The first month of school, thirteen-year-old Anna Collette finds herself…
Dumped by her best friend, Dani, who suddenly wants to spend eighth grade “hanging out with different people.”
Deserted by her mom, who’s in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt.
Trapped in a house with her dad, a new baby sister, and a stepmother young enough to wear her Delta Delta Delta sweatshirt with pride.
Stuck at a lunch table with Shawna the Eyebrow Plucker and Sarabeth the Irish Stepper because she has no one else to sit with.
But what if all isn’t lost? What if Anna’s mom didn’t exactly mean to leave her? What if Anna’s stepmother is cooler than she thought? What if the misfit lunch table isn’t such a bad fit after all?
With help from some unlikely sources, including a crazy girl-band talent show act, Anna just may find herself on the road to okay.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Attempted suicide; Allusion to self-harm
Booklist (February 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 12))
Grades 7-10. Anna, the 13-year-old protagonist of Friend’s bittersweet story, thinks her life is falling apart. It’s bad enough her best friend, Dani, doesn’t want to be friends anymore. Anna also has to deal with her mother’s recent suicide attempt. Now, while her mother is in the hospital, Anna has to live with her father, his new (and young) wife, and their baby, Jane. At school, she sits at the outcasts’ table during lunch. Eventually, however, she finds her own place there and at her father’s house, where she realizes that her stepmother, Marnie, is genuinely nice. Anna is a gem of a character—funny, wise, and clever. Friend has a finely tuned ear for language, which is nicely reflected in Anna’s first-person narrative, where she is usually circumspect in her speech but sarcastic and sharp in her thoughts. Her transformation is sympathetic, convincing, and compelling as she takes the time she needs to heal from her own adversity and accept that life isn’t going to be perfect. Readers will revel in her journey.
Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2016)
Middle school bitchiness is elevated to high art in this poignant tale of a girl dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s suicide attempt. Anna is so “been there, done that” it defies her mere 13 years on Earth. After a lifetime of dealing with her flaky mom’s emotional highs and lows and her distant dad’s remarriage to the beautiful Marnie, Anna has learned how to shut people out and shut down her own emotions. However, the loss of her one-time best friend, Danielle, to the popular set proves to be one body blow too many. Friend’s sixth novel (My Life in Black and White, 2012; Lush, 2010) and first for middle-grade readers reverberates with honest eighth-grade emotion. Anna’s first-person delivery is wry, sad, heartbreaking, in-your-face, and raw. She captures the utterly helpless feeling of a child trying to deal with the very grown-up problem of a parent’s mental illness, with a father who doesn’t communicate well and a life that isn’t going how it should. Friend balances heartache with humor, creating in Anna a memorable, funny, and genuine girl and serving up middle school angst with a teen edge. While her cast isn’t particularly diverse, they are memorable; as so many protagonists have done before, Anna learns that sitting with the weirdos is a whole lot more fun than toeing the mean-girl line. An upper-middle-grade winner. (Fiction. 12-14)
About the Author
Natasha Friend was born to an English professor father and a poet/actress mother. She was raised in a house without a television. At the time, she thought this was the worst form of child abuse. Now, she understands the method to her parents’ madness: they wanted her to be a reader.
Spending most of her childhood at the Hamilton Public Library, Natasha found her mecca, the young-adult section, and her hero, Judy Blume. She, too, wanted to write stories about girls who felt alone. Girls whose parents were screw-ups. Girls with spunk and spirit and resolve.
Natasha began dictating stories to her father, who typed them up on his 1930’s Remington typewriter. Most involved rainbows, unicorns, and poor orphan girls discovering treasure.
She knew she was supposed to be a writer in seventh grade, when a sweet boy gave her a love poem and she felt compelled to correct it for syntax and rhyme scheme.
Today, Natasha is the award-winning author of Perfect, Lush, Bounce, For Keeps, and My Life in Black and White.
When she isn’t writing, she is building forts and making chocolate-chip pancakes.
Natasha lives on the Connecticut shoreline with her husband, three children, and dog, Beckett.
Her website is www.natashafriend.com.
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