Ruth is in the throes of middle school and floundering without her friend Charlotte. For years, the girls did everything together: Charlotte was adopted by two dads, and Ruth has two moms, so their parents formed a “support group.” Now Charlotte has moved on to the popular crowd, and Ruth has become a loner. “I’m that hawk flying above it all, the quiet observer on the sidelines. And that’s the way I like it,” she says. But life won’t leave her on the sidelines.
Ruth finds a series of obscure clues tucked inside old books. Although Charlotte is busy with new friend Melinda and no longer cares about games and puzzles, Ruth longs to share the clues and solve the mystery. Possibilities for new friends surface, but Ruth struggles to have faith in other people. As the clues become even more perplexing, an upcoming spelling bee and a fire at the library bring Ruth into the mix of a motley crew of people she never expected to befriend.
The Friendship Riddle, skillfully written by Megan Frazer Blakemore, shows a finely hewn sensitivity to the perils and pitfalls of life in middle school. Blakemore’s previous novels, The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill and The Water Castle, have won critical acclaim, as likely will The Friendship Riddle for the author’s keen insight into the lives and minds of middle schoolers, the quick-paced plotting and engaging mystery, and the warmth and generosity Ruth ultimately finds in family and friends.
Billie B. Little is the Founding Director of Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, a hands-on museum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.