Skin

Skin by Adrienne Maria Vrettos.

Donnie has always had his sister to rely on.  Through their parents’ fighting, through his unpopularity at school, and through his loneliness.  But when his sister develops an eating disorder, it is Donnie that starts to look out for everyone, even though as he does it he loses himself, turning invisible in school and at home. 

This is a stark, vivid portrayal of an eating disorder from the point of view of a sibling who is also damaged by the disease.  The writing pulls you into Donnie’s world filled with loneliness and confusion.  Even as you realize that Donnie is disappearing, you are struck by the quality of the writing that can create a main character who is becoming nearly invisible.  Yet Donnie’s voice and point of view are never compromised.  Karen, the sister, is equally well-written as the reader and Donnie both continue thinking, hoping that she has defeated her demons and overcome her disorder.  The author has created a book with a unique perspective that is one of the best eating-disorder novels for teens that I have ever read. 

This book will be an easy sell with teens who enjoy problem novels or books about eating disorders.  But it will also be enjoyed by boys who may not usually pick up problem novels.  It is a searing look at a serious issue, so boys looking for reality books will enjoy it.

Shug

Shug by Jenny Han.

Shug is a charming story about the perils of being a twelve-year-old girl.  Shug, also known as Annemarie, struggles with her family where her mother is a distant drinker, her father is in and out of her life, and her older sister is focused more on leaving for college than in her younger sister.  When Shug realizes that she has suddenly fallen for her best friend, Mark, she no longer knows how to act around him, and the distance between the two of them grows.  Starting junior high as a non-popular girl is also a challenge as she tries to navigate between being herself and still having friends.  As her best girl friend Elaine is courted by the popular crowd, Shug finds another friend in the very last place she expected to.

The writing in this book is sparklingly clean and clear, making it easy and very pleasurable reading.  The characters face challenges that are not easily solved and the world of junior high is as confusing and amazing as it was when I was that age.  I truly appreciate someone writing a great book for girls at this age, before they are teenagers but at the same time that so many confusing things are happening with their emotions and their bodies.  The character Annemarie or Shug is so well-developed that she becomes real. 

Recommend this to preteens as well as teenagers.  This is a true tween book, and you know where to find the exact girls for it.  Additionally, it is a great book for mothers to share with daughters and have a conversation about the new challenges of becoming a teen and the world of junior high.