FeaturedMiddle Grade

Fitting Out: The Friendship Experiment

By Sarah Giles

Loved it! 😍

Fitting Out is a charming book that provides a comical, raw account about a relatable protagonist who learns to embrace his true colors.

Synopsis

"Accepting and tolerating each other for who we genuinely are is as far-reaching and as relevant a topic as they come. A must read for all grade-schoolers!"
- Courtney Loquasto, best-selling author of Year of Little Lesson Plans

With his best friend Miguel by his side, Max never thought about the fact that he was a little different and kind of shy. But now that has Miguel moved away, Max has to figure out how to make new friends and he has no idea how it all works. To make matters worse, he only has one month to do it before the new school year starts. YIKES!

In Fitting Out: The Friendship Experiment, the first in a new series from debut author Sarah Giles, 10-year-old Max sets out to make new friends, using the scientific method to conduct his own friendship experiment. While testing out his hypotheses for finding new friends, Max discovers what works (and what TOTALLY doesn't). With his scientific plan, a little bravery, and perseverance, Max finds out where he fits, just in time for the first day of school.

While reading Fitting Out: The Friendship Experiment by Sarah Giles, Dr. Seuss’s whimsical quote comes to my mind: Why fit in when you were born to stand out?


In Fitting Out, a quirky 9-year-old boy named Max “McLonely” McConk is on a quest to find friends. His bestie Miguel is moving away. This is a quandary for the shy, bushy-haired Max who marches to the beat of his own drum and whose personality type is slow to warm up. If it weren’t for gregarious Miguel’s forthcoming approach to seek Max out as a pal, the two would have never buddied up. Now, it’s up to Max to fend for himself in his pursuit of friends, and he only has a few days before the first day of fourth-grade to pull it off. 


Poised for the challenge, McLonely maps out this mission in his trusty composition notebook, charting and testing different hypotheses to bag some new bros. While applying the scientific experiment to find friends, he ponders: Is age a factor? Is the epitome of cool embodying his highly likable older brother by sporting a fake moustache and popping his plaid shirt collar? Or, maybe Max is the cool one all the other kids in his class should emulate. But if everyone were exactly like Max – the green-eyed, cape-wearing bookworm with an odd sense of humor who has little-known facts about animals at his fingertips – would life really be all that new and exciting? Is there a formula to making friends or should he let the connections happen organically?


Age-appropriate for elementary-aged kids, Fitting Out is a charming, easy-to-read book that provides a comical, yet raw account about a relatable protagonist who learns to embrace his true colors and musters up the courage to find his tribe. Though the book touches on certain concepts that may seem clichéd to an adult reader, it is a worthy reading pleasure that speaks to the hopeless kid who may abandon his or her own inner cool for the pressures of acceptance into some social circle and a coveted place at the lunch table. Giles teaches fragile minds that keeping the focus on blending with the crowd can take away from recognizing their own special offerings. Thus, the book summons the musing of Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” 


What’s more, the story harkens back to the bee girl in Blind Melon’s 1992 hit song “No Rain,” introducing a new generation to the mini misfit in the music video who was jeered at and ignored, but eventually finds her bliss in a kingdom full of other like-minded bees.


Fitting Out is a mixed bag of magic, serendipity, defeat and hope – the essence of a young person’s anxious venture to seek their place. The author’s use of symbolism and characterization, tailoring the protagonist’s personal style to the narrative, make this book a bona fide page-turner. There’s even a brief vocabulary lesson for young readers to brush up on their schoolyard slang!     

Reviewed by

A seasoned journalist and editor, I've written for the weekly division of the North Jersey Media Group covering municipal government to arts and entertainment. Currently, I serve as the editor of DiningOut New Jersey Magazine and a correspondent with TAPinto.net.

Synopsis

"Accepting and tolerating each other for who we genuinely are is as far-reaching and as relevant a topic as they come. A must read for all grade-schoolers!"
- Courtney Loquasto, best-selling author of Year of Little Lesson Plans

With his best friend Miguel by his side, Max never thought about the fact that he was a little different and kind of shy. But now that has Miguel moved away, Max has to figure out how to make new friends and he has no idea how it all works. To make matters worse, he only has one month to do it before the new school year starts. YIKES!

In Fitting Out: The Friendship Experiment, the first in a new series from debut author Sarah Giles, 10-year-old Max sets out to make new friends, using the scientific method to conduct his own friendship experiment. While testing out his hypotheses for finding new friends, Max discovers what works (and what TOTALLY doesn't). With his scientific plan, a little bravery, and perseverance, Max finds out where he fits, just in time for the first day of school.

DAY ZERO

UGH! This can’t be happening! Miguel, my best friend for pretty much my entire life, just moved away! Miguel is my BRO! Sure, I have a real brother at home, but that’s not the same. BROs are forever!  

Mom always says that Miguel and I are like two peas in a pod, but I like to say we are as tight as last summer’s T-shirts.  

Since I was three years old, it was Miguel and me against the world. Well, not really against it; maybe just him and me in the world. Anyway, it was always him and me. Now it’s just me.

Miguel is now living in a town more than three hours away. I used to be able to ride my bike to his house in under ten minutes. To get to his new house, I would need to ride my bike, two city buses, and a ferryboat (and Dad won’t let me go by myself). 

So now who will I BRO out with every day? Who will laugh at my hilarious but sometimes weird jokes? Miguel seems to be the only person who realizes how funny I am. When will I get to talk to him again? 

I guess we will just have to figure out how to be long-distance friends FOREVER. 

But while he is gone, I still want someone to build forts with, play speed chess with, and sit with during lunch period. School starts in just one month, and without Miguel there, I’ll be totally alone! It seems that I’ll have to … GULP! … make some new friends, and I only have a month to do it!

Aaaaahhhh!!

The last seventeen times that I made a new friend, Miguel was standing right by my side, AND he did all of the talking. The time before that was when I met Miguel, and he did all of the talking that time too.  

I met Miguel in preschool. In our classroom, the cubbies were arranged in alphabetical order. Miguel’s cubby was right next to mine, since we are both M’s. 

On Monday, Miguel said, “Hi!” I just stared at him. On Tuesday, Miguel said, “Hi, Max!” I smiled nervously and ran over to the train table. On Wednesday, Miguel said, “Hey, cool ninja shirt!” I looked down at my shirt, looked back up at Miguel, and just nodded my head in agreement.  

On Thursday, Miguel pointed to my lunchbox and asked, “Hey, buddy, what’s for snack today?” (His dad told him that if he asked me a question, he would be able to get me talking.)  

I very quietly answered, “Um, artichokes” and I opened my bear-shaped container to show him.  

Miguel’s eyes opened wide. “Arti-WHAT? AAH! WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?” We both started laughing, and the rest is history.

So you see, I am not totally shy all of the time, just at first. Once I know you, I will talk, sing, tell you about all five stages of the life cycle of a star, but it takes me a while to warm up to new folks. 

Blech! Just thinking about having to make new friends makes my hands sweaty (which won’t make the whole thing any easier). 

Mom says, “C’mon, Max. Kids will love you. Just show them that winning smile!”

My smile is a work in progress, but I *think* it is getting better.

So, there are tons of kids all around where I live: there are kids in my neighborhood, at the park, at the pool … everywhere. It seems like it should be easy to find kids to hang out with, but fitting in isn’t easy for dudes like me.  

I’m just … different. You might be wondering, “How different could he really be?” Well, buckle up, Buttercup, you’re about to find out! (See? Do you know anyone else who says stuff like that?)

OK. I think it’s time to give you the full Max experience …

About the author

Early in the morning, before starting her day as a working mom, Sarah can be found at her desk happily writing new adventures. She loves to create, craft, and build and her "happy place" is atop a paddleboard on a quiet lake. Sarah lives in Washington with her family, two cats and three robots. view profile

Published on February 25, 2019

Published by

6000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Middle grade

Reviewed by

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