On the second day of ninth grade, introverted Frances meets Sonja, a witty and outgoing newcomer recently moved from France, and the girls become instant soulmates. The two teens are euphoric about their blossoming relationship, relishing a depth of understanding for each other they’ve never experienced with anyone else. Frances is charmed by Sonja’s energy and worldliness, while Sonja adores Frances’s sense of calm and dependability. She’s also taken with Frances’s close-knit family, especially her older brother, Will. Led by Sonja, the girls declare their goal to become “visible” at their high school, dubbing themselves “The Poets” and rallying their classmates to enter the homecoming parade with a poetry-mobile built from Frances’s father’s old band bus.
But as their friendship grows, so do the expectations. Family crises impact both girls—Sonja’s parents are caught in a bitter divorce, and Frances’s father suffers from bipolar disorder. When Sonja’s mother attempts suicide, Sonja temporarily moves in with Frances and her family. Sonja’s dominating personality begins to overwhelm Frances, causing her to doubt herself and her own talents. And when Sonja’s infatuation with Will becomes obsessive, Frances feels manipulated and attempts to set some boundaries. For Sonja, there is no middle ground, and she sees Frances’ efforts to regain her independence as the ultimate betrayal.
The Take-Over Friend powerfully explores themes of guilt, jealousy, possessiveness, and the difficult task of staying true to oneself. In the same vein as Hayley Krischer’s The Falling Girls and Anne Fine’s The Tulip Touch, Dines’ new novel weaves together the beauty and pain of friendship and growing up.
Praise for The Take-Over Friend
“This book is for everyone who’s ever longed for, loved, lost, or been betrayed by a friend. All the sweetness, sorrow, joy, pain, and anguish of friendship found and lost is layered into this luscious cake of a story. Slathered with suspense and liberally sprinkled with humor, it’s so deliciously bittersweet, you’re likely to gobble it up in one sitting.”
Margi Preus, Newbury Honor author of Heart of the Samurai, Village of Scoundrels, and Lily Leads the Way.
The Take-Over Friend rings with authenticity. It’s an honest and moving look at the difficulties and rewards of friendship, the love and complications of family, and the joy and uncertainty of growing up. Carol Dines treats challenging subjects like mental illness and its impact on friends and family members with nuance and depth. I read the whole book in one totally immersive sitting, rooting for Franny. She’s a character you hold close in your heart.
—Eve Yohalem, author of Escape Under The Forever Sky and The Truth According to Blue
“Equal parts wry and heartbreaking, The Takeover-Friend deftly and seamlessly weaves a compelling story about the complex nature of adolescent friendship with a deep and thoughtful dive into the impact of mental illness on one family. A timely, moving, and thought-provoking novel.”
—Gary Eldon Peter, author of Oranges and The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen
Carol Dines perfectly captures the intoxication and relief that can be found in an intense new friendship, along with the little warning signs that are easy to dismiss when all one wants is to be swept up in the thrill of that bond. The Take-Over Friend is a beautiful, layered novel about what can happen when we ignore our own inner wisdom. It will live inside readers long after they reach the last page.
—Ona Gritz, author of Present Imperfect, Tangerines and Tea and Starfish Summer
“Thank you for the pleasure of reading The Take-Over Friend! How many of us have fallen for that teenage friendship, alluring and dangerous all at once! The Take-Over Friend is engaging and heart stopping—wonderfully written about trusts broken and boundaries crossed…A really good story about the very complex world of trying to find out who you really are.”
—Judith Katz, author of The Escape Artist and Running Fiercely Toward a High Thin Sound
“An intense high school friendship turns toxic. At the beginning of ninth grade, Frances meets cosmopolitan new girl Sonja, welcoming her friendship as her former best friend recently moved out of Minneapolis to the suburbs and they quickly lost touch. Frances is instantly drawn to Sonja, and it is the first time that she feels seen. In Sonja she recognizes what she hopes to become. But red flags soon appear, with Sonja telling her who she should and shouldn’t be friends with and what school activities she should participate in. Starting with her inviting herself over for a sleepover, Sonja begins inserting herself into Frances’ family: befriending Frances’ father, who has bipolar disorder; dating her brother; and getting jealous when Frances’ older sister returns from college for Thanksgiving and Frances wants time alone with her. Though she knows things are a bit off, Frances, whose father’s nickname for her is “Easy-One,” is reluctant to shake up the status quo. She admires Sonja and likes how she feels brave and empowered because of their relationship. The characters are realistically drawn, and there is an authenticity to their motives. Readers will feel empathy for Frances as Sonja seems to easily take over her life; when Frances does stand up for herself and her family, the scary consequences are deeply felt. Main characters are White, and both Frances and Sonja have one Jewish parent. An absorbing cautionary tale of problematic friendship.”