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Friend Is Not a Verb
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Friend Is Not a Verb

3.3 3
by Daniel Ehrenhaft

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You know things are bad when your dreams come with a washed-up '80s soundtrack

Henry "Hen" Birnbaum's sister, Sarah, missing for over a year, has come home unexpectedly, with no explanation at all. But he can't leave well enough alone; Hen needs to figure out why she disappeared, even if she won't tell him. It's not like he has


You know things are bad when your dreams come with a washed-up '80s soundtrack

Henry "Hen" Birnbaum's sister, Sarah, missing for over a year, has come home unexpectedly, with no explanation at all. But he can't leave well enough alone; Hen needs to figure out why she disappeared, even if she won't tell him. It's not like he has anything better to do. His girlfriend just dumped him and kicked him out of their band. He can't play the bass worth crap anyway. His social life consists of night after night of VH1 marathons with his best friend and next-door neighbor, the neurotic Emma Wood.

Hen's sure the answers to Sarah's lost year lie with Gabriel Stern—Sarah's friend from college who also happens to be a twenty-two-year-old fugitive from the law and Hen's bass teacher . . . too bad he can't play bass worth crap either. A month into his quest, Hen has had countless consultations with Emma, watched approximately fifty-three reruns of Behind the Music, and made one new Facebook friend. Unfortunately, he's no closer to any revelations about his sister. The thing is, he's too distracted to notice it, but while Hen's been looking for all the answers, something mind-blowing happened: He got a life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Offbeat characters, an intriguing mystery, and a sweet romance make Ehrenhaft’s (That’s Life, Samara Brooks) coming-of-age story stand out. When 16-year-old Hen’s older sister returns after a year on the lam, she won’t tell him what she and her friends did to become fugitives. In between bass practice, dog walking, and spending an awful lot of time with his best friend, Emma, Hen tries to sort out the mystery, which only deepens when Sarah disappears again. Readers may tire of the narrator’s voice that Hen starts hearing in his head halfway through (it’s that of Jim Forbes, of VH1’s Behind the Music, giving a fictional account of Hen’s band’s rise to fame). But Hen has a pleasantly deadpan sense of humor, and the supporting characters are entertaining (Hen’s father insists Hen “declare” his paltry dogwalking income, while his self-absorbed ex writes that she broke up with him “because you were never all that into me,” even while telling him who he really loves). The mystery—and romance—wrap up rather neatly, but readers should be impressed by the clever surprise ending. Ages 12-up. (May)
Booklist (starred review)
Praise for Daniel Ehrenhaft’s Drawing a Blank:“Very engaging, highly entertaining, and sometimes enlightening. A fresh, effervescent combination of mystery, adventure, and teen angst.”
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Rock-star wannabe Henry Birnbaum is dumped by his girlfriend, abruptly ending his gig as bass player in her band. After a pity party with gal-pal Emma, he goes home to learn that his older sister has returned after an unexplained yearlong absence, along with four friends. Bewildered that sunny-as-ever Sarah won't reveal where she has been, and suspicious that his parents are keeping him out of the loop, Hen hits a new high where angst is concerned. Using bass lessons as a ruse, he grills Sarah's friend Gabriel about the mysterious lost year and, getting nowhere, impulsively steals the tight-lipped musician's diary. Hen shares passages with Emma, but the puzzle pieces don't fit, and no one seems surprised when Sarah disappears again. Readers will be emotionally invested in Hen, a somewhat frenetic music geek who connects every thought with a song title, band, or piece of rock trivia. Chapters are peppered with Facebook postings, pop-culture references, diary entries, and dialogue that is acerbic at times, vulnerable at others. Hen rides typical teen waves of rejection and acceptance, dodging critical parents, missing romantic cues from Emma, and willing to be led around by the nose by Petra for a second chance at stardom. Bass lessons with Gabriel morph into therapy sessions and, by the time Hen learns the truth about Sarah, there is a sense that he has regained control of his life. While the plot is a bit far-fetched, fans of Blake Nelson's Destroy All Cars (Scholastic, 2009) or John Green's An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton, 2006) will enjoy Ehrenhaft's similar witty style.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Daniel Ehrenhaft is the author of many books for teens, including the Edgar Award-winning Wessex Papers (under the pseudonym Daniel Parker), Dirty Laundry, and Drawing a Blank.

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Friend Is Not a Verb 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wordforteens More than 1 year ago
I'm tackling my books-that-are-smaller-than-the-first-Harry-Potter-book pile. I started with Lark and moved on to this one; this is another small one that packs a whollop of a good story into a fast read. Henry may have become one of my favorite protagonists to read through the eyes of of. He manages to complain without being whiny, think deeply without trying to appear intentionally philosophical, and make sarcastic or ironic jokes without ever breaking character. He's got the head of most of my guy friends, which is rare for me to read. (Maybe due to lack of excellently written male protagonists in what I've read or due to high expectations of the male figure in what I've read. Who knows.) I loved the way the story was written; the answer to the biggest mystery in the story was given to you all along, and maybe if I hadn't been so sucked into the story I would have looked at it and been able to figure it out. But I didn't want to put the book down to figure it out - I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened to Hen and Petra and PETRA and Emma and everybody. So I managed to be thrilled at the shock of the answer and pleased that it could be sensed coming simultaneously. Also, the title for this book - and the discussion within the novel about said title - makes me extraordinarily happy as somebody who can have hour long conversations about these types of things.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago