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Surprisingly Sarah

By Terri Libenson
Reviewed by Sarah Custance
Terri Libenson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Emmi & Friends graphic novel series. Surprisingly Sarah is the series 7th instalment about how one decision can change a friendship forever.
Sarah doesn’t need a lot of friends, she has her small but reliable group of friends at school and her BBF (Best Boy Friend) and neighbour Leo, at home. With an upcoming school dance, Sarah wonders if she should ask her crush, also Leo’s best friend, Ben to go with her. Either way, Sarah will end up testing her friendship with Leo who has begun to act weird ever since he found out about Sarah’s crush. Not knowing how things will end with either Ben or Leo, what will Sarah choose to do, to ask or not to ask, that really is the question.
In classic Libenson style, Surprisingly Sarah is broken up into two parts, one is more of a traditional writing style with illustrations and the other is a graphic novel. In the more traditional style, the audience reads the version of Sarah asking her crush Ben to the dance and becoming distanced by Leo as he feels uncomfortable. In the graphic novel, we see from Leo’s point of view Sarah NOT asking Ben to the dance and how that affects Leo’s relationship with both Sarah and Ben. As the story splits into two parts right at the beginning it really could almost be like a Choose Your Own Adventure style of story (the reader can pick if Sarah asks Ben or doesn’t and just read that story line).
It is definitely an interesting and different idea and in this case it works very well because of the already split stylings. Surprisingly Sarah is a must read for fans of the Emmi & Friends series, as we continue to see the stories of past characters as well as focusing on new ones that have been briefly mentioned in the other books.
HarperCollins 2023
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