is clever and brave and true (on the inside, anyway). And she's about to become your new best friend.
Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there's nothing worse than being twelve. She's too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there's not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren't acting so dear anymore — especially Mark, the boy she's known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there's just no figuring out today?
From School Library JournalGrade 5–8 At first blush, Shug seems to be a typical contemporary novel about a middle school girl. But Han offers something more with her penetrating observation of Annemarie (Shug) as she becomes more aware of the people around her and of how they differ from her previous perceptions of them. Foremost on the 12-year-old's mind is her best friend since childhood, Mark, on whom she has developed a crush. Then it is her father, who breezes in from his business trips less and less frequently and stays for as little time as possible. Then it is her attractive mother, who reads Foucault and whose criticism of her fellow residents in their small North Carolina town starts to seem less like a matter of clear-eyed appraisal than of alcoholic bitterness. The bad boy whom Annemarie is forced to help with his schoolwork; her not-so-perfectly adjusted older sister; and even her popular new friend, the only Korean-American student in town, all receive reappraisal. Something has awakened in Annemarie, all right, and Han depicts the change with a delicacy and nuance that sets this first novel above the rest of the pack of similar books. This new author bears watching. Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
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From BooklistGr. 5–8. Tall, freckled, gawky seventh-grader Annemarie Wilcox (whose family calls her Shug) has a beautiful, popular older sister; a gorgeous, alcoholic mother who doesn't fit in their small Georgia town; and a father who's always away on business. She also has a huge crush on Mark, the neighborhood boy who has always been her best friend. As the school year starts, Shug must deal with Mark's rejection, her parents' bitter fights, and a falling out with her closest girlfriend. Han's well-crafted first novel captures the aching hurt of exclusion in middle school, and the acute pain of vicious teasing. Shug's direct, honest narration reveals a wholly believable, endearing, hot-tempered young woman who faces painful truths and survives. Shug and Celia are named for characters in Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and Han references that novel with fine effect. It's her skill in evoking colors, tastes, scents, and touch that really stands out, as Shug steps away from childhood and into adolescence, with all her senses ablaze. Debbie Carton
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