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A Little Friendly Advice

Review

A Little Friendly Advice

“The thing is, when friends ask you what’s wrong, there’s this part of them that doesn’t really want to know the answer. Especially if they’ve seen you upset before over the same thing, again and again and again.

They’ll usually give you some kind of wisdom the first time and repeat it four or five times more, if you’re lucky. I guess I’m mega-lucky, because I’ve heard it, on and off, for six years.”

The quirky yet reserved 16-year-old narrator of Siobhan Vivian’s debut novel is just the kind of girl you’d want as a friend. She’s loyal, responsible and never one to outshine you at a party or steal your latest crush. But lately, Ruby’s untarnished facade seems to be cracking --- and it all started when her father showed up unannounced at her birthday gathering after being out of the picture for six years.

As good friends often do, Ruby’s closest pals --- Beth, Maria and Katherine --- rally around her and try to lift her spirits. They throw together an impromptu party in the park, complete with streamers, a piñata and Pin the Tail on the Donkey. They crack open a bottle of champagne to celebrate in style. And they each offer up “a little friendly advice” on how to deal with the situation without completely losing it.

After a few days of harried obsessing, Ruby’s life slowly edges back toward normalcy. Maria is back to flirting with, then ignoring, one of many guys she’s seeing; Katherine has resumed smoking cigarettes and being a royal pain in the butt; and Beth is excitedly planning her annual costume birthday bash. Even Ruby’s mother has fallen back on her business-as-usual routine of comfortably letting issues slide rather than addressing them head-on.

But, when Ruby embarrasses herself by bursting into tears in front of Charlie, a cute boy at a party, she slowly begins to realize that ignoring her true feelings about her father isn’t going to help her get over his disappearance --- or what that did to her self-esteem. In fact, the more she tries to pretend that “everything’s fine,” the worse off she feels.

Then, when she mistakenly stumbles upon a note from her father in Beth’s possession, telling her that he’s still in town, she’s even more confused than ever. Was Beth ever planning to tell her about the note? Did her mother know her father was still in town? Why was everyone telling her to “get over it and move on” when they have no idea how bad it actually feels?

A well-balanced mix of overblown teen melodrama and deeper situations that give one pause to think, A LITTLE FRIENDLY ADVICE is a fluffy yet poignant read about the fine line between lending an open, impartial and supportive ear, and outright telling someone what to do. Vivian’s well-developed characters wade through these murky waters with various degrees of proficiency, and readers will enjoy watching them as they bumble their way through. Some might disagree with Ruby’s harsh treatment of Beth toward the end --- especially because Beth did what she did with Ruby’s best interests in mind --- but the situation might spark discussions about the importance of intention and the true meaning of forgiving and forgetting.

Reviewed by Alexis Burling on March 1, 2008

A Little Friendly Advice
by Siobhan Vivian

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Push
  • ISBN-10: 0545004055
  • ISBN-13: 9780545004053