Summary: Just Pretend
In her new graphic memoir, Just Pretend, Tori Sharp shares stories from her life just before the seventh grade. Her parents are divorced, but not quite amicably. They bicker a lot still and because they share custody of Tori and her siblings, Tori is constantly between houses and sometimes wakes up unsure which house she’s in. The strained relationship is understandably hard on her, so she seeks solace in her relationship with her best friend and in storytelling.
I loved the illustration style! This book has detailed, beautiful illustrations and Tori’s expressions are well reflected through the pictures. You feel her sadness, worry, and sometimes, lack of belonging through the text, but also through the illustrations. I also liked the slice-of-life feeling in the story. We spend a lot of time just following Tori through everyday events: waking up, switching houses, hanging out with her best friend. Not much else happens in the real story.
However, Tori is writing a fantasy story which is loosely linked to her own life and desire for connection. At times, it felt like that story was more developed than the actual story. I liked that Tori respected her friend’s desire to stop reading fantasy stories, despite the fact that she was essentially her only reader. Although there is parental bickering, Tori’s father’s girlfriend is nice and that creates a bit of a peaceful environment for Tori.
Because of the two stories in one, this book might get a bit confusing. I also preferred the realistic story and felt it didn’t get as much attention as it should have. I wish there was a better narrative ARC and resolution. However, I did enjoy this story for the most part and I would read whatever the author writes next.
Overall: Just Pretend
Just Pretend is a promising new graphic memoir highlighting the challenges kids can face when there is parental bickering, especially between divorced co-parents. It also shows the healing power of friendship and storytelling. Although, this memoir is more slice-of-life and lacking a satisfying resolution, kids who enjoy writing will be drawn to this story and all readers will enjoy the illustration style.
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I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.