Yes I definetly should have read this before Lights, Camera, Amalee. It develops Amalee's father's friends better, and would have helped me like them a bit more the second time around. Still, I feel like having four of them is unneccessary. One part I loved is when she recounts the story of when her mom left when she was an infant. Her dad felt like she deserved a stable home to be raised in and considered adoption, but those friends assured him that he could do it, and they would fill in the gaps. So that was sweet.
What I liked most about this book is the main character Amalee. At 11, she is younger than most protagonists I read about coming of age. But she doesn't reach some unrealistic maturity in the course of this book.. In fact she goes on to grow more in her second book, but she learns some important things about herself and her friends in this story. I thought this aspect was thoughtfully written, and it felt familiar to how I remember feeling in 6th grade.
"I didn't mind what we were studying, even, but I was in middle school now, which meant less colors, less friendliness, and more meanness. And there was another problem. I was meaner, too. Or I felt meaner."
The subtle examples Amalee gives about her new meanness center around not sticking up for other kids, going along with mean girls, and just not being brave enough to speak her mind. I can really remember those couple of years when I felt that way. Where the fear of drawing the negative attention to yourself is so real, that you let things slide that you really don't want to.
"I wasn't sure if I'd make it through the day. I decided to pretend I was a river rock, letting the river of whatever hard words I heard today wash over me."
I thought this was a good book. I'd recommend it for 12 and up. Probably mostly appeals to girls.
You can read it in an afternoon, it's only 180 pages, pretty large type.
Plus I think Dar Williams is cool and she did a good job turning her lyric writing skills into young adult novels. Woohoo!