Annemarie (affectionately nicknamed Shug) is twelve years old. Just as she is about to start middle school, she realizes that she is in love with her longtime best friend Mark. She wants to tell him, yet she doesn't. This is the first of many torn moments for Shug, because, as pre-teens, teens and adults all know, middle school is full of them.
She looks up to her sister, who at sixteen seems wonderfully grown-up and self-assured. Celia is older, prettier, more feminine and more popular than Annemarie. She is also shorter, which means the still-growing Shug can't literally look up to her any longer. The sisters are named after characters in The Color Purple by Alice Walker, but Annemarie feels as if their names ought to be reversed.
At times, Annemarie is anxious to grow up; other times, she wishes things - and people - would always stay the same. As Shug grows closer to some friends, she drifts away from others. In addition to the classic friend-turned-crush scenario, she has to deal with plenty of other realizations and revelations: that "best friends forever" might be a myth; that no one, not even her sister, is perfect; that no two families are alike; and that parents are people too. All of this leads up to the school dance, which is equally anticipated and feared.
Shug is told in an honest and refreshing first-person narrative. It was an absolute joy to read. I highly recommend it.
Pick up a copy of Shug for yourself - and for every twelve-year-old girl you know.
Read the first chapter online.
Read my first interview and second interview with Jenny Han.
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