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You Go First is an endearing story of friendship from Erin Entrada Kelly, author of the Newbery Medal winning book Hello, Universe (which I haven’t read yet). What appears to be a story about online friends ends up showing real-life friends are the most worthwhile.

The Story

Ben and Charlotte are sweet, quirky kids who know each other through an online Scrabble-type game. And they are both going through major upheaval in both their family and social lives. They may think of each other as a friend they can rely on, but it’s too easy not to be authentic with someone who doesn’t know you in real life. As Ben and Charlotte each deal with their real life struggles, they must find a real-life friend to help them cope.

Why I Loved You Go First

  • Smart Characters: I love books about smart kids, and Ben and Charlotte are very smart. Charlotte loves words and science. Ben seems like a miniature adult who knows a little bit about everything. Both kids are sweet and endearing.
  • Family Bonds: Although both Charlotte and Ben are experiencing family difficulties (Charlotte’s dad is in ICU and Ben’s parents are divorcing), it’s clear that both have close knit relationships with their parents.

Parents Should Know

  • Bullying: Ben is bullied fairly cruelly. While the bullies get their just desserts, Ben also never tells anyone that’s he’s being bullied. While Ben is very sweet, make sure your kids know it’s ok to tell.
  • Social Media: My main concern about You Go First is the normalizing of middle schoolers meeting via social media and online games. Kelly briefly touches on the danger of meeting ill-intentioned people online. But it’s still a conversations parents will want to have with kids before handing over this book (and after). She gently shows how the online “friendship” isn’t the same as a real friendship.

Can you recommend a book that encourages real friendships like You Go First?