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Behind the Book: BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)

Author, Jessica Speer, shares what inspired her to write her newest book BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends) read along to learn about her work as a social scientist and friendship expert.

Preteen and Teen Years

Friendships can be challenging, especially during the preteen and teen years. Most girls and women have uncomfortable or painful social memories from this phase.

On the surface, it may appear that “mean girl” behavior is to blame, but there is more to it than that. Tweens learn how to navigate complex social groups alongside the physical, emotional, and intellectual changes that go along with puberty. All of this happens as peer acceptance grows in importance, confidence dips, and preteens shape their identities.

So it’s no surprise that girls’ social worlds can feel like a roller coaster ride!


When my daughters entered their tween years, friendship struggles started to emerge. This reminded me of my struggles and the experiences of so many others. So I got curious.

I wondered: What might help girls navigate this bumpy ride? What might help them know that they are not alone? That they deserve to be treated well and to treat others well. That they have choices. Friendship ups and downs and changes are not easy, but they are “normal” and an opportunity to grow and learn.

Reasearch and Exploration

I dove deep into books and research on the subject. I talked to experts, parents, and kids. Through all of this digging, I uncovered gaps that I wanted to bridge. These gaps grew into nine hidden “Friendship Truths,” the “Friendship Pyramid,” and the eventual framework for BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends).

As a social scientist, I explored these ideas with preteens to make sure they resonated. I started Project Friendships, an after-school friendship program. Working directly with girls inspired more resources to support girls along their journey. Their honest feedback and stories inspired and shaped the book from start to finish. Friendship requires a variety of skills that take time and practice to develop. It’s a messy process filled with change, mistakes, and misunderstandings. My hope is that BFF or NRF serves as a warm and compassionate guide as girls journey through their social world.

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