Shug

Shug

4.8 118
by Jenny Han, Liz Morton, Richard Ferrone
     
 

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SHUG Shug is clever and brave and true (on the inside, anyway). And she's about to become your new best friend.

Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there's nothing worse than being twelve. She's too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there's not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has

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Overview

SHUG Shug is clever and brave and true (on the inside, anyway). And she's about to become your new best friend.

Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there's nothing worse than being twelve. She's too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there's not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren't acting so dear anymore -- especially Mark, the boy she's known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there's just no figuring out today?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Han's heartfelt first novel persuasively expresses the woes of Annemarie "Shug" Wilcox during her first year of junior high. As the boys and girls at school start warming up to each other, flat-chested, freckle-faced Shug finds herself left out in the cold. Her best friend, Elaine, is "wrapped up" in her relationship with new boyfriend Hugh, while the boy Shug likes-longtime friend Mark-has started to act distant towards her. To add insult to injury, he asks another girl to the upcoming seventh-grade dance. Meanwhile, tensions mount in the Wilcox household as fights between Shug's parents (caused by her father's prolonged absences and her mother's drinking binges) intensify. Shug feels all alone, like she's the only seventh grader with problems, until she is assigned to tutor her nemesis, Jack, who, as it turns out, can relate to her troubles. With its distinct Southern flavor, its presentation of universal conflicts and a cast of characters sure to be recognizable to readers, this book will likely draw a wide audience. If themes are a little well worn, the author refrains from offering a conventional, sugar-coated ending that ties up all loose ends. Yet the heroine gains enough self-confidence and self-esteem to suggest that the rest of her ride through junior high will probably be less bumpy. Ages 10-14. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Annemarie Wilcox is a twelve-year-old with a problem. It's hard to be twelve! Shug, as her family calls her, is just about to begin middle school and is sure her life is about to change for the worse. She is too tall, way too freckled, and has a gorgeous older sister. How much worse can life get? Well, if you're worried about losing your best friend to his guy friends and all your girl friends start acting funny, life can be very stressful. Shug certainly has her hands full as she tries to meet head on the transition from child to young woman. A wonderfully written, truly believable first person story, this novel belongs in every library that even thinks about serving twelve-year-old girls. What stands out about this adolescent transition story is that it is all about adolescent transition. There are no tragedies, no accidents, no ill siblings or dead friends, just Annemarie struggling to understand the changes that are going on around and within her. Jenny Han is well on her way to becoming the Judy Blume of the next generation. 2006, Simon & Schuster, Ages 11 to 15.
—Sharon Oliver
VOYA - Teri S. Lesesne
Her mother calls her Shug, but Celia Annemarie does not think she is as extraordinary as her mother seems to think that she is. Annemarie cannot even seem to get her long-time friend Mark to think of her as a potential girlfriend. Everyone around her seems to be pairing up with a boy, and Annemarie feels abandoned. As seventh grade begins, Annemarie and her best friend, Elaine, are in synch, but even Elaine is changing. Annemarie is faced with many challenges all at once. She is no longer the darling of all her teachers, and her best friend is hanging around with some girls whom Annemarie despises. To make matters worse, Annemarie's parents fight more and more often, and her mother's drinking seems to be getting worse, too. Will Annemarie survive seventh grade? Han knows how life sometimes seems to go wrong in so many ways at one time, especially for those going through puberty and adolescence. Annemarie reflects so many of the mixed and conflicting emotions of today's tweens. She is embarrassed by her parents and yet concerned that they might divorce. Older sisters, best friends, boys who are friends, and arch enemies made at the drop of a hat are all commonplace experiences. This book, therefore, will resonate with middle school readers who long to pass elegantly through this awkward time. What this story offers is some sense that one can survive. Annemarie's problems are not all neatly resolved, making it truly a book that reflects real life for so many readers.
Nicole Runge
As the summer comes to an end, twelve-year-old Annemarie Wilcox, known as "Shug" to her family, realizes junior high school is going to be completely different from elementary school. Everything around her is changing, and everything is happening fast. All Shug wants is for her life to stay just the way it is. All the boys her age are starting to take an interest in girls; however, Annemarie finds herself being left behind. She thinks of herself as too tall, too flat-chested, and too freckled. Annemarie has a crush on her longtime friend, Mark, but he is oblivious. When Annemarie is forced to tutor her worst enemy, Jack, she discovers he can relate to her problems better than anyone. Tension mounts at home as Shug's parents constantly fight because of her father's extensive traveling and her mother's drinking binges. Jenny Han's descriptive style and realistic dialogue brings Annemarie's character to life. Han is able to effectively express the trials and tribulations that an average 12-year-old girl faces in her first year of middle school.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-At first blush, Shug seems to be a typical contemporary novel about a middle school girl. But Han offers something more with her penetrating observation of Annemarie (Shug) as she becomes more aware of the people around her and of how they differ from her previous perceptions of them. Foremost on the 12-year-old's mind is her best friend since childhood, Mark, on whom she has developed a crush. Then it is her father, who breezes in from his business trips less and less frequently and stays for as little time as possible. Then it is her attractive mother, who reads Foucault and whose criticism of her fellow residents in their small North Carolina town starts to seem less like a matter of clear-eyed appraisal than of alcoholic bitterness. The bad boy whom Annemarie is forced to help with his schoolwork; her not-so-perfectly adjusted older sister; and even her popular new friend, the only Korean-American student in town, all receive reappraisal. Something has awakened in Annemarie, all right, and Han depicts the change with a delicacy and nuance that sets this first novel above the rest of the pack of similar books. This new author bears watching.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
First-person narrator Annemarie Wilcox (known to her family as Shug because of her mother's devotion to Alice Walker's The Color Purple) is articulate, perceptive and reluctant to embrace the changes occurring in her life. Everything seems suddenly much more difficult and intense for Annemarie than before seventh grade. Daddy, once the heartthrob of their small Georgia town, is frequently absent and Annemarie's bright, beautiful mother drinks heavily to cope. Mark, the boy next door, is oblivious to the glow he has taken on in Annemarie's eyes, while new best friend Elaine, from New York and the only Asian American girl in town, seems to want to be one of the queen bees. And her former enemy, classmate Jack, seems to have more dimensions than Annemarie knew. Contradictions and complications in friendships, boys, teachers, family-all familiar territory for young teens and all explored with an authentic, appealing sure-handedness. (Fiction. 11-13)
From the Publisher
"A great read."

— Sarah Dessen

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781419382482
Publisher:
Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
05/16/2006
Series:
The Bernie Rhodenbarr Series
Edition description:
Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

Shug


By Jenny Han

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Copyright © 2006 Jenny Han
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1416909427

Chapter One

It is the end of a summer afternoon and the sun will be setting soon, our favorite part of the day. We're eating Popsicles, cherry ones. My shirt is sticking to my back, and my hands feel sugary and warm, but my lips are cool. The sun is turning that fiery pink I love, and I turn to Mark the way I always do.

I look at him, really look at him. We have sat under this tree, our tree, a hundred times or more, and he's always been the same Mark -- the Mark I have known since we were five years old and I told him my mama was a whole lot prettier than his. But today, at this very moment, he is different, and it's not even something I can explain. But I feel it. Boy, do I feel it. On the outside, everything looks the way it always does, but on the inside, it's like some little part of me is waking up.

His hair is hanging in his eyes, and his skin is brown as toast. He smells the way he always smells in summer -- like green grass and sweat and chlorine. He's watching the sun turn its different colors, and he's all quiet and hushed up. He turns to me and smiles, and in that moment he is so dear to me I hurt inside. That's when I feel it -- like my heart might burst right out of my chest. This is it; this is the exact moment when he is supposed to kiss me, the kind ofmoment movies are made for. He'll look at me, and he'll know, just like I know.

Everybody knows that twelve is the perfect age for your first kiss.

Except, he isn't looking at me anymore. And he's talking; the big jerk is talking when he should be kissing. He's going on about some mountain bike his dad is going to buy him for his birthday. "Man, it's gonna be sweet. We're gonna go on the Tuckashawnee trail -- "

"Hey, Mark," I interrupt. I'm giving him one last chance to make this moment up to me, one last chance to see me the way I see him. I will him to look at me, really look at me. Don't see the mosquito bites on my legs, don't see the ketchup stain on my shorts, or the scabs on my elbows. Don't see the girl you've known your whole life. See me. See me.

"Yeah?" He's looking at me, and he doesn't see me at all. I can tell he's still thinking about that bike and hasn't even thought of kissing me. His mouth is cherry red from his Popsicle. He looks like he's wearing lipstick.

"You look like you're wearing lipstick," I say. "You look like a girl. A girl with really bad taste." I laugh like it's the funniest thing in the world.

He flushes. "Shut up, Annemarie," he says, wiping away at his mouth furiously.

"I bet Celia has some eye shadow that would look terrif with that lipstick," I continue. Celia is my big sister, and probably the prettiest girl in our town, maybe even the state.

Mark glares at me. "You're just jealous because Celia's prettier than you."

I bite my lip. "You should let Celia give you a makeover," I say. My eyes are starting to burn. When the two of us get started we don't quit until one of us leaves crying. Usually it's Mark, but this time I am afraid it will be me.

Please, please don't let it be me.

"You're the one who could use a makeover," Mark says cruelly.

"You are really ignorant, Mark, you know that? You're a real troglodyte. You're so ignorant, I bet you don't even know what that means." It means a primitive person who lives in caves. I only know because I looked it up after Celia called me one when I tried to eat grapes with my toes.

"So what? I bet you don't know what it means either. I bet you copied it off your mom or your sister."

"I did not. I happen to be gifted. I never copy off of anybody, unlike some troglodytes I know."

Last year I caught Mark copying Jack Connelly's homework on the bus. He pretended like it was no big deal in front of his buddies, but when I threatened to tell his mama, Mrs. Findley, he started boohooing like a little baby. The dumbest part is that Jack Connelly is easily the least smart person in our grade. If Mark's a troglodyte, Jack is king of the troglodytes.

Mark gapes at me and shakes his head disgustedly. "Geez, Annemarie, why'd you have to bring that up? You started it."

"I was just foolin', and if you weren't so dense, you'd know better than to criticize a girl's looks. It's degrading, and it's, well, it's sexist." I raise my eyebrows high and dare him to disagree.

"What a load of crap. You can say whatever you want to me, and I can't say jack to you?" Mark says, shaking his head again. "That's dumb."

"That's the way it goes," I say. "And anyway, you didn't have to rub it in about Celia. I know she's prettier than me."

My sister Celia is the kind of girl whose hair curls just right in a ponytail. She is smaller than me, the kind of small that boys want to scoop up and hold on to real tight. I am too tall for even my daddy to scoop up anymore, much less a sixth grade boy. Boys like Celia; they go crazy for her sneaky smiles and sassy strut. They are always calling the house and making Daddy frown. Mama just smiles and says, "the boys buzz around my Celia because they know she is sweeter than honey." I sure wish boys would buzz around me.

On every Valentine's Day since the fourth grade, Celia has come home with pink carnations and solid milk chocolate hearts and at least one Whitman's Sampler. She always lets me eat the square ones with caramel inside, even though they are her favorite too. The most I ever get on Valentine's Day are the valentines the class got for one another because they had to, the Scooby-Doo or Mickey Mouse kind that come twenty-four to a box at the drugstore.

Mark gives me his "I'm sorry" look -- his half grin-half grimace that's supposed to look like real remorse. He looks like he always does when he has messed up, like a puppy that's peed on himself and is sorry, but will inevitably do it again. Mark Findley has been saying sorry to me his whole life.

"Sorry, Annemarie," he says.

I scowl at him. "Yeah, well, you should be."

He's still giving me The Look, and then he gets on his knees. "Forgive me, Annemarie! Please, please forgive me!" he begs, swaying back and forth with his hands clasped in prayer.

He is so dumb.

The thing I hate worst about Mark is that I can never, ever stay mad at him. I can hold a grudge better than anybody I know, but with Mark it is truly impossible. He always finds a way to make me laugh.

"Oh, get up." Trying to hide my smile, I tear a handful of grass out of the ground and throw it at his head.

He sees the smile that got away and looks satisfied. Then he shakes the grass out of his hair the way my dog Meeks does after a bath. "Where is Celia, anyway?" Mark asks oh-so-casually, falling back onto the ground.

Mark has had a crush on Celia since we were little kids. He's never said so, but he doesn't have to. He knows I know.

"She's at the mall with Margaret Tolliver, and then they're having a sleepover at Margaret's house." Margaret Tolliver is Celia's best friend, and sometimes they let me come along. Today was not one of those times.

"Oh," he says. It hurts to hear so much disappointment in that one little word and I know he still likes her. Celia's sixteen, and we're twelve, so you'd think Mark would know he doesn't have a prayer. And I guess he does know, but he still hopes. Next to the high school guys that like Celia, Mark looks like a little kid. I guess he knows that too. But he still follows Celia around the same way old Meeks does when he's hoping for scraps.

We don't say anything for a minute; we just watch the sun disappear. Then Mark stands up. "I guess I'd better go home," he says. "You wanna come over for dinner? I think Mom's making spaghetti tonight."

Mrs. Findley's spaghetti is the Best Ever, capital B, capital E. She makes the sauce from scratch and everything -- roasted tomatoes, fresh basil from her garden, sweet Italian sausage. Her secret ingredient is honey; it adds a sweetness to the sauce. Mrs. Findley's spaghetti is my favorite. I know this is Mark's way of making it up to me, and I want to say yes, but instead I say, "Nah, Mama's probably already fixed somethin' special for me."

This is a bald-faced lie, and we both know it. Mama hates to cook, and the only time she ever really bothers is when my daddy is at home. Daddy is in Atlanta on business for another week, so the best I can hope for is a peanut butter sandwich. And that's only if Celia bought bread today.

But I sure as heck won't admit any of that to Mark. I'll probably be dining on Extra Crunchy Jif tonight, but at least I won't have shamed my mama. Not that she would even be ashamed, but I know for a fact that she doesn't like the neighborhood knowing our family business. Mama's big on pride. She's always telling me that a woman without pride is no woman at all. I know that I'm not a woman in the places that really count, but I can at least get the pride part right.

Mark shrugs, and says, "Are you gonna go to Sherilyn's pool party next Saturday?"

"Yup." Our friend Sherilyn Tallini has a pool party at the end of every summer, right before school starts. It used to be typical kid stuff -- hot dogs and Sharks and Minnows and neighborhood moms wearing one-pieces with terry cloth cover-ups and matching terry cloth slippers. All except for Sherylin's mom, who only wears string bikinis with maybe a sarong. All the other mothers smile and

pretend to like Mrs. Tallini, but really they think she is "attractive in a used up, tanning bed kind of way." I know because I heard Mairi Stevenson's mom say it at the Fourth of July parade last year.

Mrs. Tallini does have a tanning bed but, as I've heard my daddy say, she is "still one good-lookin' woman." If my mother heard him say this, she would skin him good, but fortunately for us all, Mama does not attend neighborhood functions.

I know what the other mothers think of Mama. They think she is stuck-up and pretentious. They think she thinks she is better than they are. And it's true; she does. My mother, Grace, is very tall and very beautiful in an intimidating sort of way, the kind of way that says she knows it but doesn't give a hoot. Mama's hair is the color of wheat, the kind that gleams red and gold in the sunlight, and her eyes are dark green. My daddy calls her Grace Kelly, which Mama turns her nose up at because according to her, it's far too conventional, but I know she secretly enjoys it. She says that Daddy is no prince, and if she's gonna be compared to anyone, it had better be Lauren Bacall.

Daddy thinks that Mama is everything a woman should be: beautiful, clever, charming. Beauty has a way of making the bad things tolerable. When Mama tilts her green eyes at you, it's hard to remember why you were mad in the first place. That's her special gift.

My mother is unlike every other mother in our neighborhood -- she went to college up North, and she had the nerve to come back "all citified, puttin' on airs like she's Princess Diana." (If you're wondering how I know all this, it's because adults think that kids can't play and listen at the same time.) Mama grew up with a lot of the other mothers in our town, and you can just bet they were smug when she had to come back home.

Mama reads Foucault, not Danielle Steel, and she makes martinis, not green bean casserole. In the kitchen, there are poetry books where the cookbooks should be, and she doesn't have a dish towel with mallard ducks on it or a ceramic magnet that says "Home Sweet Home" on our refrigerator. Mama is always telling Celia and me that we are worth twelve of this town, and that she'll disinherit us if we don't leave as soon as we graduate high school. Mama is halfheartedly invited to neighborhood parties like the Tallini's, but she never fails to graciously decline and the other mothers never fail to be relieved.

Last year was the first year Sherilyn's pool party was different. None of the other mothers were there, and Mrs. Tallini only came outside to serve lunch. I ate two pieces of fried chicken as opposed to my standard four, because none of the other girls were eating anything. We didn't play Sharks and Minnows, and all the other girls wore two-piece bathing suits and lay on deck chairs while the boys tried to splash them. I was the only one who wore the same one-piece bathing suit I had worn the year before. I told the other girls it was because I think bikinis are offensive and degrading to women, so I guess that means I'm stuck wearing my one-piece again this year.

"You wanna walk over to Sherilyn's together?" Mark asks.

"Yeah, okay," I say.

"Okay, then, see you later." He pauses. "And, Annemarie, sorry about what I said before. I didn't mean it."

He meant it. Some girls are pretty, and it's like they were destined for it. They were meant to be pretty, and as for the rest of us, well, we get to exist on the outer edges of life. It's like moths. They're the same as butterflies, aren't they? They're just gray. They can't help being gray, they just are. But butterflies, they're a million different colors, yellow and emerald and cerulean blue. They're pretty. Who'd dare kill a butterfly? I don't know of a single soul who'd lift a finger against a butterfly. But most anybody would swat at a moth like it was nothing, and all because it isn't pretty. Doesn't seem fair, not at all.

Mark heads for home, and I watch him go, feeling the lump in my throat grow. I never knew love felt like cancer of the throat. Before he turns the corner, he waves and I wave back.

It's not like I've never liked a boy before. There was Sherwood Brown, who I met at camp last June. He was staying with his grandma all summer, and we smiled at each other every day at camp. He and his friends would splash me and my friends in the pool, and sometimes he even sat next to me on the bus when we went on day trips. When I told him I liked him, he said he kind of liked me too, but his grandma would whup him good if he ever brought home a white girl. I went home and told Mama, and she laughed until tears ran down her face. She said Sherwood Brown had better learn to stand up to his grandma, or he'd be a little girl his whole life. I decided then and there that I wouldn't be talking to Mama about boys, not ever.

And of course there was Kyle Montgomery, the best-looking boy in our grade. All the girls like Kyle Montgomery. Even the teachers like Kyle. Us girls pretend-swoon when we see him in the hallways. The one time he caught my best friend Elaine Kim and me doing it, he winked at us, and then he turned bright red. We like Kyle because he's out of our league; he's out of everybody's league. Plus he's fun to giggle about. I don't know of any girl who wouldn't die for a chance to walk down the hallway with Kyle Montgomery.

Kyle Montgomery is tall, and he has nice eyes. You know the kind of eyes that always look like they're smiling? Well, Kyle has them, and he really does smile an awful lot. His jeans always fit just right, and he is the best basketball player our school has ever seen. So like I said, everyone likes Kyle, and I did my fair share of liking him too a few years back.

But this is different; this is Mark. This is Mark Findley who knows my favorite ice cream flavor (Rocky Road) and how I like my pizza (extra cheese, pineapple, and mushroom); Mark who pulls splinters out of my feet when I go barefoot in the summer; Mark who helped me bury my gerbil, Benny, when he died. This is Mark who was sitting next to me on the bus that time I threw up in third grade. He didn't even say a word when some splashed on him; he just wiped it off and asked me if I was okay.

One of the things I like best about Mark is his family. The Findleys are the kind of family you only see on black-and-white reruns late at night. At Christmastime, Mrs. Findley makes cinnamon cookies out of piecrust and real whipped cream to put on top, and Mr. Findley used to take Mark and Celia and me sledding at Clementon Park. (This was before Celia decided she was too grown up to have fun.) Mrs. Findley always says that she wishes she had a daughter just like me, and that my mother is the luckiest woman alive for having two lovely daughters. Mrs. Findley thinks I am lovely. When we were little, I secretly wanted the Findleys to adopt me, but now that I'm older, I suppose I would settle for being their cherished daughter-in-law.

Copyright 2006 by Jenny Han



Continues...


Excerpted from Shug by Jenny Han Copyright © 2006 by Jenny Han. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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