Hello everybody! Today, I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for Anna Hoghton’s wonderful debut, the Mask of Aribella. Onto the post, which is is written by Anna and is about one of the most wonderful parts of this book!
As you’ll see from the acknowledgments section of ‘The Mask of Aribella’, friends are extremely important to me. I couldn’t have made it through a lot of the hurdles in my life without them. Just as with my main character, Aribella, my friends have given me the strength to believe in myself and keep on fighting, even when the world seemed dark.
It took me a while to find friends who I could trust with my whole heart. When I was growing up, I remember spending a lot of time trying to fit in with certain people and feeling upset when I didn’t quite make the mould. I met a fair few bullies along the way and, as vulnerability is seen as weakness when you are a teenager, I often felt isolated. It took me a good few years to re-find confidence after those early experiences, and I revisited those old feelings whilst writing this book. I think that, even if you weren’t bullied growing up, everyone knows how it is to feel left out and like you don’t quite fit in anywhere.
At the start of the book, although brave and kind, Aribella lacks in confidence and is desperate to just disappear into the background. However, she sticks out because she’s different – just how different, she’s about to find out. But she soon learns that being different isn’t a weakness but strength, and that the secret of being a misfit is that ‘you’re never the only one’. Indeed, personally I credit all the times I felt like an outsider when I was younger as the spark that lit me up for everything I’ve managed to do and be as an adult. My logic became very much: if you won’t let me sit at your table, then I will build my own. And, when you start thinking and living like that, you meet other table builders, who invariably turn out to be the most interesting, wonderful and fantastic friends than you ever could have hoped for. Children’s books helped teach me that the best friendships are often the unlikely ones, the ones that spring up from nowhere, between people who, perhaps at first, appear entirely unsuitable for one another, like Charlotte and Wilbur, Frodo and Sam, Lyra and Will, and even Harry, Ron and Hermione, who start off at odds. Sometimes these friends seem to come from entirely different worlds at first. My best friend is my husband, Chris, he’s from California and has always been the Will to my Lyra. But these friendships between people who celebrate their differences rather than try to be the same are the sorts that grab hold and don’t let go; that can be counted on and trusted in completely.
These are indeed the sorts of friendships that Aribella finds. Among her friends there is Seffie, a wild-hearted, impulsive and mischievous girl, who is loosely based on my oldest friend, Katie – who was always a little wild and fierce in the best possible way. Fin is earnest and book-loving, as the best people I’ve met often are. And then there is Theo, whose loyalty knows no bounds and who will courageously look out for Aribella and others, even if it means putting himself in danger. I’ve been lucky enough to have now met many Seffies, Fins and Theos in my life and to get to call a great deal of them my friends. Making true friends came from leaving my comfort zone, giving up on trying to be like the people around me and, instead, showing the world my true self. It also, importantly, came from being a good friend in return and Aribella, though she makes mistakes, ultimately proves herself to be loyal and there for her friends until the end.
‘The Mask of Aribella’ is full of superpowers but the most important one of all isn’t talking to animals, walking through walls, or making flames come out of your fingertips; it is the power of friendship and this is the magic that helps Aribella find the courage to believe in herself and fight the darkness that is unmasked in the final chapters. Just like all our true friendships help us find our own strength, no matter what we face.
The Mask of Aribella by Anna Hoghton is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Are you planning to read this book? Who are your favourite friendships in fiction? I’d love to hear in the comments!