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Twelve-year-old Annemarie has just discovered that she likes Mark --- not the kind of like that has kept them friends since they were five, but a different kind of like that involves holding hands and first kisses. Unfortunately, he only sees her as just one of his pals. And even that status seems to be slipping.

At the end of the annual summer pool party, for the first time Mark doesn't defend her against the annoying and insulting Jack. Not that Annemarie can't defend herself (she does, challenging Jack to a diving contest that puts him in his place); it's just that Mark has always been on her side, until now. And then, on the first day of junior high, Mark fails to show up at her door so they can walk together to the bus stop like they've done every school morning since the beginning of time. Friendship boundaries seem to be shifting, and Annemarie is not happy.

Home life is shifting as well. Her parents and older sister Celia continue to call her Shug, short for Sugar and also a character in her mom's favorite book. But her dad, often away on business, is coming home less often. Her mom, never one for cooking and PTA meetings, is drinking more and more and available less and less. Fifteen-year-old Celia used to let Annemarie tag along occasionally, but even Celia doesn't seem to have much time for her anymore. Then there's the fighting. When her parents are together, the arguments become unbearable. She fears divorce may be looming in the future. With all the scary and unwanted changes exploding in her life, Annemarie just wishes things would go back to the way they were.

Author Jenny Han has written an incredible first novel. The plot is heartwrenchingly familiar as almost everyone has gone or is going through the same mixed up stuff as the characters. Han nails the emotional storms that rage through Annemarie as life around her grows and changes while she clings to the old times. Han's characters are diverse and very believable, especially Annemarie, who's strong and tough on the outside yet vulnerable and afraid on the inside. Readers will relate to every misadventure Annemarie survives.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on April 25, 2006

by Jenny Han

  • Publication Date: April 25, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1416909427
  • ISBN-13: 9781416909422