The offline diaries by Yomi Adegoke & Elizabeth Uviebinene

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This is a story of friendship, and also the sadness of lost connection, set within early high school and with additional social media pressures. Ade is a new arrival in a new town and school. Moving has not been a happy change and all the pressures of ‘starting over’ are weighing heavily on her. A chance meeting at the hair salon her mother attends, gives her the opportunity to make a new friend. Shanice frequently spends time at her father’s salon because she is often alone and lonely, especially since her mother died. The surprise encounter and almost immediate connection between the two 12 year-old girls develops further at school and via their online chats. Sadly though, Ade also manages to connect with the two popular but mean girls at school, despite Shanice’s warnings about their self-centred and cruel demeanour towards her in the past. Can their friendship survive when Ade is pulled in two directions? Can Shanice survive being excluded again?

This is a social drama story for pre-teens and early teens, with characters who do not have an Anglo-Saxon heritage. There are light-hearted moments and also some naive aspects to the lives of the two main characters as they negotiate inter-personal challenges. With some of the conversations and interactions shared as ‘Chatback’ conversations, and each of the girls communicating via their diary or journal entries, there are insights into the friendship impacts, especially when things start to go awry. There are some struggles with the bullying and exclusion of the ‘mean girls’ which are intensified by the influence of social media communications. Family life has some challenges for both girls, but they are loved and there are positive aspects to their lives, and they are genuinely hurt when their friendship suffers. Young female readers aged 11-14 will enjoy this story, and it will be endearing for readers with African or Caribbean heritage.

Themes: Friendship, Bullying, Social media, Grief, Family.

Carolyn Hull