Realistic from the get-go and written in present tense, the rhythmic and funny narrative will grab readers right away. It all starts when four people come to celebrate with a birthday girl - one of whom was not invited.
The book begins on Ruby's Sweet Sixteen, when the birthday girl hanging out in her humble house with her mom, waiting for her friends to arrive. She has ziti, a whale-shaped ice-cream cake, and a foil party crown.
Shortly after receiving an old Polaroid camera from her mom, Ruby tests out her gift, capturing her mom in a little white square. The guests start to arrive, and Ruby takes a picture of each one. Her friends are very distinguishable, both in looks and in personality. First is Beth, petite, exuberant, the best friend ever. Next comes maudlin Katherine, who is far more Beth's friend than Ruby's, and two years ahead of the other girls in school. In bounces sassy Maria, thus completing the guest list.
Then the last person Ruby ever expected to walk through the door does exactly that. She takes the opportunity to run out of the door, her friends close behind her. His presence pushes the story forward, as his long-term absence has huge part of her past.
Along comes someone else, someone new. His name is Charlie, and he's a sweet, easygoing boy who likes to make buttons and conversation. Like a picture from Ruby's camera, Charlie will instantly capture the hearts of readers, but it will take a while for their relationship to develop - and he'll patiently wait.
There are plenty of laughs to be had and tears to be shed, sometimes simultaneously, as Ruby re-evaluates her friendships and her parents' divorce. Looking through her new-old camera becomes a way for her to both hide and seek. Stubborn to a fault, Ruby is caught between a rock and a hard place partially because she's put herself there, and she knows it.
Siobhan Vivian delivers her Advice free of clichés. Forgiveness is rarely easy, and friendships aren't always balanced or happy. This book offers subtle metaphors, realistic meanderings and dialogue, and believable events. It also has handmade scarves, Girl Scout badges, a treehouse, and hidden smiles. You'd be wise to consider Vivian's truthful Advice.
I highly recommend this book to teens and adults, and have placed it on my list of Best Books of 2008 (So Far).
Read my interview with the author.
Read the ALFA roundtable discussion between Angela, Alexia, and Little Willow.
I included ALFA on my list of books to get as published at SparkLife for SparkNotes.
Read my review of Siobhan Vivian's novel The List.
Read my review of Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian.
Visit Siobhan's website and LiveJournal.