Best friends Monica and Claudia have survived middle school, and they are now ready to take on their freshman year. In mostly light-hearted, breezy prose, the two girls recount the events of their first few weeks of ninth grade, which include meeting new friends, flirting with boys and getting into a huge disagreement with each other. Through it all, though, the girls prove that best friends really are forever.
This book is hugely appealing because of its tone and its layout. The bright cover and the graphics at the beginning of each chapter - including the full-page dividers between chapters that show little doodles of hearts - are really eye-catching and teen-friendly. These physical characteristics of the book work with the easy-to-read, straightforward text to draw in girls who might typically shy away from books by putting them at ease. It’s easy to believe in Monica and Claudia as real teens with an interesting story to tell because their characters are contained in such an unintimidating package.
I also think the author does a great job of capturing the confusion, uncertainty, and drama of the start of high school. Not everything that happens in this book is terribly original, but I think that’s part of what might make kids interested in it. It’s familiar territory, and the story sort of helps to navigate those uncharted waters. Actually, I think the story is as relevant to girls starting middle school as it is to high schoolers, since the subject matter is very tame and focuses mainly on friendships and budding interest in boys. Stone Arch Books describes its contemporary fiction as “safe,” and I think that’s a good word for it. Reading New Firsts is a positive experience, with a focus on the good, and the healthy.
New Firsts was published on August 1. Prior to that, Claudia and Monica were also stars of their own respective series, set during middle school: the Claudia Cristina Cortez series and the Monica series. This new book is part of a series as well, entitled Freshman Girls. There are three more books following New Firsts: Homecoming, Haunted Love, and Tested.
I received a digital ARC of New Firsts from Capstone via NetGalley.