BY SEAN CLARK
JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, four of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, The False Friend, by Myla Goldberg. Can you reverse-engineer their fabrications and pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)
1.) Rebecca never made friends easily, so on her first day at the Whitimore School, meeting Kelly is a relief. Kelly is forward and fun, brash and overflowing with strange ideas and dreams. At first, Rebecca is thrilled, but soon she begins to see that Kelly is stranger than she could have imagined. Faced with a choice between the old loneliness she knows and a new friend she doesn’t like, Rebecca must decide what role she will play in Kelly’s life, whether she’s willing to be her confidant or, ultimately, her protector.
2.) In this haunting story of memory and self-doubt, eight-year-old Lily Sellers had an imaginary friend named Mariabeth Flowersworth Buckingham. Then Lily went to camp one summer, and she never saw Mariabeth again. More than 20 years later, Lily goes on a company retreat and meets a strange woman with the unlikely name Mariabeth Flowersworth Buckingham. Is it some kind of cruel joke? Is the woman even real? What happened that fateful summer 20 years ago? What Lily discovers—or remembers—will keep you on the edge of your seat.
3.) New in town, Gillian Fitzgerald spends a lot of time exploring the woods behind her house. One day, she finds a map tacked to a tree. The next, she discovers a note describing a lost cave and hidden treasures. On the third day, Gillian is surprised by a girl sitting high up in the trees. The pixie introduces herself as Alayne, and enlists Gillian’s help searching for the cave. Each afternoon spent with Alayne drags Gillian further into a dark, mysterious world and away from reality.
4.) Melissa is a gifted student, and her only friend moved away in second grade. 5 years later she is a friendless genius in a northeast middle school. When tomboy ruffian Liz aggressively tries to cultivate a friendship, Melissa eventually concedes. Are Liz’s strange predictions of the future true, or is Melissa the butt of an elaborate and cruel adolescent joke? One of The New Yorker‘s “20 Under 40”, Goldberg surprises with crisp prose and shocking twists.
5.) 11-year-old Celia watches her best friend, Djuna, get into a stranger’s car, never to be seen again. At least that’s the story Celia gives to the police. Twenty-one years later, Celia returns to her hometown to tell her family and old friends what really happened that fateful day, but her new version of the disappearance is met with disbelief by family and old friends. Meanwhile, Celia’s image of her childhood identity is shattered as she listens to descriptions of herself as a child: she was sweet to some, cruel and bullying to others. Goldberg successfully evokes the shades of gray that constitute truth and memory.