Ah, first love. Generally speaking, I’m pretty jaded about the whole first love thing — especially if it morphs into True Love — but I found this book by Jenny Han to be exceptionally sweet and poignant as it looked at a girl’s first “real” crush, as well as the bumps and joys of growing up.
Twelve-year-old Annemarie Wilcox — nicknamed Shug — has just realized she’s is in love. Unfortunately, it’s with her best friend, Mark, who increasingly — now that they’ve started the 7th grade — won’t admit that she exists. On top of that, things are getting increasingly worse between her parents, and her best friend Elaine has a boyfriend and is spending less time with Shug. Not to mention that she’s being forced (for the sake of a grade) to tutor her mortal enemy. Increasingly, Shug just can’t seem to find where she fits in all of this change.
There is so many things to love about this book, from its genuine Southernness, to the affection Han has for her characters, to Shug’s voice throughout the book. Shug is a charming character, torn between hanging on to childhood and yet entranced by growing up. She’s easy to relate to: everyone has a first crush, and, for me at least, I found the awkwardness Shug experiences to be completely believable. Which makes the already charming novel that much more delightful.
Rated: Mild (for young adults), for situations with an alcoholic parent, and a party where the main character tries beer.