of the characters because it seemed very fitting as they are both in an awkward age where they want to be grown up but still are very childlike in their innocence. I just wish there had been more development in the characters, because I still feel like I didn’t know them as well as I would have liked.
This novel is beautiful written, but I admit at times it confused me. You’d get these very detailed descriptions and I found myself having to read them more than once to ensure that I understood what was happening. The setting of the story jumps around a lot, so trying to keep up and stay consistent requires slow reading. This novel took me awhile to get through, not because it was bad, but because it wants and demands your full attention. If your mind wanders, it’s easy to forget what you just read.
I appreciate a lot of the issues that Kelley presents in the novel, from divorce, fitting in, being lost, it’s all integral to growing up and learning what kind of person you are going to grow into. While the characters in this story lacked depth, the author made up for it in how she approached the issues — it’s done in a very sensitive and thoughtful manner that I feel the age group this book is targeted to could understand with ease. She never dumbed it down or make it feel shoe-horned in, and I like how Lanora and Val respond to the issues. There’s fear, uncertainty, challenge, and it felt very real at times.
I feel like The Book of Dares for Lost Friends offers a lot to a reader who is patient and methodical. Although this is very much an adventure story, it’s not a book I would recommend to a reader who is impatient and simply wanting action and instant discovery. This book is layered, it’s challenging, and I think with a patient reader, it could easily be a favourite. I admit, I feel like I wanted so much more from this story, and while I adore some of it’s approaches to topics, as a reader I struggled to connect. I think The Book of Dares for Lost Friends, while beautiful in it’s prose, may be a very polarizing book for some readers, and that’s okay too. Still, if you’re a patient reader and love a middle grade novel with a slow unravel, then definitely check this book out.