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?
I was in the middle of a book that was boring me to death so I set it aside and started reorganizing my bookshelves and happened to find this paperback (back when it still had the cute red popsicle cover). I read it about seven years ago when I was still in high school and it made such a big impact on me it was one of the first books I cried over. Maybe it was nostalgia playing a hand, but I felt compelled to open this book again and the page I bookmarked pointed at the quote above, and immediately, I fell right back into the story like seven years hadn’t passed by at all. A little sad, a little happy, and a whole lot of introspective, this is a book that perfectly captured the ups and downs of adolescence and what I’m willing to bet every 12-year old girl can relate to in some way, shape or form. There’s nothing preachy about the story, just a clear, fresh, and genuine portrayal of what it’s like for a little girl to grow up while facing normal struggles ranging from popularity to boys to family life.
Meet Annemarie Wilcox, fondly dubbed by her mama as ‘Shug’ (short for Sugar). She’s not particularly beautiful, totally flat-chested, has a sprinkle of freckles, and what do you know, has a gigantic crush on the boy next door and lifelong best mate, Mark. This is a 12-year old girl who is the epitome of the word ordinary, yet it is that very quality that makes her extraordinary. Her childlike innocence, her inquisitive nature, and her curiosity for the unknown are things that I’m sure most of us in our younger years can relate to, or at least I definitely can. Her thoughts are pretty deep, and when pitted against her young age, the weight of her words just feel extra heavy and stirred up all these feelings in my heart.
For Shug, her biggest worry is how much her life is going to change now that she’s entering junior high. All of a sudden, appearances start to matter more, popularity becomes the law, and your business becomes everybody else’s business. Shug navigates through it all in a true pre-teen fashion and as I read every triumph, every heartbreak of hers I felt, because in a way, it reminded me of myself a decade ago.
It’s amazing how the author’s writing strikes hard and fast, and goes straight for the heart. Sometimes less is more and the writing in this book reiterates that sentiment and how simplicity is beautiful. Many pivotal parts of the story were bittersweet (okay, a little more sweet than bitter) to read and one scene in particular – it’s always this same scene – made me weep, not because it’s tragic or anything but because I needed to let out all the emotion that built up by that point.
I started this book thinking it’d be a quick trip down memory lane and a nice break from pure romance but what I got was a heart full of emotion and a big book hangover. At first glance, it may look like any other YA book, but the more I read the more I realized I was holding a priceless gem in my hands. And the ending of this book!!! It made me squeal like a little girl. Too cute, too precious, and too special for words really.