Title: Last LookLast Look
Author: Clyde Robert Bulla
Illustrator: Emily Arnold McCully
Pages: 81
Reading Level: 8 – 12
Star Rating: ★★★

Clyde Robert Bulla of Shoeshine Girl, Three Dollar Mule, and The Ghost of Windy Hill.

The Story.

Monica, Fran, and Audrey were the best of friends – they had been for many years. They were like a club – only without the formality of one. But then, a new girl turns up at school. Her name is Rhoda, and she insists on pushing her way into their little group, pretending that she is as fully friends with them as they are with each other.

The girls don’t exactly dislike her – they just wish she wasn’t so pushy. But when she disappears for several days, they start to grow worried. And then, Monica receives an eerie note. It reads

Monica. Tell no one. Rhoda in danger. Go to haunted house Tuesday at midnight. Receive message. Go alone. Tell no one.”

Is Rhoda really in danger? What can Monica do to help her?

Discussion.

Ah, yes – the haunted house. Well it’s not really haunted and no one actually thinks it’s haunted, that’s just what it’s called.

The relationships in Last Look are complex. The three girls are best friends, then Rhoda shows up. They don’t treat her meanly – they don’t even exclude her! – she just tries to push their friendships along too rapidly, which they dislike. Throughout the story it’s obvious that Rhoda recognizes that she’s a bit of an outsider, but is determined to push herself into place. We don’t realize just how deeply Rhoda feels her lack of belonging until Monica obeys the note which was written by Rhoda herself. Rhoda tells Monica that she hates her and succeeds in pushing Monica into an empty well. Rhoda falls in, too, and apologizes to Monica. Monica develops a scheme for them both to escape which involves Rhoda climbing out, then helping Monica. But once Rhoda climbs up, she pushes the cover on the well and leaves.

Monica is rescued later, and Rhoda appears broken, but the whole proceedings were just bizarre. Monica behaved maturely, though, recognizing that she should have been warmer to Rhoda from the beginning. When a new girl shows up at school as a replacement for Rhoda (who leaves), Monica thinks,

She may be my best friend. She may be my worst enemy. She may not be anything much to me, or she may be more than I can imagine. Whatever she is, I don’t know now. I’ll have to wait to know. And while I wait, I won’t close the door. This time I’ll try to keep it open. [pg. 80-81]

The school decides to put on a stage version of Beauty and the Beast. Monica is cast as Belle, but we witness no further developments.

Conclusion. Could go either way with this one.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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