4.4 122
by Natasha Friend

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It's hard to be a 13-year-old girl. But it's even harder when your father's a drunk. It adds an extra layer to everything -- your family's reactions to things, the people you're willing to bring home, the way you see yourself and the world. For Samantha, it's something that's been going on for so long that she's almost used to it. Only, you never get used to it.… See more details below


It's hard to be a 13-year-old girl. But it's even harder when your father's a drunk. It adds an extra layer to everything -- your family's reactions to things, the people you're willing to bring home, the way you see yourself and the world. For Samantha, it's something that's been going on for so long that she's almost used to it. Only, you never get used to it. Especially when it starts to get worse...

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Marianne Mitchell
Samantha Gwynn is caught in an emotional tug-of-war, the kind far too many teens must face today. Her father is an alcoholic. Her mother seems to be in denial. Her little brother Luke is still innocent of life's complications. She is afraid to confide in her friends, not even when she has exciting news about a new boyfriend. Under pressure from so many directions, Sam takes the risky move of passing notes to a stranger, secretly tucked into a library book. The person who answers her notes becomes a mystery character, offering Sam challenges, warnings, and advice. The reader is privy to Sam's deepest feelings and fears. But when her father, in a drink-induced rage, seriously injures Luke, everyone is forced to speak out about the situation at home. Although the subject of the book is a heavy one, author Natasha Friend balances it with humor in scenes with Sam's little brother and her school friends. She keeps the pace lively with excellent writing and believable voices for each character. At the end of the book are resources for teens facing similar problems with alcoholism: Web sites, toll-free numbers, support groups, and further reading.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
The author of Perfect has turned to a dramatic story of a 13-year-old middle-class girl trying to cope with the fact that her father is an alcoholic. He is a successful architect, but when he is at home he is frequently drunk, and when he is drunk he is angry. Sam is so frustrated that her mother makes excuses and won't acknowledge the alcoholism—she is the classic enabler. Sam has friends, but she keeps her father's condition a secret from them. She used to be best friends with a neighborhood boy until she feels he betrayed her when he was part of a group of boys teasing her about her breasts. In desperation she writes notes to a stranger in the library, telling the truth about her family life; and she flirts with an older boy she meets in the library who is attracted to her. The author writes with great honesty about Sam's life, and this honesty will be appealing to younger YA readers. A crisis arises when Sam's father gets so drunk he seriously harms Sam's little brother. The little boy's hospitalization, the neighbors' reaching out to help, and Sam's night of horror, when she herself gets drunk and is nearly molested by the aforementioned older boy—these change everything in Sam's life. That stranger in the library who exchanges notes with her? An interesting twist to the plot! It all works as a realistic novel that expresses truths about living with an alcoholic parent, with confusion about secrets, trust, and self-esteem.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-To the outside world, 13-year-old Samantha's family seems perfectly happy. However, they are struggling to keep her architect father's alcoholism a secret, and the balancing act of enabling his addiction and protecting their image is becoming more and more difficult. Sam longs to be able to share her burden with a friend and reaches out by leaving an anonymous autobiographical letter in a library book. Her anger and frustration are palpable as she struggles with her love for her dad despite the fact that his promises to clean up never materialize. When Sam is chastised by her mother and grandmother for not believing in his ability to change, readers will sympathize with the injustice of her difficult situation. Yet, the author avoids a maudlin tone by infusing the plot with details of typical teen life, such as Sam's crush on an older boy and embarrassment at her developing body. Witty dialogue and smooth writing move the novel along at a clipped pace, and tension is successfully built and maintained as the teen's father's illness takes a dangerous turn, her budding relationship comes to a head, and her anonymous library pen pal is revealed. Despite the minor appearance of a stereotypical librarian, this is a perceptive novel featuring a likable protagonist to whom readers will easily relate. As in Perfect (Milkweed, 2004), Friend adroitly portrays a weighty topic with touches of humor and grace.-Rebecca M. Jones, Fort Myers-Lee County Library, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After years of pretending she has a "normal" family, a worried teen finally confronts her father's alcoholism. Thirteen-year-old Samantha knows her father has a drinking problem, but her parents seem oblivious. Sam's father makes empty promises to stop drinking while her mother immerses herself in yoga classes, defending her husband as a "good man." Although Sam carefully camouflages the situation by inviting friends over only when her father's away, his binges are getting worse and she's afraid he will lose control. Desperate to confide in someone other than her friends, Sam leaves notes in the library asking for advice from an older girl she doesn't really know. When her drunken father injures her little brother and the family's future is jeopardized, Sam must deal with anger and uncertainty as she makes some surprising discoveries about her family, her friends and herself. Sam comes across as a savvy as well as naive teen who tells her own story with humor, honesty and hope. Realistic family drama. (Fiction. 12-15)

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Award-winning author of Perfect, Natasha Friend was born in Norwich, New York. Upon receiving her B.A. in Psychology in 1994 from Bates College, Natasha went on to Clemson University to earn her M.A. in English in 1997. As a former camp director and English teacher, Natasha enjoys singing and song-lyric writing and plans to write more books in the future. Her first book, Perfect, poignantly probes the hushed struggles of body image, eating disorders, and grief. Perfect has won the Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature and Book Sense’s Pick. When commenting on Perfect, Booklist wrote, “Friend elevates what could have been just another problem novel to a truly worthwhile read of great interest to many girls.”

Natasha’s newest title, Lush, boldly delves into the tumultuous life and mind of a thirteen-year-old girl whose father is an alcoholic. Samantha must cope with sadness, secrecy, and shame in addition to her own teenage trials. Just when Samantha’s skin toughens and emotions numb, it gets worse for her. Natasha wrote this book in an effort to spotlight the proverbial “elephant in the room,” so that its presence is acknowledged and removed.

Natasha currently resides in Connecticut with her husband, Erik, and sons, Jack and Ben.

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