In middle school, nothing is more important than friendship.
When Truly is invited to sit at the Popular Table with the group she has dreamed of joining, she can hardly believe her luck. Everyone seems so nice, so kind to one another. But all is not as it seems with her new friends, and soon she's caught in a maelstrom of lies, misunderstandings, accusations and counter-accusations, all happening very publicly in the relentless, hyperconnected social media world from which there is no escape.
Six eighth-graders, four girls and two boys, struggle to understand and process their fractured glimples into one another's lives as they find new ways to disconnect, but also to connect, in Rachel Vail's richest and most searching book.
Backbiting, scheming classmates take center stage in Vail's (the Justin Case series) contemporary novel about middle-school relationships and acts of disloyalty. The nastiness begins when sixth-grader Truly betrays her friend Hazel by joining the popular group. Truly's former best friend Natasha has ulterior motives for inviting Truly into the coveted circle, but Truly doesn't know that. When both Hazel and Natasha turn against Truly, the result is a slew of mean-spirited online posts that cause trouble at school and make everyone miserable. The book is told from the rotating perspectives of six middle-schoolers including Truly, Natasha, and Hazel who are peripherally or directly affected by the ongoing drama, which draws in some of the boys in the class as well. Readers only get brief, glimpses into the complex problems at home, personal conflicts, and motivations for the students resisting or engaging in the bullying. A history project involving a reenactment of Benedict Arnold's traitorous scheme finally forces the girls to see the errors of their ways, leading to a too-tidy, overly optimistic resolution. Ages 11 up.