Ages 12 years & over. Bright but shy, motherless 15-year-old Carly Lark has always considered herself part of her friend Tanya's family, and is miserable when the Petrovskis move to Australia for the year. When Carly receives a stern letter from Tanya urging her to 'get a life', she is bitter and angry and hurls herself into a one-sided friendship with her tough, glamorous new neighbour. After a makeover from Dawn, Carly's harder-edged look gains her the attention of Uber-jock Andrew, but he's a boring jerk. Meanwhile, she baby-sits for Dawn's younger sisters daily, without pay, to protect the family from Social Services, and struggles to understand her late mother's abandonment of her family. Anonymously authoring a tongue-in-cheek advice column for the school newspaper is therapeutic, and helps Carly to make the right choices for herself. Her dissatisfaction with her shallow friendships comes to a predictable head, as she dumps Andrew and reports Dawn and her mother to the authorities. Carly's dilemmas are not original, but they are universal, and her vivid, three-dimensional personality is captivating.
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