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Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,484 Ratings  ·  284 Reviews
At fifteen, sick of her unbearable and increasingly dangerous home life, Janice Erlbaum walked out of her family’s Brooklyn apartment and didn’t look back. From her first frightening night at a shelter, Janice knew she was in over her head. She was beaten up, shaken down, and nearly stabbed by a pregnant girl. But it was still better than living at home. As Janice slipped ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Villard (first published March 7th 2006)
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Night by Elie WieselThe Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsVeronica's Grave by Barbara DonskyFun Home by Alison BechdelGirlbomb by Janice Erlbaum
Most Compelling Memoirs
5th out of 116 books — 97 voters
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92nd out of 547 books — 1,206 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Long story short: Drugs are fun to do, but boring as hell to read about.
Sep 12, 2008 Rachel rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one.
One of the reviews of this book on the back cover has something to do with "You can't help but pull for Janice throughout this book" or something.

It has something to do with rooting for the author.

I disagree. I feel bad for Janice at the beginning of the book because she genuinely feels unwanted and blah blah blah.

And then she starts sleeping with a bunch of guys and doing a bunch of drugs and drinking a bunch of booze and just totally slips down this huge spiral of self-destructive behaviors.

Jun 28, 2007 Anna rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen-300
This book was recommended to me by a librarian I work with and I it took me awhile to really get into it but once I got through the fisr 50 pages I enjoyed it a lot.

It's the story of a girl who walked out on her mother when she was fifteen and lived in halfway houses for a year and a half (or so). The book is a memior so it's very raw. Janice had a lot of problems with drug abuse and she was very free sexually. Her friends stabbed her in the back but she wasn't the best friend either; she had l
Feb 11, 2013 Kelsi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Erlbaum has a way of putting you into situations that make you completely uncomfortable. You'll live vicariously through Janice and you will hate every second of it. Her horrific anecdotes will literally make your bones ache with remorse.

Told in a series of different sections, each section poses itself to a different reader. If you have ever gone through anything bad in your life you'll be able to relate to Janice. From being halfway homeless, to drugs, promiscuity, and even hopeless displays of
Jun 24, 2009 Meryl rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of M. Night Shyamalan (see review)
The reason I bought this book was because there was pink fishnet on the cover and I thought that it was cool because I happen to like fishnets. And I read the back of the book, just like anyone would do, and was surprised to find it would be a runaway/drugs/teenage girl story, and it was all true! I figured that because of the pink fishnets it would be about some rebellious teenage girl with the influence of the Sex Pistols and other punk bands in her life.
Whatever. I was at Target and hadn't re
Caitlin Constantine
Mar 03, 2009 Caitlin Constantine rated it liked it
This book inspired the same kind of visceral reaction I felt while reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - namely, all of the drug use made me feel like I was going to hurl. I remember those days and how shitty I felt all the time, and it made me think about that.

Aside from the puke-y feeling it inspired, I enjoyed reading it, as much as one can enjoy reading books about women and girls who are seemingly bent on self-destruction. I can see why it's a big hit with the Bust-and-zines crowd though
Feb 09, 2013 Alison rated it did not like it
On paper, girbomb sounds like it would hit all the marks for a Juliette-Lewis loving recovering girl punk who fetishizes both the late 80//early 90s, particularly in NYC (I count myself in this characterization as well as many others I know.) in reality I just felt Janice sounded like a bit of an asshole, especially when you heard about the sad stories, anger and misery faced by many of the other women in the shelter system and group home she stayed in.
As much as her home situation maybe wasn't
Apr 09, 2010 Celestasaurus rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Celestasaurus by: Mrs. Henson
Shelves: young-adult
If I had to choose one word to sum up this novel, wow would do the trick. And to think this is a memoir, a true story. Janice Erlbaum dealt with abuse, drugs, and casual sex, and somehow survived it in the end. She was in a constant state of paranoia and self-hatred. Her life was a roller coaster of events--some taking her high, on-top-of-the-world high; others bringing her so low, leaving her seriously depressed or near death. But she kept living her life the way she was, partying often and exp ...more
Susan Bazzett-griffith
Dec 13, 2013 Susan Bazzett-griffith rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
A fantastically solid memoir-- intense and dark w/out being depressing. This book is filled with uncannily real accounts of the high school drug culture, but rather than making that the focus of the book, Janice Erlbaum makes it merely the backdrop (a fascinating backdrop, nonetheless), whereas the focus of the book is really on her journey of unfortunate/dysfunctional circumstances, typical and terrible, but often sympathetically so, adolescent choices, and finding a place of peace and strength ...more
Marin Felsoci
Mar 09, 2016 Marin Felsoci rated it really liked it
Janice, a girl who fought for shelter every night since the age of fifteen, had to overcome many obstacles throughout her years on her own. She had been beaten on the streets of New York and nearly killed multiple times. Janice lived an unbearable home life before leaving at the hands of her creepy stepfather who was quick to raise his hand to her. It was not a healthy environment for her to live in. After running away, she was forced to become an adult overnight. She had to provide for herself ...more
Nadia Bouras
Jun 07, 2015 Nadia Bouras rated it really liked it
Amazing book, I loved it. The beginning is a bit hard to get through and slower paced, but it's a great read. Way to go, Janice Erlbaum.
Sep 28, 2014 Danielle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was looking for the story where Janice overcame drugs and alcohol, ditched the girls she called friends and took some responsibility for her life and apologized to her mother, that story did not come.

I have more sympathy for Janice's mother - she put an end to her abusive relationship, which several women don't do, and maintains a job to take care of her children. I can't imagine the worry and fear she had for Janice while she was out on her own. I think I'd rather read her story.

Her mom says,
Jun 24, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing
Let me first encourage you to have your socks knocked off by Janice Earlbaum's Girlbomb. I can't believe I'd never heard of it before. It's unputdownable and brilliant in that slightly-voyeuristic-account-of-a-fucked-up-but-really-cool-scenester adolescence; it's basically Basketball Diaries for women, although Janice keeps far enough above water that her teenage depravity is not awkwardly unbearable, unlike in the Jim Caroll. Janice is a teenager in New York in the eighties and she has all the ...more
Sarah Apsey-Barres
Jun 27, 2011 Sarah Apsey-Barres rated it it was amazing
Wow - I was completely blown away by this memoir. This is one of my favorite books. I had no idea what to expect when I picked it up. I got it at work from someone who was getting rid of some books and she just laid them out as a first come, first served style of giving them away.

I don't remember the date I began reading it; it was April 2011? May 2011? I don't remember. Regardless I thoroughly enjoyed reading this - it turned out to be a great story, the kind of story that, afterwards, I came
oh, to be young in new york in the late eighties . . . when all the coke you could ever want was just waiting for you in washington square park.

yet another tale of a girl-gone-bad, but written later in her life, so her self-awareness is refreshing. i found myself rooting for her to get her act together with the simulatenous dread that she was going to repeat those same mistakes endlessly. (i was usually right.) i hated her friends for her, i hated her stepfather, but i loved her poor mother, an
Jun 03, 2009 Leslie rated it did not like it
Erlbaum's gritty memoir of her high school years belongs to the same genre as Piece of Cake, A Million Little Pieces (assuming hers is true and not "enhanced"), and so on. Gritty, deeply depressing, Erlbaum's prose is vivid enough to leave the reader feeling hungover and strung out along with her. Unfortunately, the endless waves of description of drugs, sex, and a small dose of rock'n'roll leave the reader wondering if the experience was worth it. Erlbaum offers glimpses that the unending tide ...more
Kathy Hiester
May 20, 2011 Kathy Hiester rated it liked it
I picked this up because I love memoirs, I was a teen in the 80’s and I did spend some time in NYC. Girlbomb is a true story of a teenager in 1980s NYC that leaves home because her mother takes back her violently abuse spouse. The author recreates that hectic life she has experienced in her mother's home while living in shelters and group homes. It was fun to read, but I did have a problem with how her one-night stands and serious drug abuse were basically revered. There is no salvation at the e ...more
Mary Grace
May 30, 2016 Mary Grace rated it it was ok
In Janice Erlbaum’s memoir, GirlBomb, I learned that everything has consequences. This was the first book that I have read by Janice Erlbaum, and her way of writing took me by surprise with all of the cussing. It was a very descriptive memoir of Janice Erlbaum’s life and what she went through.
First off, Janice’s mother was known for taking back men who were not good for her and her family. Everything started when she took back Dave who was very hot-headed and abusive. When Janice found out that
Oct 30, 2015 Ms.Virgin rated it liked it
This book actually hooked me early on - then lost me about halfway through. At first I couldn't help but feel bad for Janice - she was just a teenager struggling with an abusive stepfather and a selfish mom. I empathized with her and rooted for her when she took a stand against her mother's poor and predictable choices by choosing homelessness. Her descriptions of her life in the homeless shelter and group home were gripping and I almost understood why she turned to drugs and guys for an escape. ...more
Jan 27, 2014 Jordan rated it it was amazing
Janice Erlbaum has a unique way of showing you how to express your emotions. I believe her purpose of this book is that is you have grown up in a troubled home or unstable and you still feel very uneasy about it you can really start to understand how to let it all out. Reading this book you almost feel that you have relived your own painful and vivid times of your life. It teaches you that just because an adult is an authority, they might not have in store what’s best for you. Janice uses her li ...more
Laina Nelson
Feb 18, 2016 Laina Nelson rated it it was amazing
Girl Bomb is a real and scary portrayal of what it is like to be a "half-way" homeless girl in New York. Janice is 15 and decides to leave her abusive home of her mother and her mother's abusive husband, Dave. From then Janice finds her way to a homeless shelter for woman. Janice stays at the shelter while still trying to keep up with school and friends. Janice hops from home to find while still partying with friends, having a lead in a musical, and dealing with a mother who acts like she doesn' ...more
Jan 28, 2009 Erin rated it liked it
What a life this woman had as a teenager. Although I can't relate to anything she has gone through (which is for the best), I still found the book interesting. So much drugs, sex and craziness, I'm glad to see she made it through alive (barely at times!). She must be doing well today (since she wrote this memoir and works with homeless teenagers now).

Thanks Morgan for letting me borrow it!
Val Wishaar
Mar 09, 2014 Val Wishaar rated it liked it
This was a very interesting glimpse into the life of a troubled youth and her experiences as a homeless teenager on the streets of New York.

I love reading books like this because it shows you how every life is worth hearing about or reading about, and it's interesting to compare it to my own experiences. It's really impressive to see what some people can go through and manage to come out of alive. Reading this book definitely made me appreciate my family and the life I have led. It also makes m
Jan 30, 2009 Renee rated it really liked it
I read this after "Have You Found Her" by the same author. It's a quick read, the author's account of her years as a teenage runaway. For those of us who still cringe at memories of high school -trying to be popular, illicit drug use, and hooking up with guys we didn't care for may want to skip this book. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable way to spend a snow day.
Alyssa Criticos
May 21, 2015 Alyssa Criticos rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. This book, which I chose to read for the third quarter, was my favorite. I loved how this book was 100% true. Earlbaum tells her story of running away from her mother after she chooses to reunite with her abusive stepfather. From then on, Earlbaum hops from shelter to street and meets various people, some who become good friends, others who become horrible enemies. Earlbaum goes into details about the different types of people living in the shelters, and the way her ...more
Kiley Barker
May 21, 2015 Kiley Barker rated it it was amazing
I read Girlbomb in the third quarter, and it kept me on the edge of my seat, for I didn't know what was going to happen next. In her life, it could be anything. The people she encountered, like Genie the JAP and Vondell, made the story so unique. It wasn't a cliché sob story where you can just tell how it's going end. That is what I liked the most. No one likes a predictable book. Many high school students can find can find a situation in Erlbaum’s life that they can somehow relate to. However, ...more
Apr 19, 2011 Jeannie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
I had a hard time putting this book down, the author wrote in such an easy-going manner. I admire this author and hope to hear more from her.
Jul 26, 2009 Jeannie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had a hard time putting this book down, the author wrote in such an easy-going manner. I admire this author and hope to hear more from her.
Maya Mason
Dec 15, 2014 Maya Mason rated it it was amazing
The book that I read is called Girl Bomb by Janice Erlbaum. This book is based on a true story about a girl whose home life is not ideal so she leaves and gets herself into some harsh situations as she tries to figure her life out. The theme of this book is forgiveness because she has to go through so hard times before she’s ready to forgive the person that hurt her the most. The genre is Autobiography. I think you would like this book if you like drama or if you maybe can relate in some way. Th ...more
Sara Knudson
Aug 25, 2015 Sara Knudson rated it really liked it
This was a fast, easy read. Erlbaum is gifted with her prose and descriptions of people and situations. She captures both the sensitivity and naïveté of her teenage self without being anything less than brutally honest about her own mistakes. It's a fascinating look into emotional survival and the emergence of independence and self identity.

It does, however, seem to lose track of its message and purpose towards the end of the book, but I feel like Erlbaum said more than she realized in the first
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Janice Erlbaum is the author of two memoirs, GIRLBOMB: A Halfway Homeless Memoir (Villard, March ’06), and HAVE YOU FOUND HER: A Memoir (Villard, Feb. ’08), and one novel, I, LIAR (Thought Catalog Books, 2015).

Her poetry and prose have been featured in anthologies including ALOUD: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, THE BUST GUIDE TO THE NEW GIRL ORDER, THE BEST AMERICAN EROTIC POEMS FROM 1800
More about Janice Erlbaum...

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