Sweet Amanda, what's gotten into you?

GOODBYE AMANDA THE GOOD By Susan Shreve Alfred A. Knopf 135 pp., $16.95 Ages 9-12

Ask anyone: Turning 13 is not easy. Especially for Amanda Bates. In the sixth grade, she had been a straight A student and a teacher's pet. But now that Amanda is in the seventh grade in a bigger school without her closest friends, her world has changed. And so has Amanda.

Teetering on the brink of becoming a full-fledge teenager with dates and piles of homework, Amanda struggles to find a new look. First, she dyes her hair "sable." Then she dresses all-black to capture the attention of the most powerful girl club in school.

But the club members aren't the only ones who notice her. Slade, a cool ninth-grader with a reputation as a troublemaker, starts asking her out.

This heightens attention from the tough-girl club who are trying to decide if they will vote Amanda "in." But being a member of the club means skipping school, smoking cigarettes, and shoplifting from the local drugstore.

Amanda's parents are puzzled by her changing appearance and poor academic performance. They voice their concern, but try to give Amanda space to work out what it means to be in junior high.

Although Amanda befriends the leader of the club, looks tough in dark lipstick, and enjoys the attention of an older boy, she's still unhappy.

Her grades plummet, and she starts fighting with her parents. Then her new club leader gives her a list of all the girls in the school that the club ignores.

In the biggest decision of her life, Amanda must decide what kind of girl she is and how much popularity means to her. Is being part of the "in" group worth being mean to those in the "out" group? Will her boyfriend still like her?

A book with a positive message, "Goodbye, Amanda the Good" is a fun read for anyone trying to figure out what it means to be 13 - even for those who don't want to remember.

*Kendra Nordin is on the Monitor staff.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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