Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum

  • Published by Nosy Crow
  • Publication date 2nd April 2020

Troofriend is the remarkable new title from author Kirsty Applebaum, told from the viewpoint of one of the robots that have been created to provide welcome and much needed companionship to children who lack siblings or friends. Main character Sarah is an only child and struggles with friends so her mum surprises her with a troofriend of her own, much to Sarah’s distaste. Eager to see their daughter happy and reap the benefits of their pricey investment both parents encourage a reluctant Sarah to bond with the robot, and keen to avoid being in trouble Sarah begrudgingly agrees.

Sarah decides to name her troofriend Ivy, and slowly the pair begin to spend time together, with Sarah confiding in Ivy as well as taking advantage of her preprogrammed willingness to follow instructions she is given, all of which leads you to see the pair as siblings the further you read on as they begin to become close and display behaviours associated with sisters and siblings, and that of family.

For me, as the reader, the most interesting and significant part of this story is Ivy’s referencing of time, from her earliest memories on the production line within the troofriend factory to how long a duration has passed while she has been switched off. This is because in doing so I got to appreciate the amount of time that the author wanted me to know had passed instead of naturally assuming timescales like we do, and I also got a sense of the emotions involved at the time such as the uncertainty Sarah feels about Ivy earlier on in the book. To give the reader the ability to understand these additional aspects to the story gives such a deeper reading experience and makes the entire story feel so much more feasible in reality, with characters that you connect with more intensely than usual and can envisage as part of your local community – the family next door for example.

The girls do get themselves into some trouble, but do so as a consequence of uniting together, being there for one another when it is most needed, something readers will be able to relate to and recognise. The story builds in intensity and you find yourself really rooting for the girls, especially Ivy who you come to really like and admire, especially with all she has experienced. It is interesting how Ivy begins her journey through this book as an outsider that has arrived in a safe, warm and welcoming environment looking for acceptance and seeing how those around her come to accept her through the choices and actions they take.

From being misunderstood when first entering Sarah’s life the reader could relate Ivy’s arrival to that of new students at their school who would be grateful of a welcoming and friendly face, and to feel a part of the community they have arrived in, instead of making wrong assumptions about them and not giving them a chance to shine, which reflects just how powerful this story is given that it enables readers to empathise with others as a consequence of having read it. My friend and fellow librarian recently read this book and declared it to be “the best book i’ve read all year, and it might even be one of my favourite children’s books ever” which definitely echoes my own thoughts, and I cannot wait to share this incredible read with students at school once I purchase several copies for the library.

Kirsty’s debut The Middler is also an incredible read, give my blog a read here.

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