TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Our girl "Shug" is one Annemarie Wilcox, a twelve-year old in Georgia who is slightly freaked out because (a) she's about to start junior high, and (b) quite suddenly, her lifelong sidekick, Mark Findley, seems like way more than a friend. Unfortunately for her, Mark still sees Annemarie as a flat-chested tomboy who rides bikes and shoots hoops. He's much more interested in Shug's perfect older sister, Celia, and his pretty, popular, "girly" classmates like Mairi Stevenson and Hadley Smith.
While Shug struggles to sort out her feelings for Mark, she must also deal with some typical seventh grade dilemmas, including an English teacher who hates her, an obnoxious bully she must tutor, and a best friend who gets a boyfriend and leaves Annemarie behind. Shug also has more serious problems related to her home life; mom drinks far too much and dad is almost always away, allegedly working. On the rare occasions when her parents are home together, Shug must wear headphones to drown out their vicious arguments.
This is a great story for young girls who are likely facing many of the same issues as Shug. Seventh grade can be a real turning point, a time when some girls start dating boys while others, like Shug, just want to remain kids a little longer. While there's nothing groundbreaking here, I liked the book's sensitivity, its accurate portrayal of middle school politics — including the minefields of sleepovers, lunch tables, and dances — and Shug's authentic, proud voice. The family drama was dropped rather abruptly at the book's end, but Shug's first steps towards becoming an adult are wonderfully and often shatteringly portrayed. I recommend this believable, often humorous, and always honest tale of first love, friendship, and seventh grade to all middle school girls. With one notable exception (a curse is gratuitously included), this is an inoffensive, mild book that should have wide appeal.