Rummanah Aasi
 I don't think book banners realize how counterproductive book banning/challenging really is. I know I'm more likely to pick up a book that I'm told not to read, aren't you? Lush by Natasha Friend was the sixth most challenged book last year. To view the top 10 frequently challenged books from 2010, go here

Description: Samantha has watched her father deteriorate. She remembers him drunk more than she remembers him when he is sober. Unable to cope with her father's alcoholism, Sam corresponds with an older student, sharing her family problems and asking for advice.

Review: Friend adeptly takes an issue and turns it into a believable, sensitive, character-driven story, with realistic dialogue in less than 200 pages. Samantha may have a perfect family externally, but internally they are struggling to keep her architect father's alcoholism a secret and pretending this problem is just a simple phase that will soon pass. Instead of addressing the issue, the family's balancing act of pretending enables Samantha's father's addiction and protecting their image is becoming more and more difficult.
  Sam is your ordinary junior high girl who is self conscious about her body, mostly because her chest size draws attraction and insults from others, and a very keen observer. She understands her father has a drinking problem and she is constantly albeit unsuccessfully trying to make her mother realize her father's problem. She tries to stay positive and afloat, but some days are harder than others. When she is unable to internalize her struggles and fears, Sam decides to seek advice and unload her burdens to an anonymous friend by leaving an autobiographical letter in a library book. Her anger and frustration are palpable as she struggles with her love for her dad. She doesn't believe her father when he promises to stop drinking because she knows that his promises to clean up never materialize. When Sam is chastised by her mother and grandmother for not believing in his ability to change, I was angry and sympathized with Sam because of the injustice of her difficult situation. When the adults in your life deny there is a problem, who do turn to?
  Lush could have turned into a very dark novel yet the author avoids this by infusing the plot with details of typical teen life, such as Sam's crush on an older boy and embarrassment at her developing body. Witty dialogue and smooth writing move the novel along at a fast pace with short chapters. Instead of telling how worse her father becomes, Friend successfully builds the tension as her father's illness takes a dangerous turn, which sets off a chain reaction as the family to confront their problem, Samantha's crush comes to a head, and her anonymous library pen pal is revealed.
  I had a big issue with the stereotypical portrayal of the school librarian. I also didn't like how Samantha didn't turn to any adult for help, but I can understand her hesitation. I liked the idea of the anonymous help, yet I would have liked to see this character developed more, especially since the help also has problems that were one brought up but never revisited again. Lush is a perceptive novel featuring a likable protagonist to whom readers will easily relate and the resources found at the back of the book are useful.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Why it was challenged/banned: Lush was judged by some 2010 readers to be "unsuited" for young readers. They also objected to the presence of "drugs, offensive language" and "sexually explicit" activity in the plot.

Words of Caution: Since alcoholism is the subject of the book, situations around drinking are present. There is even an underage drinking party scene that Samantha attends, however, this scene isn't filler but rather shows Samantha the dangers of bad choices make when they are influenced by alcohol. There is nothing beyond kissing in the book so I don't know where the sexually explicit charge is coming from. There is mild language that contains words as slut, whore, etc. Nothing that isn't found in a PG movie. I would recommend this book to Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser or Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
6 Responses
  1. Ummm...Maybe the stereotypical portrayal of librarians is what caused this book to be challenged in the first place.

    I've learned you don't mess with librarians. ;)

  2. Nat Says:

    Great, great review! I like the sound of this one, even though it is sad.

  3. It's so true. If a book is banned, I am 10 times more likely to read it based on that alone. This one I haven't really heard of, but I think I should try it. Fab review :)

  4. LOL,Missie!

    Kelli: Yes, the topic is sad but it does end on a hopeful and realistic note.

    Melissa: I never heard about this book before until ALA's list came out.

  5. Odd that this was challenged so much and I've never heard of it. I don't know that it would be something I would enjoy, but I don't always go for issues books. I like that the book manages to infuse the difficult subject matter with some levity. Otherwise, it's too depressing.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Does anyone know specifically who banned it?

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