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Friend Is Not a Verb Hardcover – May 4, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up—Rock-star wannabe Henry Birnbaum is dumped by his girlfriend, abruptly ending his gig as bass player in her band. After a pity party with gal-pal Emma, he goes home to learn that his older sister has returned after an unexplained yearlong absence, along with four friends. Bewildered that sunny-as-ever Sarah won't reveal where she has been, and suspicious that his parents are keeping him out of the loop, Hen hits a new high where angst is concerned. Using bass lessons as a ruse, he grills Sarah's friend Gabriel about the mysterious lost year and, getting nowhere, impulsively steals the tight-lipped musician's diary. Hen shares passages with Emma, but the puzzle pieces don't fit, and no one seems surprised when Sarah disappears again. Readers will be emotionally invested in Hen, a somewhat frenetic music geek who connects every thought with a song title, band, or piece of rock trivia. Chapters are peppered with Facebook postings, pop-culture references, diary entries, and dialogue that is acerbic at times, vulnerable at others. Hen rides typical teen waves of rejection and acceptance, dodging critical parents, missing romantic cues from Emma, and willing to be led around by the nose by Petra for a second chance at stardom. Bass lessons with Gabriel morph into therapy sessions and, by the time Hen learns the truth about Sarah, there is a sense that he has regained control of his life. While the plot is a bit far-fetched, fans of Blake Nelson's Destroy All Cars (Scholastic, 2009) or John Green's An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton, 2006) will enjoy Ehrenhaft's similar witty style.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

When your older sister disappears inexplicably, and your girlfriend dumps you, the logical answer to the craziness in your life is to become a rock star. This is the solution that Henry (Hen) comes up with. With the help of his best friend, Emma, Hen sets out to solve the mystery behind why his sister ran away—and why she has just as suddenly returned. In addition, Hen decides to take bass lessons so that he can win a spot in his ex-girlfriend’s band, and her heart. Along the way, Hen learns more than just how to play the bass, and discovers that maybe the right girl for him has been there all along. This quirky, well-crafted novel offers an appealing cast of characters and several interwoven story lines. The mystery surrounding Hen’s sister moves the story along, as does Hen’s tendency to narrate his life like a “Behind the Music” episode. Savvy readers may not be surprised by the sister’s secret but will still appreciate following Hen on his journey of discovery. Grades 7-10. --Shauna Yusko
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061131067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061131066
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,357,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Henry "Hen" Birnbaum has been going through a lot this year, and it hasn't all affected him for the better. When his sister Sarah first ran away a year ago, it really tore him up. All he knew was that she did something she wasn't supposed to do, and was now a fugitive of the law. His own parents won't even give him the run-down on what his sister has done, although they know perfectly well what it was. Needless to say, Hen is tired of being considered a child, he's 16-years old now, and has the right to know some things.

The night his sister decides to return to the family, Hen's life gets worse. His girlfriend, and the leader of their band PETRA, breaks up with him in the middle of the rain, and then continues to boot him from his position as the band's bass player. It's okay though, because he never really could play the bass very well anyway. When he arrives home and finds a note from his parents claiming they've gone to pick up his sister Sarah, Hen can't believe it. He can't decide whether he's truly happy to see his sister, or still infuriated with her for leaving without even saying good-bye.

Things between him and Sarah are weird now, especially since she still won't tell him what's going on. When her friend and fellow fugitive, Gabriel Stern, offers to give him bass lessons, Hen decides to take them in hopes that Gabe will slip up and tell him what is going on. Instead it seems Gabe is more worried about Hen admitting to feelings towards his best friend, Emily Wood, that he's not even sure are really there. Emily has always been next door, and she knows just about everything about him, but can there be more to their relationship than Hen thinks?

I really liked Hen's character from the very first page.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm tackling my books-that-are-smaller-than-the-first-Harry-Potter-book pile. I started with Lark and moved on to this one; this is another small one that packs a whollop of a good story into a fast read.

Henry may have become one of my favorite protagonists to read through the eyes of of. He manages to complain without being whiny, think deeply without trying to appear intentionally philosophical, and make sarcastic or ironic jokes without ever breaking character. He's got the head of most of my guy friends, which is rare for me to read. (Maybe due to lack of excellently written male protagonists in what I've read or due to high expectations of the male figure in what I've read. Who knows.)

I loved the way the story was written; the answer to the biggest mystery in the story was given to you all along, and maybe if I hadn't been so sucked into the story I would have looked at it and been able to figure it out. But I didn't want to put the book down to figure it out - I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened to Hen and Petra and PETRA and Emma and everybody. So I managed to be thrilled at the shock of the answer and pleased that it could be sensed coming simultaneously.

Also, the title for this book - and the discussion within the novel about said title - makes me extraordinarily happy as somebody who can have hour long conversations about these types of things.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book starts out a little slow, but as you read through and turn pages, you find yourself really caring about the main caracther's life and emotions. Good read.
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