Real Friends vs. the Other Kind is the much anticipated second book app from the award winning Middle School Confidential book series by author Annie Fox. I have had the pleasure of taking an early look at the app just prior to its release. If you enjoyed the first app in the series, Be Confident in Who You Are, you will not be disappointed. In fact, you are in for a treat.
All of the wonderful graphics and sound effects from the first graphic novel app are present in the second. It uses the same intuitive user interface and design as Be Confident, which makes following the story simple, interactive and fun. Readers can double tap on each frame to zoom in and out of the picture and to hear additional sound effects. The app automatically remembers where you leave off each time and it is easy to jump from chapter to chapter using the info page. The sound effects are not distracting, but rather enhance the experience by providing background sounds that give the illusion of being present and part of the action, drawing the reader into the story. Illustrations by Matt Kindt really bring the story to life with vivid colors and a modern style that surely will be attractive to teens. Real Friends offers all of the appeal of a graphic novel plus the added digital features that can not help but make reading pleasurable for children ages 8 -14.
While the design of the app is similar to the first in the series, the story is brand new. Real Friends brings back many of the familiar characters from Be Confident and places them in new, age appropriate situations that middle school students can easily identify with. Topics include what it means to be a real friend, handling dating and peer relationships, and what to do if you are worried about a friend in trouble. I shared this app first with my eleven-year-old daughter, who will be starting middle school next fall. I enjoyed glancing at her as she read it (trying not to be too obvious, of course). She read it through, beginning to end, without pause. The story really seemed to interest her. She told me “it’s really good!” I also shared it with one of my older daughters, now in high school. My oldest daughter is very impressed with how true to life the characters and situations seem to her. She told me that many of the conversations remind her of her own experiences in middle school. She specifically mentioned to me the storyline about a student who is concerned about her friend with an eating disorder. My daughter likes the way the situation in the story is handled and believes it can serve as a model for teens when faced with similar situations with friends. I agree.
I share my daughters’ enthusiasm for Real Friends. As a former middle school drama teacher and a parent to teens and tweens, I am very familiar with all of the “drama” associated with social relationships during the middle school years. I have witnessed first hand the joy and excitement shared by best friends telling stories and sharing secrets in the lunchroom, as well as the tears and heartbreak associated with hurt feelings and broken friendships. In fact, I can’t think of anything more important to teens than their relationships with other teens. In Real Friends vs. the Other Kind, Annie Fox does a wonderful job of creating believable characters and situations that middle schoolers can relate to, as well as offering appropriate strategies for coping with many of the difficult and awkward relationship challenges that many teens face. Often young people (and even adults) can know that a situation is wrong or uncomfortable but at the same time not know the right words to use or the right way to broach a difficult subject with a friend. I especially love the natural way in which the characters in the story model the language and skills necessary to handle many of the difficult situations middle school students encounter in relationships. Real Friends is an app that will not only entertain and encourage reading, but it will also challenge teens to reflect upon their relationships and think critically about what it means to be a true friend.
For more information about the Middle School Confidential series or other projects by David and Annie Fox of Electric Eggplant, visit their website.