Having a fight with all your friends just before you start middle school isn't a good idea.

Beth and Rissa had been best friends their entire lives, and Jayne, Kerry, and Angel became part of the group when their mothers decided that since they all lived in the same part of town, they should start a car pool. 

But the summer before sixth grade, Rissa began to realize that the others were changing. They wanted to go shopping, or to the mall. They talked about clothes, or nail polish, or music, and which boys were the hottest. Rissa felt like she didn't have anything in common with them any more.  

She still liked board games and playing with her gnome collection. And she didn't want to go to expensive stores and look for clothes-it just reminded her that sooner or later, she'd be getting Beth's clothes when she grew out of them. Ever since second grade, Beth's mother would bring whatever didn't fit or Beth didn't want, to Rissa's mom, who'd alter them to make them fit Rissa. Rissa had to wear them-she didn't have much of anything that Beth hadn't worn first. And everyone knew it. 

But her clothes weren't the reason for the fight. It happened during Rissa's and Beth's joint birthday party, and it was about being different. Rissa had put up with their teasing about Brian Bailey, one of the biggest nerds in school, for two years, and when it started up again as soon as he walked into the pizza place with his family, Rissa just lost it. Suddenly, she didn't want to have anything to do with them. So she called them a bunch of jerks and walked out.

Declaring your independence means a lot of changes, some good, some bad, some easy, some incredibly difficult. It means three steps forward and one step back. Join Rissa as she copes with sixth grade as an independent, but not an outcast!

This booktalk was written by Joni Richards Bodart, university professor, author, consultant, and booktalking expert.