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Friend, Natasha 1972–

Friend, Natasha 1972–

PERSONAL:

Born April 28, 1972, in Norwich, NY; married; husband's name Erik; children: Jack, Ben. Education: Bates College, B.A., 1994; Clemson University, M.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—CT.

CAREER:

Writer and teacher. Former teacher at Brearley School, New York, NY, and École Bilingue, Cambridge, MA. Brimmer and May Summer Camp, Chestnut Hill, MA, former director.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature, and Golden Sower Award, both for Perfect; Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers citation, American Library Association, for Lush.

WRITINGS:

Perfect, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.

Lush, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2006.

Bounce, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Family Fun, and to anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul.

SIDELIGHTS:

Natasha Friend worked as a teacher before she got her start writing novels for young adults. Her first book, Perfect, focuses on thirteen-year-old Isabelle and the young teen's battle with bulimia. ‘As a former competitive gymnast I was introduced to the concept of dieting and weight control at an early age,’ Friend explained on her home page while discussing the inspiration for her story. ‘I went on my first diet at the age of eleven.’ Isabelle's bulimia is less caused by athletics than by grief; her father died several years before and she is unable to cope except by binging on food and then throwing up. When Isabelle meets Ashley, a popular girl who also has an eating disorder, the two quickly become friends, and Isabelle learns that her new friend may not be as ‘perfect’ as she seems. ‘Friend knows middle school kids and delivers beautifully,’ wrote Mary R. Hofmann in a School Library Journal review of Perfect.

The ‘graphic binging and purging scenes’ in Perfect ‘help explain the disease to readers without seeming didactic,’ wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. ‘Friend combines believable characters and real-life situations into a fine novel,’ Denise Moore concluded in School Library Journal, and a Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed the book ‘clearly and simply written with a nice balance of humor and drama.’ Noting the prevalence of eating disorders among teens, Claire Rosser wrote in Kliatt that Perfect ‘addresses the fact that eating disorders are plaguing ever-younger adolescent girls.’ Through her careful attention to Isabelle's voice, ‘Friend elevates what could have been just another problem novel to a truly worthwhile read,’ Debbie Carton concluded in Booklist.

In Friend's second young-adult novel, Lush, Samantha and her family are hiding her father's alcoholism from the world. The teen is tired of pretending, however, and she is angry and frustrated at her father's inability to change. She releases some of her burden in an anonymous letter she leaves in a library book, and she soon begins corresponding with an unknown library pen pal. While the content of the novel is heavy, ‘the author avoids a maudlin tone by infusing the plot with details of typical teen life,’ wrote Rebecca M. Jones in School Library Journal. ‘Sam comes across as a savvy as well as naive teen who tells her own story with humor, honesty and hope,’ a Kirkus Reviews writer noted, while Carton called Lush ‘a believable, sensitive, character-driven story, with realistic dialogue."

Thirteen-year-old Evyn Linney has always wanted a mother, but her father's plan to marry a woman with six children is not exactly what she had in mind. As Friend tells Evyn's story in Bounce, she learns about living in a mixed family and grows accustomed to the changes happening in her life. ‘Friend offers no fairytale ending but presents, through hip conversations and humor, believable characters and a feel-good story,’ D. Maria LaRocco noted in her review for School Library Journal. Claire Rosser noted in Kliatt that Friend gives readers ‘a chance to spend time with smart, caring, funny people’ as she tells Evyn's story. ‘The realistic and genuinely humorous details of the newly formed Linney-Gartos family set this text apart,’ explained a Kirkus Reviews contributor. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer commended Friend for her ‘unmistakable gift for exploring family dynamics."

When asked on her home page where she gets her ideas, Friend explained that they come from ‘stories from my own life, or from the lives of my friends, or from articles and books I've read. Often I begin with a ‘seed’—just the beginning of an idea, or a first sentence—and from there a plot begins to develop."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 2005, Debbie Carton, review of Perfect, p. 844; March 15, 2006, Lolly Gepson, review of Perfect, p. 73; November 1, 2006, Debbie Carton, review of Lush, p. 41.

Kliatt, November, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of Perfect, p. 8; July, 2006, Sunnie Grant, review of Perfect, p. 43; September, 2007, Claire Rosser, review of Bounce, p. 12.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2004, review of Perfect, p. 1006; October 15, 2006, review of Lush, p. 1071; August 1, 2007, review of Bounce.

Publishers Weekly, November 8, 2004, review of Perfect, p. 57; July 30, 2007, review of Lush, p. 87; September 17, 2007, review of Bounce, p. 56.

School Library Journal, December, 2004, Denise Moore, review of Perfect, p. 146; November, 2005, Mary R. Hofmann, review of Perfect, p. 57; April, 2006, Stephanie A. Squicciarini, review of Perfect, p. 82; October, 2006, review of Perfect, p. S59; December, 2006, Rebecca M. Jones, review of Lush, p. 138; September, 2007, D. Maria LaRocco, review of Bounce, p. 196.

ONLINE

Kids Read Web site, http://www.kidsreads.com/authors/ (October 22, 2007), profile of Friend.

Natasha Friend Home Page,http://www.natashafriend.com (October 8, 2007).

Scholastic Web site,http://www.scholastic.com/ (October 22, 2007), ‘Natasha Friend."

Teen Reads Web site,http://www.teenreads.com/ (October 22, 2007), interview with Friend.

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