Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Making Friends: Third Time's a Charm by Kristen Gudsnuk

If there's a sequel, there has to be a trilogy. I don't know if that's actually a law, but we said it a lot in my SFBC days, and it turned out to be true almost all the time. (Did they stop at trilogies? No, most of the time, they didn't. But hardly anybody stopped at just two.)

So, as we all could have predicted, Kristen Gudsnuk did return to the story of Dany and Madison for Making Friends: Third Time's a Charm. (The first two are the original Making Friends and then Back to the Drawing Board.)

I probably won't run on as long about this one as the first two. It is the third, so writing too much could explain too much about the earlier books - particularly since this one begins very much in "wait, that's not how I remember it!" territory. (This is deliberate, and central to the story; Gudsnuk is being sneaky again.)

And they are books for middle-grade readers about tween girls and a magic notebook, so it would be very easy to put too much weight on things. (I am a Serious Adult who overinterpreted things for a living for a long time; that's one of my core skills.)

So, let me say that it begins with Dany and Madison in a life situation that does not entirely seem familiar, even as it looks very normal and realistic. There will be surprises. There will be new friends, with interesting lives. There will be new antagonists, ones with massive power and position - you might even say that the shenanigans from the previous books have finally come to the attention of the folks who do this kind of magic all the time.

I think this one is the end of the series, but it's hard to be sure. It has an ending that could be "OK, it's all cleaned up and put away; everything will be totally normal from this point on!" and that would settle the conflicts in this book - not in pure "our heroes will win every time, in the maximum possible way" fashion, but nicely and appropriately.

And yet. And yet. That would be putting all of the pieces back in the box carefully, closing the lid, and walking away. I am no expert on Kristen Gudsnuk, though I've now read a bunch of her books. But I get the sense she is not a put-everything-back-in-the-box kind of creator. So there may yet be a fourth book, which starts from the end of this one and blows everything up even more than the first three books do.

That will be fun, if it happens. If it doesn't, this is still fun. I think I like Back better than Third Time, but Back is almost uniquely wacky and madcap, and I think Gudsnuk is really really good at that stuff.

Either way, Third Time is a great third installment in the series. It may be the ending. It may not. It does have an ending; not all books do. And you don't have to be a tween girl to like it, though that may help. (Never having been one, I can't say either way.)

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