Sometimes you’ll read a book that will choke you up. Rarely will I read a book that makes me flat out bawl…in a good way. Shug by Jenny Han (Alladin Mix, 2007), is one such book, and it has instantly become one of my favorite tween YA novels. Han grabs you immediately with Shug’s authentic voice and sharp point of view.
The novel is all about the way things change once you enter middle school, whether you are ready or not. It starts in summer just before school starts, and already things are different. For one thing, Shug is suddenly seeing her best friend in a different and romantic light, but he doesn’t notice at all. And then there is the whole friend thing. What do you do when your other best friend (who is a girl) suddenly befriends some popular girls, and gets a boyfriend? Where do you fit in then? And how do you be a good person when you are sitting at the lunch table with this popular crowd, barely hanging onto the right to sit there, and another girl, who used to be your friend but also makes the popular’s eyes roll, walks by, and obviously has no one to sit with? Do you commit social suicide and invite her, or do you avert your eyes and shut up?
Oh how well I remember those painful moments. Shug experiences the guilt and the sadness of being on both sides of the story. She finds herself being part of the crowd that is nasty, as well as being shunned by the nasty crowd. We’ve all experienced both sides, and at some point we all have to decide just who are we? What do we stand for? What is really important? And can we ever forgive ourselves or others for being such horrible jerks?
If you are going into middle school, read this book. If you’ve ever been through middle school, read this book. And love this book. It is unforgettable.