SHUG is a lovely novel that is not quite coming of age but more of a coming to an understanding. Annemarie, the main character, is 12 and on the verge of so much. She desperately wants her friend Mark to become the first boy to kiss her and even fantasizes how it will all go. She wants her parents to get along better than they do and worries that they will divorce. And Annemarie wants her best friend Elaine to remain her one true friend and not pay any attention to other girls or, shudder, a boy. Natalie had grabbed this book from the shelf a few weeks before it arrived on my desk to review for VOYA. She read it in about an hour, pronounced it good, and assured me I would like it when I told her I had to read it for a review. She was right. It is interesting, though, that for Natalie this is reading "backward" as she is in 8th grade and 13 already. However, she is not reading backward when it comes to the essence of the story. She is right where Annemarie is emotionally (except maybe not thinking about her first kiss as she still thinks boys are yucky). This is the strength of the book: the emotions speak right to those awkward tween and teen readers who long to be more like Annemarie's older sister, Celia or even the beautiful Elaine.