cover image Friend Is Not a Verb

Friend Is Not a Verb

Daniel Ehrenhaft. HarperTeen, 16.99 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-06-113106-6

Offbeat characters, an intriguing mystery, and a sweet romance make Ehrenhaft’s (That’s Life, Samara Brooks) coming-of-age story stand out. When 16-year-old Hen’s older sister returns after a year on the lam, she won’t tell him what she and her friends did to become fugitives. In between bass practice, dog walking, and spending an awful lot of time with his best friend, Emma, Hen tries to sort out the mystery, which only deepens when Sarah disappears again. Readers may tire of the narrator’s voice that Hen starts hearing in his head halfway through (it’s that of Jim Forbes, of VH1’s Behind the Music, giving a fictional account of Hen’s band’s rise to fame). But Hen has a pleasantly deadpan sense of humor, and the supporting characters are entertaining (Hen’s father insists Hen “declare” his paltry dogwalking income, while his self-absorbed ex writes that she broke up with him “because you were never all that into me,” even while telling him who he really loves). The mystery—and romance—wrap up rather neatly, but readers should be impressed by the clever surprise ending. Ages 12–up. (May)