Retro Friday: Life Without Friends by Ellen Emerson White

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

It seems fitting to review an Ellen Emerson White title for Retro Friday because it was Angie who first introduced me to this author. Life Without Friends is a sequel to Friends for Life. I believe both titles are out of print and sadly, I wasn’t able to get a used copy of Friends for Life. I don’t think it matters though because I enjoyed reading Life Without Friends even if I haven’t read its companion novel. I hope those titles aren’t too confusing!

Here’s the summary from Ellen Emerson White’s website:

A lot of bad things happened to Beverly last year. Now she’s living a life without friends. It’s a lot easier that way. Then Derek comes into her life, just by chance. Bit by bit, Beverly opens up to Derek, and begins to trust him. She can tell him anything. Or almost anything.

There’s just last year standing between Beverly and Derek — the one thing he said he couldn’t forgive. Maybe it will ruin everything if she talks about it. And maybe it will ruin everything if she doesn’t.

Beverly has been through so much – she dated a guy who was involved in a lot of drugs and was part of the wrong crowd in school. To cope with the horror of the past year, Beverly has decided that it’s better for her to avoid everyone and keep to herself. Her father requires her to attend weekly psychiatrist sessions but even during those private moments, Beverly is afraid to open up. Poor Beverly! I really felt bad for her at the start of the novel. The title of the book – Life Without Friends – seemed really appropriate for her because she didn’t have any friends that she could turn to. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for her. Here’s a fairly spoiler-free snippet from early on:

“Alone again, Beverly relaxed somewhat. It was hard to believe that life could get any worse than this. More than once lately, she had thought about killing herself, erasing the fact that she had ever existed. It would be so easy, so—except that she wouldn’t. She didn’t respect people who committed suicide.”

It’s a good thing Derek unexpectedly appears in Beverly’s life and he’s determined to be friends with her. I think Derek is really a great guy – he’s thoughtful, friendly and does his best to make Beverly laugh. A tentative kind of relationship forms between these two. Derek is hesitant because he’s worried that he’s not good enough for Beverly, while Beverly doesn’t want Derek to know the horrible things that happened in her school. This book reminded me a bit of the Love Stories series published by Bantam Books and I devoured those when I was a teen. I think the romance in this novel is really sweet but Life Without Friends is more than just a love story. It’s about Beverly coming to terms with everything bad that happened in her life – from her mother passing away five years before to her getting involved with the worst kind of guy. I also enjoyed watching Beverly interact with the people in her life – her father, her stepmother, her younger brother and even her psychiatrist. I found the conversations during her weekly psych sessions funny. Sometimes, it’s nice to read something like this and remember a time when we didn’t have cellphones or the internet. Beverly reminded me so much of Meg from the same author’s President’s Daughter series – both of them intelligent young women experiencing difficult times in their lives. I kind of wish they got to meet in the last Long May She Reign. I’m hoping that Ellen Emerson White will release another book soon, I’d love to check it out if that happens.

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