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Fiona's Private Pages book cover

Fiona's Private Pages by Robin Cruise;
Harcourt, Inc.: New York, 2000; $15

What do you think makes a True Friend? Is it someone who, as Fiona Claire Jardin thinks: 1) always says nice things about you, agrees with you 100 percent, and thinks you look perfect; 2) never gets mad or disappointed in you and never keeps you waiting; 3) keeps your secrets no matter what; 4) never gossips or passes notes about you; 5) is exactly like you?

Or is a True Friend more like what her mother, Laurel Ryan, believes? A True Friend: 1) sees you with her heart; 2) listens to you with her heart; 3) knows and loves you in her heart; 4) carries you in her heart; 5) opens her heart to you.

This is the question that Fiona explores in this book. Fiona's Private Pages is a wonderful book based on the pleasures and trials of friendship. It seems like every one of her ideas about friendship had to be tested and maybe changed. I could definitely understand many of Fiona's feelings.

Fiona has a best friend named Blanca, and two "second-best friends" named Katie and Natalie. One of her struggles involves Natalie. Natalie has been having trouble in school, and her mother says that if she cannot bring her grades up, she will have to change schools. Fiona decides to help by asking Katie to tutor Natalie in math, but, unfortunately, her grades remain low and her parents transfer her to a Catholic girls' school. Although the girls still live in the same town, Fiona is worried that this change will hurt their friendship. When I was five years old, my family and I moved from Connecticut to California. I tried to keep in touch with my best friend Sally, but we didn't have the patience to write letters. Then, just last year, my best friend Madeleine moved to New York. Now that I am twelve, it is easier to keep up a friendship by writing and calling, but it is still a lot harder than when you see each other every day. A good friend is worth the effort.

Fiona has another challenge with friends at school. A new girl, Mackenzie Swanson, has just started at Fiona's school and is already very popular. Fiona did not like Mackenzie from the beginning because she embarrassed Fiona in front of the whole class. As if this weren't enough, she also wrote and passed mean notes about her. Since Fiona assumes Mackenzie does not like her, she is surprised when Mackenzie invites her to spend the night. Fiona is confused because she is attracted to Mackenzie's wealth and popularity, but she doubts Mackenzie cares about being a true friend. I used to have "friends" like Mackenzie. They were cool and popular, but I was not content. Half the time they were nice to me and half the time they were not. I stopped hanging out with that group, and, although I am not popular anymore, I am much happier with my real friends who I know I can trust.

Then, as if all these troubles were not enough, Katie tells Fiona a secret and makes her promise not to tell anyone! This is a big problem for Fiona because she knows if she does not tell anyone, Katie will be in terrible danger. But of course, this is number three on her True Friend list. Although I have never been in a situation quite as bad as this, many kids have. Should a person risk losing a friend in order to help her, or should secrets be kept no matter what? I think it is worth it to risk the friendship, especially if the secret is potentially dangerous to someone. Chances are your friend will forgive you and most likely be grateful in the long run.

One year later, after all these ups and downs with friendship, Fiona reviews her list and realizes that her ideas of a True Friend have greatly changed. She understands that people can get mad at each other and still be friends. She also realizes how boring life would be if all her friends were just like her. I think many people will love to read Fiona's Private Pages and see that Fiona's experiences are much like their own. This book reminds me of what a True Friend really is, and how to be one.

Fiona's Private Pages Emily Rice
Emily Rice, 12
San Anselmo, California