THE PLOT: ‘The Offline Diaries’ by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené is a middle grade novel about two Black girls who become best friends. Ade has recently moved because her step-dad has a new job. She doesn’t know anyone in her new area until she meets Shanice and they bond over both having diaries. Shanice’s mum has recently died and she’s a bit of a loner but she’s thrilled to make a new friend in Ade. When Ade also makes friends with some popular mean girls, Shanice is left out. Will Ade stay loyal to her new best friend or will she ditch her for the popular girls?
RATING: Argh, I hate giving a star rating to middle grade because I’m so far away from the target audience! However, I did enjoy this book because the characters were cute and the writing style / format (utilising diary entries and online messages) really allowed their voices to sing. I found the plot a little slow and basic, but IDK if that’s just a genre thing. If pushed, I’d give three and a half stars from the perspective of an adult reader. But I’ll round up to four stars on Goodreads because I’m sure I would have loved this when I was ten years old.
GOOD BITS: The best bits were the characters’ voices and the format. Firstly, both Ade and Shanice are adorable. They each have distinctive character traits and voices. Secondly, the format of the novel alternated between diary entries from each girls’ perspective and their joint messages on a fictional social media platform. As a keen diarist throughout my childhood, I was personally drawn to the format but I also think it’s an inventive way of letting each girls’ voice shine while bringing in modern technology.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: IDK if this is a fair criticism, but I felt like the pace was really slow. I remember middle grade books as super action-packed, but the friendship between Ade and Shanice was reinforced quite slowly over the first 100 pages. I wanted an additional event between the inciting incident and the midpoint that either cemented their friendship or became an obstacle. I mean, I liked how they each had a separate plot point surrounding their parents but there just needed to be a little something extra in the central storyline about their friendship.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘Empress & Aniya’ by Candice Carty-Williams and ‘Amina’s Voice’ by Hena Khan. Written by the authors of ‘Slay in Your Lane’, it’s definitely worth picking up for the precocious ten-year-old in your life and we love to see the representation. Also, if you’re an adult who is writing middle grade, I think you could learn a lot from analysing this novel.
Thank you to HarperCollins Children’s (@harpercollinsch) and We Are Media Hive (@wearemediahive) for my #gifted copy. ‘The Offline Diaries’ is available now in hardback and will be published in paperback in March 2023 (UK).