Author: Ron Bates
Title: How to Make Friends and Monsters
Publisher: Zondervan

Like Judy Blume, Beverly Clearly and J.K. Rowling before him, journalist and popular humor columnist Ron Bates knows how to perfectly encapsulate the junior high experience in all its awkward glory.

And with How to Make Friends and Monsters, Bates does so in a way that’s both silly and substantive. With a real grasp of modern pre-teen vernacular, Bates introduces us to a lovable protagonist without a lot of friends, Howard Boward.

Armed with a name that’s practically begging to be made fun of, not to mention an unabashed love of science to boot, Howard doesn’t exactly have the easiest time blending in during those tumultuous middle school years. He’s an outcast of the highest order, and not surprisingly, he doesn’t like it one bit.

So what does a lonely kid do when friends aren’t exactly plentiful? Well, make one up of course! With just a few common ingredients like silly putty and a chemical reaction he wasn’t expecting, Howard has created his own BFF, a monster.

As it turns out, his monster, Franklin Stein seems to be the bridge needed for newfound popularity. As strange as that is, what’s even odder for Howard is that fitting in for the first time isn’t quite as rapturous as he expected.

While this lesson has been covered in a variety of mediums in the past, Bates brings fresh insight to such familiar territory. A fast-paced read that keeps you engaged from beginning to end, there’s plenty of non-preachy takeaways tucked in with all the fun.

But more than anything, How to Make Friends and Monsters will make its target audience feel like the author really “gets” where they’re coming from—which is exactly why reading good books continue to be such a valuable part of growing up. 

*This Review First Published 6/24/2013