By: Gina Willner-Pardo
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: June 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 13, 2010
The Hard Kind of Promise is a bittersweet story about the angst of growing up, the struggles of middle school, and most importantly, about growing apart from a once best friend.
Sarah Franklin and Marjorie Fingerhut have been best friends since kindergarten. And that’s a long time because they’re now in seventh grade. They’ve shared secrets, peanut butter sandwiches and know each other so well that they can finish each other's thoughts. But now that the girls are in seventh grade, something is happening – the two are growing apart.
Marjorie is a sweet girl who always smiles, even when the other kids are being mean to her. She eats smelly egg salad sandwiches for lunch, is terrible at sports, and shows up at school dances in outfits that look like they’re from the last century. Other kids think Marjorie is weird. Sarah still likes Marjorie but it’s embarrassing sometimes to hang around with a girl who is so clueless.
The Hard Kind of Promise touches on a topic that many middle school students will face. Whether they see themselves as Sarah or Marjorie, readers will learn about the struggles and pain that accompany losing a friend to changing interests. Sarah and Marjorie still care about each other but while Sarah enjoys chorus, Marjorie prefers moviemaking. Sarah is excited about an upcoming trip to Los Angeles for a chorus competition while Marjorie can’t wait for the new anime club to have its first meeting. What do they have in common?
The author handles the friends’ gradual separation with realism and sensitivity. And like real life, there’s no storybook ending although what does happen should leave the reader with a smile. Marjorie, who is perhaps the wisest of all the characters, notes, “Maybe it’s just supposed to happen. Like getting taller.” (pg. 198)
Quill says: A gentle novel that lets kids know it’s okay to grow apart and that it’s nobody’s fault.