Maggie's Reviews > Shug

Shug by Jenny Han
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Feb 14, 2011

it was amazing
Read from February 14 to 16, 2011

** spoiler alert ** I've been thinking about this book a lot since I finished it.

The brilliant thing about this book is that we see what the main character sees and watch the world change along with her perceptions of it. It's almost like an unreliable narrator situation, something I adore, but it's even better because the perceptions change as the book goes on and Shug begins to grow up. So the perfect family she has at the beginning (except her mother doesn't cook) gradually becomes visible as the highly dysfunctional and imperfect family it really is. Shug's childish views of things become more complex and mature. It's heartbreaking to watch Shug struggle to keep up with that shifting perspective.

Jenny Han shows mastery of both the child's point of view and the adolescent's, as well as the difficult transition between them. She uses all the sensory and emotional triggers in lovely, simple ways. Look at the cherry popsicles at the beginning and the cherry Lifesavers at the end. Look at the resonance that food carries throughout, from Mrs. Findlay's Thanksgiving dinners to the leftover diner pie at Jack's house, to Shug cooking a pot of macaroni for her family at the age of eleven while her mother lies drunk on the couch. Look at Shug and Jack eating at the buffet table during the dance. Food plays a vital role all throughout, not just in the classic trope where it stands in for family and comfort and love, but also in the way it carries Shug's gradual changes toward maturity.

Brilliant book! I can't stop thinking about it! It seems so simple on the surface, but don't be fooled.
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