Thursday, March 5, 2009

Review: Shug by Jenny Han

Tags: juvenile fiction, middle grade, South, alcoholism, friendship, crushes

Twelve-year-old Annemarie Wilcox—nicknamed “Shug,” which is short for sugar—is feeling anything but sweet right now. She’s entering middle school, her parents are constantly fighting (when they’re not drunk or away for work), and things are changing between her and her friends. Mairi, Hadley, and even her best friend Elaine, a Korean American from up north, are eagerly venturing into the world of becoming a woman and meeting boys. But Annemarie wants nothing to do with that world…not unless it includes Mark Findley, her childhood best friend and the guy she recently realizes she’s in love with.

Trouble is, Mark doesn’t seem to reciprocate her feelings. In fact, Annemarie feels like she hardly sees him anymore, so busy is he with hanging out with other people. Instead, she’s spending a lot of time tutoring Jack Connelly, which is too bad because they’re sworn enemies and hate each other’s guts. Annemarie doesn’t want to grow up just yet, but she has to learn the hard way (like we all do) that it’s a painful and necessary, sometimes heartbreaking, process with light at the end of the tunnel.

I love Judy Blume-esque books that focus on that painfully awkward and difficult transition right before puberty; thus, I LOVED Shug. This is a story that’s full of characters that you’ll want to be friends with. Annemarie in particular is a spunky heroine, unafraid to say her mind, the girl we all remember being and the girl we wish we were at that age. The supporting characters, too, are not caricatures but rather boys and girls (and men and women) with their own problems. I’m especially a fan of Jack right from the start; the dynamics between Annemarie and Jack are great.

If you want a growing-up novel that’s more Southern than Judy Blume’s and less sex-oriented than Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series, pick up SHUG. You won’t regret it.

Similar Authors
Judy Blume
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Rating: 5 out of 5


I'm also posting the hardcover version here. Personally I'm so glad they changed the cover during the paperback reprint. The hardcover didn't really attract me at first, which could be why it took me so long to finally pick this book up. Which one do you like more?


  1. I don't like that hardcover image! And thanks for such a good review, it sounds great!

  2. Yikes, the hardcover cover is horrid! Does the Popsicle make sense though?

  3. Definitely the paperback! I always thought the title Shug sounded weird. I guess it makes more sense if it's short for sugar.

  4. Annemarie likes red popsicles. And, um... that's all I can think of? :) It appears again in the paperback too.

  5. I like the paperback cover too-reflect the book more. I read this one awhile ago and it's one of my favorite go-to tween reads.

  6. I spy a cover look-alike :

  7. Marie: Yes! I always see these two books in bookstores and notice how similar they look.

  8. The question is... which one would I rather eat?
    I should make a random poll! Hahah!
    Although, the red one seems much more appetizing, almost no contest there!

  9. Mm, I suppose you might have to think about what color you'd prefer to artifically dye your tongue and teeth with. :)

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