The Book That Made Me: Philip Reeve 16/10/19
Girl 38: Finding a Friend
Girl 38, the hero of Kat’s comic strip, is everything Kat wishes to be: a brave and fearless explorer, facing challenges head on. But Kat is a bit lost. Since starting secondary school, things haven’t been great, especially between her and her best friend Gem. When Gem takes an immediate dislike to new boy Julius, everything gets turned upside-down: Gem is determined to make Julius the class joke and she’s going to use Kat to make that happen.
Who needs enemies with a best friend like Gem? Torn between loyalty to Gem and doing the right thing, Kat immerses herself in drawing her comic and in sharing stories with her elderly neighbour, Ania. Listening to Ania’s tale of wartime escape from Nazi-occupied Poland helps Kat find the courage to stand up to Gem and discover within herself the parts of Girl 38 she admires so much.
Girl 38 has strong themes of bullying, friendship and difference, but the author’s light touch balances the deeper issues with a lot of heart. The intertwining stories of school friendships and frenemies, World War Two Poland, and the otherworldly sci-fi setting of Girl 38’s planetary exploration sounds like a strange mix, but works perfectly.