After thoroughly enjoying the first volume of the Making Friends series, and all of the nostalgic feelings that it inspired in me, I was eager to check out the sequel. In Making Friends: Back to the Drawing Board we see the return of all of the delightful characters that Kristen Gudsnuk introduced us to in the first volume, as poor Dany continues to struggle with dealing with people and making friends. The series continues to explore themes of growing up and facing the consequences of your actions, but, this time around, things are starting to get a little more complicated.
After being forced to attend different schools while their Junior High underwent repairs, following their epic showdown with Prince Neptune, Dany, Madison and all of their friends are finally reunited when their school re-opens. Having taken the lesson she learned about being herself to heart, Dany is trying to be her authentic self at school, instead of trying to act cool so people will like her. It’s not having the desired results, unfortunately. Her classmates think she’s a loser and Cara, Madison’s popular friend from the cheer squad, clearly resents having to hang out with Dany. Feeling completely deflated, Dany makes the impulsive decision to use the magic sketchbook to create a clone of herself – someone who has all of her memories and is exactly like her, except a little more open and outgoing. Now Cloney can handle all of the tricky social dilemmas and annoying homework for her while Dany just sits back and takes it easy! It’s the perfect plan, until they accidently unleash a blue, wish-granting dog on the town and Dany has to once again face the fact that magic isn’t going to solve all of her problems.
Having Dany realize in the previous book that the only way to make real friends is to be genuine, was a good lesson, but I was impressed to see that this volume explored how building social skills is more complex than just being yourself. Dany has to face the fact that, even when she’d being true to herself, not everyone is going to like her. Cara finds the real her annoying and all of Dany’s clumsy attempts to win her over just serve to further lower Cara’s opinion of her. Relating to others can be tough and I was glad to see Back to the Drawing Board acknowledge that there aren’t any simple solutions.
Dany’s relationship with her magical powers also grows more nuanced in this book, as she has to face up to the consequences of how she’s been using her powers thus far. Up until this point Dany’s done pretty much whatever she wanted: she’s deceived her parents, manipulated peoples’ minds so they’d forget what really destroyed the gym and created sentient life for her own convenience. Twice! In Back to the Drawing Board, more people become aware of the presence of magic and, as Dany witnesses them abuse their powers or suffer from unexpected side-effects, she has to take a hard look at what she’s been doing and what her actions actually entail. It might not have seemed like she was hurting anyone, but that doesn’t make what she did right and Dany has to face some ugly truths in this volume.
While this series continues to impress me with it’s depth, I was a little annoyed to see that Dany had apparently not learned as much as I thought from her first adventure and used magic to create yet another human being without a second thought. After all of the confusion and struggle that Madison went through after discovering that she was essentially Dany’s imaginary friend, it didn’t seem believable to me that Dany would be so quick to make the exact same mistake again and make a clone of herself! I think this is meant to show that she’s started to become overly reliant on magic, but it still seemed odd and I was surprised that Madison, or one of their other friends, didn’t freak out at Dany about it. At least Back to the Drawing Board avoided the obvious twist of having the clone turn on the original and instead actually surprised me with the resolution to the clone’s storyline. I’ll also concede that the presence of Cloney did put Dany in the interesting position of being able to observe herself and her behaviour as a bystander, allowing her to get an understanding of why other people might find her to be obnoxious. I would still have liked to have seen Dany do some more mental gymnastics to justify to herself why it was okay for her to create Cloney in the first place, but ultimately I enjoyed her presence in the story.
Making Friends: Back to the Drawing Board is a fun and exciting sequel that takes the themes established in the first volume and runs with them. After seeing the thoughtful, and slightly darker, places that this volume went, I’m excited to see where the series will go from here, especially since a couple plot threads weren’t entirely resolved by the end of this volume. The resolution of the tension between Cara and Dany also felt a little rushed, so I hope their dynamic is explored a bit more in future installments.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
For more information on this book, visit Scholastic’s website.
Also, be sure to check out my reviews of the first volume in the series and of some of Kristen Gudsnuk’s other works: