friendship groups + polaroids // a little friendly advice by siobhan vivian #bookreview
I never want to be stuck in the limbo of non-decision again. It's like torturing yourself on purpose. - A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian
A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian was basically the only thing in my mind for three hours past bedtime. I felt pretty cool about finishing it in one sitting despite the fact that it's a fairly short novel (around 250 pages) and set during a short timespan (a couple of weeks). From the blurb, which introduced us to emotionally damaged sixteen-year-old Ruby, her friendship group of four very different girls, and the cracks appearing at the corners of Ruby's already fragile world, I thought it was bound to be great. (I have a soft spot for friendship stories, especially those that promise flawed characters.) And yes, there were polaroids and buttons and a cute romantic subplot, so it was okay. It deals with issues most, if not all, teenage girls face, so brownie points for that. Not my favourite of all time, but still a sweet, short read.
In no particular order here's what I like best about A Little Friendly Advice: 1) Ruby, Ruby, Ruby! - the dear girl. She's had a messy childhood with her parent's divorce and then her dad shows up on her sixteenth birthday and her friends (one in particular) turn out not the be the nicest, so I felt pretty bad for her. And yes, she is kinda the cliché quiet, op-shop jeans and t-shirt, awkward, average girl, but I love that she comes out of all the difficulties stronger and faces up to her past and makes decisions without changing who she is; 2) the friendship rocks! There're four girls - Ruby, Beth (her best friend since forever who's loyal and protective of Ruby), Maria (who's the edgy, world-wise, frequently-changing-boyfriends one), and Katherine (who Beth adopted into the group and the one who they don't know so much about). Their differences and also their willingness to help each other out are emphasised. They have good hearts, even if they do make mistakes sometimes *cough* Beth. *cough*; 3) how the polaroids link parts of the story together. Siobhan Vivian really used them to their full potential. I love how well they're described and, in the end when it all comes together, I smiled at the continuity; 4) how the flashbacks worked out. I took a bit to figure out if I liked it or not, but in the end they worked well. They helped me understand Ruby's personality and the backstories of other characters. Because they were triggered by events in the storyline, they felt natural, too; 5) I'm not the world's greatest romance fan, but I have to admit Ruby and Charlie's relationship was pretty cute. Apart from kissing, they acted like normal friends, and there was a plot twist adding dimension to the relationship. I felt sorry for Charlie, though; he, like Ruby, deserved a better home life.
And, now, unfortunately, a couple of things that made me twitch (or squint, or something like that): 1) Ruby's parents. They just had so many issues and were dishonest and stuff. I disliked them so much. (Maybe I was meant to?) But they were also portrayed as people Ruby should trust and who loved her so I don't know what to feel?! 2) the conflicts. They wrapped up too quickly for my liking. Like, the whole lying and cheating and stuff was hardly talked about?! (Especially the whole situation with that one friend of Ruby's.) If the novel had been longer, they would've been opportunity for better conclusions all around, I feel. Open endings done well are amazing, but this one didn't do it for me. Even so, while reading the actual last scene, I found myself smiling like Ruby was.
My rating of A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian is 3.5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it if you want a short read or are a fan of friendships, Polaroids, buttons, and emotionally scarred characters. If, in the rest of her books, Siobhan Vivian's characters are interestingly flawed and plots are sweetly quirky, I wouldn't mind reading them.