by Natasha Friend

Publishing Information: Scholastic Press : New York, 2006
ISBN: 043985346X
Pages: 178 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

Sam decides to get a new friend to help her cope with heralcoholic father and a mother who is in denial by leaving a biographical letter in a library book.

Book Talk:
It's hard to be a 13-year-old girl. But it is even harder when your father's a drunk. It adds an extra layer to everything -- your family's reaction to things, the people you're willing to bring home, the way you see yourself and the world. For Samantha that's been going on for so long that she's almost used to it. Only, you never get used to it. Especially when it starts to get worse....

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Child Abuse
Children of Alcoholics
Family Dynamics
Letter Writing

Awards & Reviews:
YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2007

"As she did in PERFECT (2004), Friend adeptly takes a teen problem and turns it into a believable, sensitive, character-driven story, with realistic dialogue. The cautiously optimistic ending works because Friend has convinced readers that Sam can handle whatever happens. Friend, who clearly understands and empathizes with young teens, is a writer to watch."
Booklist, November1, 2006, p41

"Although the subject of the book is a heavy one, author Natasha Friend balances it with humor in scenes with Sam's little brother and her school friends. She keeps the pace lively with excellent writing and believable voices for each character. At the end of the book are resources for teens facing similar problems with alcoholism: Web sites, toll-free numbers, support groups, and further reading."
Children's Literature,

"Sam comes across as a savvy as well as naive teen who tells her own story with humor, honesty and hope. Realistic family drama."
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2006

"The author of PERFECT ... writes with great honesty about Sam's life, and this honesty will be appealing to younger YA readers.... It all works as a realistic novel that expresses truths about living with an alcoholic parent, with confusion about secrets, trust, and self-esteem."

"Witty dialogue and smooth writing.... [T]his is a perceptive novel featuring a likable protagonist to whom readers will easily relate. As in PERFECT (Milkweed, 2004), Friend adroitly portrays a weighty topic with touches of humor and grace."
School Library Journal, December, 2006, p138

"LUSH is author Natasha Friend's follow-up to the highly acclaimed PERFECT. Like her former work, it cuts to the raw emotions of this teen girl living in a not-so-perfect situation. The language is . . . touching and moving. Sam is real and so is her father's alcoholism. LUSH will be helpful to young people who are going through the same problem Sam faces. Friend also includes a list of important alcoholism resources for kids and teens at the end of the novel."

"Natasha Friend has written a touching novel centered around a strong female character. The cycle of emotional abuse that is associated with alcoholism seems to be realistically portrayed and comes full circle, ending with the healing process and what it takes for a family to survive a tragedy, heal, and stay together."

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Have you ever felt hopeless about a situation or circumstance?
  2. If so how have you helped yourself feel better?
  3. Do you think asking for random advice from the girl in the library helps Sam?
  4. Discuss how Sam's family members deal with the father's alcoholism?
  5. Do you think is was a good plan that Sam visited her Dad at rehab without her mother's permission?
  6. Do you feel that the characters in the book come to a realistic and hopeful resolution?

Related Websites:
Author's Website -

Alanon/Alateen -

Children of Alcoholics Foundation -

National Association for Children of Alcoholics -

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Other Books by the Author:
Perfect, 2004 (A 2007 RITBA Nominee)

About the Author:
Natasha Friend's first novel Perfect was the winner of the Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature. Before becoming a writer Natasha was a middle school teacher and a camp director. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and two young children.