The Retake, by Jen Calonita, for Timeslip Tuesday

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Yay me!  I have read a timeslip book in time for this week’s Tuesday!  Travel back to middle school, with all its social pain, in The Retake, by Jen Calonita (February, 2021, Delacorte)

Zoe’s phone is full of pictures of her and her best friend, Laura.  Except this summer she had to go on a trip with her family, and Laura was busy sharing pictures of herself having fun with a new group of girls.  And Zoe, desperate to re-establish their friendship in time for the start of 7th grade, is faced with a best friend who isn’t interested in her anymore. The first day of 7th grade is a disaster for an already unhappy Zoe.  One thing after another goes wrong.  But that night she finds a strange app has appeared on her phone (while it was confiscated in the principal’s office), one that offers a chance to “retake.”

Using the app, she opens  a picture of herself at a sleepover three months ago with Laura, the night she first felt like an outsider in her friend’s world.  Zoe thinks she’ll be able to change things for the better this time around….but instead she makes things even worse.  And so it goes, with Zoe using the app on one picture after another.  

Nothing she does in the past (giving up on things she likes that Laura thinks are childish, trying to come between Laura and her new Queen Bea type friends, and other small differences) makes her friendship with Laura what she wants it to be, and mostly she makes it worse.  But her trips to the past do end up with Zoe finding value in other girls she’d previously dismissed because of her fixation on Laura, and  when she finds herself with the app burned out, back on the second day of seventh grade, she’s able to pick up the piece of herself and live more fully in the present.

If you like middle school friendship drama, on repeat, this is a book you will love.  I myself was ready to give up on Laura much sooner than Zoe was, although I did appreciate Zoe’s journey towards self-awareness.   It’s a useful and hopeful lesson in accepting that you will grow apart from some friends, and grow towards others.  And I’m sure many middle school girls will relate to Zoe’s realistically described experiences with great intensity!

Personal note–I moved to the US from the Bahamas to start seventh grade, so my problems were totally different from Zoe’s.  I didn’t have friendship drama, but I did have the horror of leaving my friends with whom I was still happily being a kid and finding my self plunged into a world where the girls in my class had crushes on the Bee Gees. Nightmarish for innocent little me, and no amount of time travel would have helped.

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