Middle School Confidential 2: Real Friends vs the Other Kind is the second in a three-part series of app-based graphic novels about Jack, Jen, Abby, Mateo, Chris, and Michelle, plus a new popular girl, Monique, who asks Jack out even though Chris likes her. Through eight chapters, the gang encounters challenges like eating problems, interrupting conversations with texts, bossiness, hurt feelings, using people, crush rejections, popularity, dating, problems at home, and breaking up. End-of-chapter morals and quizzes, as well as the kids themselves, offer up ways to stand your ground, ideas about when and how to communicate, and strategies to avoid hurting other people's feelings.
The story runs sequentially from beginning to end with about four pages per chapter and three quizzes total. Pages are swipable and zoomable, but tap to advance is still a bit slow and sometimes unresponsive. The information button at bottom right leads to a main menu page with navigation hints and chapter navigation, as well as access to cast profiles, credits, author and illustrator profiles, and information about the other books in the series. The first page of the story incorporates dialog boxes outlining navigation controls.
No matter how you communicate with teens, it can be challenging to get an authentic response. But throw out these all-too-familiar scenarios like a bit too much burn, going along with the popular girl, and neglecting friends, and you get an authentic catalyst for discussion (despite the occasionally didactic language). The addition of quizzes -- a sort of mix between social studies class and a teen zine sidebar -- adds tons of engagement value to the experience. As with so many social skills tools, teens may feel it's a bit babyish, but tweens looking into the abyss of middle school will eat it up. None of the advanced story lines like dating and eating disorders provide these younger kids with inappropriate information -- just solid tools to handle it when it comes along.
One of the quizzes has 10 items and all 10 "correct" answers are B, which would be predictable in math class but follows certain personality test norms here. Middle School Confidential 2: Real Friends vs the Other Kind does right by the first in the series and even extends the experience with more advanced interpersonal scenarios and follow-up quizzes.
You can use the second book in the series in all the same ways as the first, plus a bit more with the quizzes. Administrators and teachers could recommend the app as an at-home resource for parents. Classroom or subject area teachers -- for example, English or social studies -- could lead small group discussions following a whole-class read using the opportunity to practice speaking and listening skills like defining roles, acknowledging contributions, and demonstrating multiple perspectives through reflection.
Kids could be assigned in groups or individually to create graphic novels on social topics of their own choosing or write alternate endings for the scenarios in the story. Small-group work could include comparing individual answers to the quiz questions and making up new answers that are "wrong" or "right." Any student-created responses that don't clearly fall into one category or the other could spark a discussion of the grey areas in friendships and communication. Adult or peer counselors could use the stories to spark individual conversations or later appointments.