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Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir

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At fifteen, sick of her unbearable and increasingly dangerous home life, Janice Erlbaum walked out of her family’s Brooklyn apartment and didn’t look back. From her first frightening night at a shelter, Janice knew she was in over her head. She was beaten up, shaken down, and nearly stabbed by a pregnant girl. But it was still better than living at home. As Janice slipped At fifteen, sick of her unbearable and increasingly dangerous home life, Janice Erlbaum walked out of her family’s Brooklyn apartment and didn’t look back. From her first frightening night at a shelter, Janice knew she was in over her head. She was beaten up, shaken down, and nearly stabbed by a pregnant girl. But it was still better than living at home. As Janice slipped further into street life, she nevertheless attended high school, harbored crushes, and even played the lead in the spring musical. She also roamed the streets, clubs, bars, and parks of New York City with her two best girlfriends, on the prowl for hard drugs and boys on skateboards. Together they scored coke at Danceteria, smoked angel dust in East Village squats, commiserated over their crazy mothers, and slept with one another’s boyfriends on a regular basis. A wry, mesmerizing portrait of being underprivileged, underage, and underdressed in 1980s New York City, Girlbomb provides an unflinching look at street life, survival sex, female friendships, and first loves. “A fast and engrossing read in the spirit of Girl, Interrupted.” –Entertainment Weekly “Gripping . . . a wry, compelling memoir of what it means to stand up for yourself, especially when no one else will.” –Bust “How satisfying to watch Erlbaum survive adolescence and produce a smart, engaging book.” –The New York Times Book Review “Erlbaum’s survival is hard-won, the journey rendered with page-turning intensity.” –New York Post “A fast and engrossing read in the spirit of Girl, Interrupted.” –Entertainment Weekly “Gritty . . . perversely riveting. You want her to survive.” –The Washington Post Book World


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At fifteen, sick of her unbearable and increasingly dangerous home life, Janice Erlbaum walked out of her family’s Brooklyn apartment and didn’t look back. From her first frightening night at a shelter, Janice knew she was in over her head. She was beaten up, shaken down, and nearly stabbed by a pregnant girl. But it was still better than living at home. As Janice slipped At fifteen, sick of her unbearable and increasingly dangerous home life, Janice Erlbaum walked out of her family’s Brooklyn apartment and didn’t look back. From her first frightening night at a shelter, Janice knew she was in over her head. She was beaten up, shaken down, and nearly stabbed by a pregnant girl. But it was still better than living at home. As Janice slipped further into street life, she nevertheless attended high school, harbored crushes, and even played the lead in the spring musical. She also roamed the streets, clubs, bars, and parks of New York City with her two best girlfriends, on the prowl for hard drugs and boys on skateboards. Together they scored coke at Danceteria, smoked angel dust in East Village squats, commiserated over their crazy mothers, and slept with one another’s boyfriends on a regular basis. A wry, mesmerizing portrait of being underprivileged, underage, and underdressed in 1980s New York City, Girlbomb provides an unflinching look at street life, survival sex, female friendships, and first loves. “A fast and engrossing read in the spirit of Girl, Interrupted.” –Entertainment Weekly “Gripping . . . a wry, compelling memoir of what it means to stand up for yourself, especially when no one else will.” –Bust “How satisfying to watch Erlbaum survive adolescence and produce a smart, engaging book.” –The New York Times Book Review “Erlbaum’s survival is hard-won, the journey rendered with page-turning intensity.” –New York Post “A fast and engrossing read in the spirit of Girl, Interrupted.” –Entertainment Weekly “Gritty . . . perversely riveting. You want her to survive.” –The Washington Post Book World

30 review for Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I'm writing this while pretty buzzed since I just got back from wine-tasting, so if you see any typos or odd turns of phrase, that's why. I'm the type of person who thinks that they're more eloquent when they're intoxicated, and who starts throwing out fancy turns of phrase ad libitum to hide the drunk. So if I begin to sound like I'm channeling Dickens, if Dickens was peppered with expletives, I'm fairly fucking hammered, if you pardon Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I'm writing this while pretty buzzed since I just got back from wine-tasting, so if you see any typos or odd turns of phrase, that's why. I'm the type of person who thinks that they're more eloquent when they're intoxicated, and who starts throwing out fancy turns of phrase ad libitum to hide the drunk. So if I begin to sound like I'm channeling Dickens, if Dickens was peppered with expletives, I'm fairly fucking hammered, if you pardon my français. I'm honestly surprised GIRLBOMB has such low ratings, but a lot of the negative reviews seem to be coming from the pearl-clutchers who are like, "Gasp, sex and drugs in a young adult memoir?? Won't somebody please think of the children!" It's true that GIRLBOMB has sex and drugs in it, but that's pretty expected from someone who is coming from an abusive home and seems to have a litany of undiagnosed psychiatric disorders and who might be using "recreational" drugs in a subconscious attempt to self-medicate. Also, this took place during the late 80s, when drugs were basically par for the course. #cocaine #heroine #yolo The other complaint I saw was a bit more troubling, which was that Janice Erlbaum was "privileged" and made the memoir unpleasant to read. I wasn't sure what was "privileged" about this book, unless it was something Erlbaum acknowledged herself - that she was a white girl who wasn't pregnant and wasn't sexually abused, living in a group home surrounded by women of color who did face these issues. I guess if your definition of "privileged" is "circumstances that aren't as bad as the worst case scenario" then yeah, Erlbaum was privileged. But I don't think we should be gate-keeping who gets to call themselves a victim, especially if they do come from an abusive lower-income household. You shouldn't have to be the worst-case scenario to reach out for help if you need it, which Erlbaum did. Janice Erlbaum's memoir reminded me a lot of GIRL, INTERRUPTED, in that it shows how 1) institutional care can actually be brutal and cruel, to the point where it almost harms as much as it hurts, 2) teens need structure and neglect can be as harmful as abuse, 3) people love to gate-keep who gets to be a victim and who doesn't, and "privilege" doesn't always mean what people think it does, and 4) we as a society are much less forgiving towards women who act out than men. It's true that Erlbaum's childhoold and teen years were pretty wild, but it seems like they were a good learning experience for her, and were the catalyst for a lot of painful realizations about what it means to be an adult. I don't think that we should paint all young adult-targeted books containing sex and drugs as filth, since for many youths, those things are an integral part of their coming of age. GIRLBOMB was a pretty good book and I think a lot of teens will be fascinated by it. It's pretty clear that Erlbaum is not an ideal role model - and to be honest, I didn't even get the impression that she saw herself that way - but despite some of her regrets, I didn't get the impression that she rued the learning experience she got from making her numerous mistakes. It must have been frustrating having a mother who was so inaccessible during a time when she needed parental guidance, so I'm seriously side-eying the (probably) parents who are crying about Janice not "respecting" her mom. That ship sailed the third time she took her abusive husband back, imho. Parents need to think about what's best for their kids, and it seems like the mom really failed Janice, based on this narrative. Their relationship got better once they were closer to being equals, and honestly that sort of dynamic is typical of people who were never ready or even willing to be parents in the first place. With books like these, it's really important to take everything with a grain of salt and realize that humanity rarely does things "by the books" and sometimes you have to make the best out of an unideal situation. Come at me, pearl-clutchers. 3.5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    Long story short: Drugs are fun to do, but boring as hell to read about.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    One of the reviews of this book on the back cover has something to do with "You can't help but pull for Janice throughout this book" or something. It has something to do with rooting for the author. I disagree. I feel bad for Janice at the beginning of the book because she genuinely feels unwanted and blah blah blah. And then she starts sleeping with a bunch of guys and doing a bunch of drugs and drinking a bunch of booze and just totally slips down this huge spiral of self-destructive behaviors. I One of the reviews of this book on the back cover has something to do with "You can't help but pull for Janice throughout this book" or something. It has something to do with rooting for the author. I disagree. I feel bad for Janice at the beginning of the book because she genuinely feels unwanted and blah blah blah. And then she starts sleeping with a bunch of guys and doing a bunch of drugs and drinking a bunch of booze and just totally slips down this huge spiral of self-destructive behaviors. I think that she takes advantage of the "homeless youth shelters" and she is definitely taking the place of someone who could really use it. If she were to try to pull those stunts in most rehabilitation homes now, she would epically fail. I'm sorry Janice, but your story isn't interesting enough to deserve a book. Congratulations, you did drugs, you cheated on your boyfriend and you drank a lot. You had a crappy step-dad and were too immature to handle your emotions appropriately. I really wish I spent the time clawing my way through this book I was reading a better book instead.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This book was recommended to me by a librarian I work with and I it took me awhile to really get into it but once I got through the fisr 50 pages I enjoyed it a lot. It's the story of a girl who walked out on her mother when she was fifteen and lived in halfway houses for a year and a half (or so). The book is a memior so it's very raw. Janice had a lot of problems with drug abuse and she was very free sexually. Her friends stabbed her in the back but she wasn't the best friend either; she had l This book was recommended to me by a librarian I work with and I it took me awhile to really get into it but once I got through the fisr 50 pages I enjoyed it a lot. It's the story of a girl who walked out on her mother when she was fifteen and lived in halfway houses for a year and a half (or so). The book is a memior so it's very raw. Janice had a lot of problems with drug abuse and she was very free sexually. Her friends stabbed her in the back but she wasn't the best friend either; she had low self esteem and a lot of anger toward her mother. I have a lot of admiration for her honesty in writing the book. It's amazing to hear the story of a homless drug addict who starred in her high school play, graduated on time and got into college. She was very lucky though. She had sex with many men and managed to stay AIDS & STD free. She OD'd on coke and survived and prowled the streets and clubs of New York city high (at night) and was never arrested or assaulted. One of her boyfriends worked his ass off housing her and supporting her habit (only to have her cheat on him) AND her mother who she hated was giving her money too. I mention this becuase the author is really praised for being so brave but she was very selfish and hurt a lot of people too. I don't want to judge her and she aggrees that she was lucky but it's hard for me to say I adore her or even really respect her after reading this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heather *Undercover Summer Goth*

    I really enjoyed the writing in this, despite the often difficult subject matter. Erlbaum had a way with words that sometimes lent humor to crazy situations (the way she described her reactions, mostly), and she never shied away from her own faults. I'm a sucker for memoirs like this. I really enjoyed the writing in this, despite the often difficult subject matter. Erlbaum had a way with words that sometimes lent humor to crazy situations (the way she described her reactions, mostly), and she never shied away from her own faults. I'm a sucker for memoirs like this.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Meryl

    The reason I bought this book was because there was pink fishnet on the cover and I thought that it was cool because I happen to like fishnets. And I read the back of the book, just like anyone would do, and was surprised to find it would be a runaway/drugs/teenage girl story, and it was all true! I figured that because of the pink fishnets it would be about some rebellious teenage girl with the influence of the Sex Pistols and other punk bands in her life. Whatever. I was at Target and hadn't re The reason I bought this book was because there was pink fishnet on the cover and I thought that it was cool because I happen to like fishnets. And I read the back of the book, just like anyone would do, and was surprised to find it would be a runaway/drugs/teenage girl story, and it was all true! I figured that because of the pink fishnets it would be about some rebellious teenage girl with the influence of the Sex Pistols and other punk bands in her life. Whatever. I was at Target and hadn't read anything in a while, so I bought it. Upon reading the first chapter or so that night, bent up in my bed, I found that the story was captivating. "Wow, this girl actually packed up a few things and left home." I liked her description of the streets and the dark and what had happened years before with her mother and these boyfriends. (Yay, problems!!!) Yadda yadda yadda. So I kept reading, every chance I got just like I would with any other book. I kept going and was intrigued by an authentic story of halfway homes and those wild teen girls that stay there. It was rather sleazy, too, but not like "Britney is SUCH a slut". More like, dirty and raw. Edgy, if you will. I liked it. LIKED the way it was told. Janice was growing up and in high school and all that, and suddenly BANG! drugs are involved, which I kind of like reading about: it's an alternative to getting high. (Drug virgin? Read about them first!) And drug stories always have that addiction to keep reading, not actually DO drugs (sometimes. See "Crank".) because of how quick the story will go along and how the protagonist is still going on with her life and there's that little bell in the back of BOTH of your minds, of wanting to get back to the BAD part of the story, which, in this case, is drugs. So "Girlbomb" was going along and come the final chapter or so everything just comes crashing down. And it's unexpected as if jogging and all the sudden you trip and falldowngoboom and you have a bloody knee or two. I am not sure what happened but everything just stopped. Not the story, no, it wasn't over, but the whole thing just got ...REALLY uninteresting. So dull and "When is this lady gonna shut UP?!". Kind of like this review, but I've been meaning to write a revew on this book so now I am. And anyway, the book got dumb. It was going along great and being a pull-you-in type of thing but it stopped being that way and just plain out sucked. Like an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It lost it's OOMPH! and stuff. What should I say, the book was good? Well, it was, up until the last chapter or two. I wish it hadn't done that because then this book coulda gotten four or even five stars from me, but it wasn't all that great all the way through. So I say, "Read it, but expect to be disappointed at the end!!!"

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kelsi

    Erlbaum has a way of putting you into situations that make you completely uncomfortable. You'll live vicariously through Janice and you will hate every second of it. Her horrific anecdotes will literally make your bones ache with remorse. Told in a series of different sections, each section poses itself to a different reader. If you have ever gone through anything bad in your life you'll be able to relate to Janice. From being halfway homeless, to drugs, promiscuity, and even hopeless displays of Erlbaum has a way of putting you into situations that make you completely uncomfortable. You'll live vicariously through Janice and you will hate every second of it. Her horrific anecdotes will literally make your bones ache with remorse. Told in a series of different sections, each section poses itself to a different reader. If you have ever gone through anything bad in your life you'll be able to relate to Janice. From being halfway homeless, to drugs, promiscuity, and even hopeless displays of devoted love, Janice has been through it all. She's the friend that you try to help over and over to no avail. You'll want to hit her, hug her, and cry with her like she was your own best friend. This book is impossible to put down even when the waterworks start pouring. Erlbaum plays with your emotions like a talented pianist and never relents.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nadia Bouras

    Amazing book, I loved it. The beginning is a bit hard to get through and slower paced, but it's a great read. Way to go, Janice Erlbaum. Amazing book, I loved it. The beginning is a bit hard to get through and slower paced, but it's a great read. Way to go, Janice Erlbaum.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bella D

    What drove me to this book was the title and the summary on the back of the book. When I was in the library and saw this book I was like "Wow this seems like a really good book." I haven't read a lot of books like this one before so I wanted to see if I would like this type of genre or not. This book is about a girl named Janice who goes through a bunch of problems with her family, drug addictions, where to live, etc. She basically had to grow up when she was fifteen years old. Her dad was not a What drove me to this book was the title and the summary on the back of the book. When I was in the library and saw this book I was like "Wow this seems like a really good book." I haven't read a lot of books like this one before so I wanted to see if I would like this type of genre or not. This book is about a girl named Janice who goes through a bunch of problems with her family, drug addictions, where to live, etc. She basically had to grow up when she was fifteen years old. Her dad was not a good fit for their family and would yell at them all the time. He left her and her mom at a very young age. After that, her mom had a series of boyfriends that she has hated. One of the boyfriends kept coming back and back so she told her mom that if she took him back again she would leave. And what do you know, she took him back again. So, that day she packed up all of her stuff and left. She didn't know where to go so she went to a church where they took her in and gave her a place to sleep and eat. Not a lot of girls liked her there, but she did make a couple of friends. During this time, she also had to go to school and deal with her mom and what she was doing. Eventually, after this, she finds a guy and falls in love with him. What she doesn't know is all of the consequences that will come along with him. He introduces her to cocaine and they start dealing. Once she started this life though, she experiences the trauma of death, drugs, sex, and strange friendships. I won't ruin the ending for you but she does get her happily ever after. This book was really interesting to read. I'm not usually a trouble maker, so to read a book about a girl who only gets in trouble most of the time is really interesting and exciting. I loved reading it from her point of view too, that way we could find out what she was thinking at the time and what she was feeling too. The only real problem I had with this book was that I wasn't as interested in it as some of the other books that I have read. Even though I thought that it was a good book, I wasn't as satisfied as when I finished previous books that I have read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Page

    Although I can’t remember why I purchased Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir by Janice Erlbaum, I do know that nonfiction books in which real people are frequently inebriated or engaging in promiscuity aren’t my typical read. It’s so easy for an author to describe every last stomach-turning detail, from passing out and waking up with strangers to how many times he/she threw up and promised to never do it again. While those experiences are real and shape millions of people’s lives, I find it har Although I can’t remember why I purchased Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir by Janice Erlbaum, I do know that nonfiction books in which real people are frequently inebriated or engaging in promiscuity aren’t my typical read. It’s so easy for an author to describe every last stomach-turning detail, from passing out and waking up with strangers to how many times he/she threw up and promised to never do it again. While those experiences are real and shape millions of people’s lives, I find it hard to read when the narration is practically detached from the author because she/he can’t actually remember what happened due to being so intoxicated/high. Basically, I feel bad and then I don’t know what I was supposed to get out of the memoir. Even though Janice Erlbaum’s teen years do include hook ups, drinking, and drug use, she’s able to supersede other addiction memoirs by humanizing people she meets, getting her point across with imagery instead of description, and reflecting on her time as a “halfway homeless” youth. In the 1980s, Janice Erlbaum’s perpetually not-single mother continually dated, and sometimes married, men who did not belong around young Janice. Though she admits no one ever sexually assaulted her, boyfriends and step-fathers were not above smashing furniture and making threats. When Erbaum’s mom discovers she is pregnant by her boyfriend, she marries him. The smashing and threats continue, and Erlbaum writes, “. . .I balled up even tighter, dense as a star, and wished one of us, any of us, was dead.” The mother says she’s going to leave this man, especially when he starts threatening to take away his newborn son, but they always reunite. During one break, which the mother swears is permanent, Erlbuam says that if the step-father comes back, she will pack a bag and leave that night. Erlbaum’s mother must not have taken her seriously, because when the disastrous couple reunite, it’s a “surprise” when Janice Erlbaum stops making dinner, walks into her room, packs a bag, and goes to a homeless shelter run by nuns. One theme that runs through Girlbomb is the question of what defines abuse. Other homeless teen girls are pregnant, have endured sexual trauma, and have been thrown out of their homes. Most of them are black or brown, while Erlbaum is white. I thought this was an interesting topic. We know that witnessing violence is injurious, but are prompted to ask ourselves if this “unharmed” white girl who chose to leave home is “taking up” a bed that could be used by a physically and sexually assaulted brown or black girl who has no choice. Prompting readers to rethink their definition of who is in danger and worthy of assistance is especially meaningful to me as a reader in the United States, where resources are so few and life-threatening violence is ubiquitous. But the nun who processes Erlbaum’s entry to the shelter kindly says, “We’re glad you came to us tonight.” Other individuals, even ones we aren’t meant to like or trust, are given enough details that they are fully human. This includes the various boys Erlbaum sleeps with in hopes of coercing one of them into marrying her. It’s the logic of a girl, one who thinks marriage means stable family and safety. After each rejection, it’s as if her “heart fell like a drunk down the stairs.” Even the boyfriend she has longest, who initially comes off as a slacker pothead, is fully realized into this person you care for and watch with fascination as he and Erlbaum accidentally (is there such a thing?) become addicted to cocaine and use other drugs. I never felt like I was reading an addiction memoir, though, because the author is able to write her experiences with a dash of something to ponder. Consider this: “Acid elucidates all those things you would ordinarily take for granted: the color of the clouds, the frailty of the social contract, the disgusting miracle of the human body.” Using three examples, Erlbaum is able to capture just how tenuous our lives are, how things like home, family, and life can disappear without warning, a connection further strengthened when one of her high school friends parties in a car with friends and accidentally (there’s that word again — perhaps it should be “failed to consider the stupidity of”) smashing in his head while it was thrust out the car window. While trying to finish high school, get a boyfriend or husband, starring in the school musical (wait, what?), and using intoxicants, Erlbaum still must go “home” every day to the shelter where rules are strict:“It was overly hot in the brownstone, but residents weren’t allowed to open or close windows or blinds. We weren’t allowed to take things out of or put things into the fridge. We weren’t allowed to touch the stove, the lights, or the counselors’ phone. We had to walk around like amputees.”The combination of shelter life and the freedom she tries to obtain while outside it are remarkable juxtapositions. Though she has a bed at the shelter, social services try to convince Erlbaum to return to her mother’s, an idea that is both hopeful and terrifying: “The bile rose in my stomach, even as the old zombie hope started clawing its way out of its grave in my chest.” The author’s descriptions — amputees, zombies, a drunk falling downstairs — are placed just so to make the memoir engaging. She tends to keep her powers of description out of her sex and drug experiences (by this I mean what she was doing physically), so I never felt like I was wallowing, but I did get a strong sense of drifting down, down, down while a teen girl tries to play a Grown-Up Somebody/Anybody. The ending is clever and allows the author to reflect on what happened to her in a way that doesn’t feel like a moralistic ending on sitcom TV: everyone hugs and clears up misunderstandings. Instead, Erlbaum shares an essay she had to write for college applications, an essay that asks about “A Significant Experience.” The essay still sounds like her as a teen — she inappropriately includes some swear words and sifts through her life in a slightly more shallow way that an adult looking back would. I found the conclusion a success, giving Erlbaum a chance to let her younger self speak, instead of a more mature adult fitting her old teen experiences into a framework suggesting everything worked out okay through the power of writing and perseverance. A highly recommended memoir. This review was originally published at Grab the Lapels.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Constantine

    This book inspired the same kind of visceral reaction I felt while reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - namely, all of the drug use made me feel like I was going to hurl. I remember those days and how shitty I felt all the time, and it made me think about that. Aside from the puke-y feeling it inspired, I enjoyed reading it, as much as one can enjoy reading books about women and girls who are seemingly bent on self-destruction. I can see why it's a big hit with the Bust-and-zines crowd though This book inspired the same kind of visceral reaction I felt while reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - namely, all of the drug use made me feel like I was going to hurl. I remember those days and how shitty I felt all the time, and it made me think about that. Aside from the puke-y feeling it inspired, I enjoyed reading it, as much as one can enjoy reading books about women and girls who are seemingly bent on self-destruction. I can see why it's a big hit with the Bust-and-zines crowd though, because she does that NYC-hipster-y-too-cool-to-care thing really well. Plus, her experiences were so far removed from my own adolescence - where I spent much of my life terrified of getting trouble, she just didn't give a damn - that it was kind of like checking out a whole nother world. That said - she totally cheated on the ending. Sorry, but I don't think it's fair to the reader to spend 200 pages illustrating a downward spiral into self-destruction and then spend six pages tying it up with a convenient bow in the form of some money left by grandma and a mom willing to pay for college. I wanted to see how she had changed inside; instead, I just got the feeling that she got tired of writing one day and was like, that's it, I'm done. A more well-rounded ending would have really been nice.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    On paper, girbomb sounds like it would hit all the marks for a Juliette-Lewis loving recovering girl punk who fetishizes both the late 80//early 90s, particularly in NYC (I count myself in this characterization as well as many others I know.) in reality I just felt Janice sounded like a bit of an asshole, especially when you heard about the sad stories, anger and misery faced by many of the other women in the shelter system and group home she stayed in. As much as her home situation maybe wasn't On paper, girbomb sounds like it would hit all the marks for a Juliette-Lewis loving recovering girl punk who fetishizes both the late 80//early 90s, particularly in NYC (I count myself in this characterization as well as many others I know.) in reality I just felt Janice sounded like a bit of an asshole, especially when you heard about the sad stories, anger and misery faced by many of the other women in the shelter system and group home she stayed in. As much as her home situation maybe wasn't ideal, I felt she was also ignoring the obvious pain her mom was dealing with (the medication, mindless knitting, etc) and inhabiting a really self-involved existence. While I appreciated Janice's plucky writing style and candor regarding her relationships, drug abuse, etc, I ultimately found it hard to muster up much sympathy for her in the end. This book read like a giant xojane story where the young white narrator is nakedly confessional, oblivious to her privilege and ultimately unrepentant towards her own shitty behavior. I finished the book with the sense that Janice (who is awarded her own lovely apartment by her mother despite being virtually absent and unsupportive for the entire fucking book) hasn't learned anything from her experiences, and as a result we haven't, either.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Celestasaurus

    If I had to choose one word to sum up this novel, wow would do the trick. And to think this is a memoir, a true story. Janice Erlbaum dealt with abuse, drugs, and casual sex, and somehow survived it in the end. She was in a constant state of paranoia and self-hatred. Her life was a roller coaster of events--some taking her high, on-top-of-the-world high; others bringing her so low, leaving her seriously depressed or near death. But she kept living her life the way she was, partying often and exp If I had to choose one word to sum up this novel, wow would do the trick. And to think this is a memoir, a true story. Janice Erlbaum dealt with abuse, drugs, and casual sex, and somehow survived it in the end. She was in a constant state of paranoia and self-hatred. Her life was a roller coaster of events--some taking her high, on-top-of-the-world high; others bringing her so low, leaving her seriously depressed or near death. But she kept living her life the way she was, partying often and experimenting with whatever drug came her way. I was pleased that she eventually straightened out her life. I highly recommend this book. It's a quick yet touching read. It reinforced my hatred of drugs. They ruined her, and I hope that readers can learn from her mistakes. Thank you, Janice Erlbaum, for sharing your story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan Bazzett-Griffith

    A fantastically solid memoir-- intense and dark w/out being depressing. This book is filled with uncannily real accounts of the high school drug culture, but rather than making that the focus of the book, Janice Erlbaum makes it merely the backdrop (a fascinating backdrop, nonetheless), whereas the focus of the book is really on her journey of unfortunate/dysfunctional circumstances, typical and terrible, but often sympathetically so, adolescent choices, and finding a place of peace and strength A fantastically solid memoir-- intense and dark w/out being depressing. This book is filled with uncannily real accounts of the high school drug culture, but rather than making that the focus of the book, Janice Erlbaum makes it merely the backdrop (a fascinating backdrop, nonetheless), whereas the focus of the book is really on her journey of unfortunate/dysfunctional circumstances, typical and terrible, but often sympathetically so, adolescent choices, and finding a place of peace and strength in her young life. I loved the realistic portrait she creates of her young self-- its frank, and at times ugly, but always real and never so wince-worthy that you want to stop reading to recover from a particular chapter or scene. Great writer, great memoir.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    I was quite surprised at the ease in which I became attached to the main character Janice. Her character is written with such feeling and emotion that the reader feels as if they are right there with her. At times I felt like I was one of her friends and I desperately wanted to give her advice about the choices she was making. I will say, although the main subject matter still exists, I’m not sure the current young adult reader would be able to follow all of the 80s/90s references. I teach high I was quite surprised at the ease in which I became attached to the main character Janice. Her character is written with such feeling and emotion that the reader feels as if they are right there with her. At times I felt like I was one of her friends and I desperately wanted to give her advice about the choices she was making. I will say, although the main subject matter still exists, I’m not sure the current young adult reader would be able to follow all of the 80s/90s references. I teach high school students, so I enjoyed the story of this high school girl - and the time period it took place in because I grew up at the same time. With that, I couldn’t help but wonder if it can be relatable to today’s youth because of the time period. Besides that, this was incredibly well written with beautiful figurative language sprinkled throughout. I can’t wait to read, “Have You Found Her” next!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily Smith

    Pros: - a quick read. I read this all in a day which is not something I do often. - captivating beginning. - well written. Cons: - the first half of the story was much better than the second in my opinion. It was written about her years in high school which unfortunately made it a bit juvenile. I wasn’t looking to read about teenagers having sex- but hey, no judgment on that issue. I just didn’t think that 1/2 of the book would be about her boyfriends and shitty best friends. - repetitive topics. Pros: - a quick read. I read this all in a day which is not something I do often. - captivating beginning. - well written. Cons: - the first half of the story was much better than the second in my opinion. It was written about her years in high school which unfortunately made it a bit juvenile. I wasn’t looking to read about teenagers having sex- but hey, no judgment on that issue. I just didn’t think that 1/2 of the book would be about her boyfriends and shitty best friends. - repetitive topics. I didn’t feel like the story unfolded, everything just kind of happened.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Daniela isabel

    A girl named Janice who at a young age ends up living in a shelter with a few other girls. Her relationship with her mom is terrible since she perfers her troublesome boyfriends over her daughter. Mother and daughter relationship seems as a roller coaster. Janice goes threw the struggles of deciding what her next steps would be, although she chooses some paths that led her to a lot of drug usage and sex.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marin Felsoci

    Janice, a girl who fought for shelter every night since the age of fifteen, had to overcome many obstacles throughout her years on her own. She had been beaten on the streets of New York and nearly killed multiple times. Janice lived an unbearable home life before leaving at the hands of her creepy stepfather who was quick to raise his hand to her. It was not a healthy environment for her to live in. After running away, she was forced to become an adult overnight. She had to provide for herself Janice, a girl who fought for shelter every night since the age of fifteen, had to overcome many obstacles throughout her years on her own. She had been beaten on the streets of New York and nearly killed multiple times. Janice lived an unbearable home life before leaving at the hands of her creepy stepfather who was quick to raise his hand to her. It was not a healthy environment for her to live in. After running away, she was forced to become an adult overnight. She had to provide for herself if she wanted food or shelter to survive. Janice and her two best friends found themselves wrapped up in drugs, sleeping with each others boyfriends, and making poor life choices. This book was difficult to read but intriguing, and made me want to read more. I wanted to find out more about her life as an adult and where she would end up. Within Erlbaum’s book, the running theme is the lack of discipline and guidance in the main character’s life. When she and her friends made mistakes that got them into trouble they did not learn from them. They had no one to teach them right from wrong. They did not have that parent figure or role model to look up to in order to help guide them through life. I appreciated how the author showed the characters growing up on their own without adults, but with the help of others in the same situation. The perspective she writes it in is about growing up in a homeless shelter environment full of hostility, instability and boredom. It can also be a place of no judgement and acceptance because everyone is in the same stage in life, living on the edge. I had trouble relating to how Janice did not learn from her mistakes and let them continue to happen again and again. Drugs and sex was just a way of life for her because she saw everyone around her doing it. There were no boundaries, nothing off limits, no rules. Therefor, Girlbomb can be a frustrating read in this mode. Living this lifestyle, she has nothing to strive for and no goals to push herself to reach. Survival is the only thing she knows. This is definitely a good read and it keeps you wondering what is going to happen next. For me, it is a completely different lifestyle than anything I have ever known or hope to ever know. Reading about a much darker side of life that I know is “normal” to so many is tough to think about.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Let me first encourage you to have your socks knocked off by Janice Earlbaum's Girlbomb. I can't believe I'd never heard of it before. It's unputdownable and brilliant in that slightly-voyeuristic-account-of-a-fucked-up-but-really-cool-scenester adolescence; it's basically Basketball Diaries for women, although Janice keeps far enough above water that her teenage depravity is not awkwardly unbearable, unlike in the Jim Caroll. Janice is a teenager in New York in the eighties and she has all the Let me first encourage you to have your socks knocked off by Janice Earlbaum's Girlbomb. I can't believe I'd never heard of it before. It's unputdownable and brilliant in that slightly-voyeuristic-account-of-a-fucked-up-but-really-cool-scenester adolescence; it's basically Basketball Diaries for women, although Janice keeps far enough above water that her teenage depravity is not awkwardly unbearable, unlike in the Jim Caroll. Janice is a teenager in New York in the eighties and she has all the drugs (except heroin, meaning that the book ends on a hopeful tone and not, as in the Jim Caroll, with the autobiographist shivering in an alley). Janice also has all the freedom, after she runs away from home. Her mom's series of bad boyfriends culminates in a creeper named Dave, and Janice gets out before anything horrible happens and goes straight to a crazy shelter, from where she's transferred to a middle-class group home. All the money she can steal from her snack bar job goes to drugs that she can share with her girly friends, who aren't that great. There's one passage where her two best friends are sobbing and telling her about subway ride back from Coney Island with their guy friends and one of them stuck his head out the train window and hit a pole and he fell back into the train, bleeding, with his fractured skull and he's in a coma and Janice is thinking, "What the hell? They went to Coney Island without me?" When cocaine comes to New York, Janice is living with a bartender who can get it easy and she rockets up the popularity ladder because she's the high school girl with the coke, and then plummets because her friends are sick of her high all the time and cutting their coke with talcum powder. She nearly dies, cheats on the bartender with the guy she had a crush on last year, moves back in with her mom, and goes off to college. http://surfeitofbooks.blogspot.com/20...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Apsey-Barres

    Wow - I was completely blown away by this memoir. This is one of my favorite books. I had no idea what to expect when I picked it up. I got it at work from someone who was getting rid of some books and she just laid them out as a first come, first served style of giving them away. I don't remember the date I began reading it; it was April 2011? May 2011? I don't remember. Regardless I thoroughly enjoyed reading this - it turned out to be a great story, the kind of story that, afterwards, I came Wow - I was completely blown away by this memoir. This is one of my favorite books. I had no idea what to expect when I picked it up. I got it at work from someone who was getting rid of some books and she just laid them out as a first come, first served style of giving them away. I don't remember the date I began reading it; it was April 2011? May 2011? I don't remember. Regardless I thoroughly enjoyed reading this - it turned out to be a great story, the kind of story that, afterwards, I came away feeling really grateful that the author decided to share her story about her life. Truly a page-turner; I could not put it down. I think I finished this book over a weekend, which is rare and the only other time I did that with a book was with Twilight - although this book is hardly a fair comparison to that one. First off, this book is a memoir, not a vampire novel. This is not for the faint-of-heart, not for moms of young children who really don't want to know what real life is like (you'll be horrified, stay in your fantasy world, please), especially not life on the streets, although I highly recommend this to moms of teenagers. Especially moms in bad relationships where you find your daughter/son running away a lot: YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK, if you want to know what your son/daughter is (possibly) up to. This book is about abuse: the drug kind and the relationship kind. It's very gritty, very raw, but the author is so talented in the way she presents this life that I believe one gets an accurate picture of what she went through. I became Jan's biggest cheerleader - I really, really, really wanted to see her win in the end! Does she? Well, you'll have to read the book to find out, but you should not read this book because of the way it ends: it's just a great story. Period. Thank you Janice Erlbaum!

  21. 4 out of 5

    stephanie

    oh, to be young in new york in the late eighties . . . when all the coke you could ever want was just waiting for you in washington square park. yet another tale of a girl-gone-bad, but written later in her life, so her self-awareness is refreshing. i found myself rooting for her to get her act together with the simulatenous dread that she was going to repeat those same mistakes endlessly. (i was usually right.) i hated her friends for her, i hated her stepfather, but i loved her poor mother, an oh, to be young in new york in the late eighties . . . when all the coke you could ever want was just waiting for you in washington square park. yet another tale of a girl-gone-bad, but written later in her life, so her self-awareness is refreshing. i found myself rooting for her to get her act together with the simulatenous dread that she was going to repeat those same mistakes endlessly. (i was usually right.) i hated her friends for her, i hated her stepfather, but i loved her poor mother, and i think jan really did too. ultimately, it's a story of running away and coming back and what "home" means. it's about growing up young when you aren't forced to, it's about being the one that never fits. and somehow, she found her way. i really liked it. the writing was strong and not overly victimizing. everyone seemed to be given a fair shake. good, but not great.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    So many memoirs like this one degenerate into a sickly sweet mess, as the author tries to make herself look like the Polly Purebred victim so that the reader can sigh and feel oh-so-sorry, and whee, nice catharsis for everyone. Yawn. But Erlbaum avoids all that. She doesn't spare herself her own critical eye, and I'm damned if I didn't come out liking her a lot for all her faults. She also avoids sensationalizing and exaggerating her own story -- the other common trap of adolescent memoirs -- so So many memoirs like this one degenerate into a sickly sweet mess, as the author tries to make herself look like the Polly Purebred victim so that the reader can sigh and feel oh-so-sorry, and whee, nice catharsis for everyone. Yawn. But Erlbaum avoids all that. She doesn't spare herself her own critical eye, and I'm damned if I didn't come out liking her a lot for all her faults. She also avoids sensationalizing and exaggerating her own story -- the other common trap of adolescent memoirs -- so that this memoir rings very true. Even if you feel sort of tapped out on memoirs, I'd recommend picking this one up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Zampetti

    Erlbaum's gritty memoir of her high school years belongs to the same genre as Piece of Cake, A Million Little Pieces (assuming hers is true and not "enhanced"), and so on. Gritty, deeply depressing, Erlbaum's prose is vivid enough to leave the reader feeling hungover and strung out along with her. Unfortunately, the endless waves of description of drugs, sex, and a small dose of rock'n'roll leave the reader wondering if the experience was worth it. Erlbaum offers glimpses that the unending tide Erlbaum's gritty memoir of her high school years belongs to the same genre as Piece of Cake, A Million Little Pieces (assuming hers is true and not "enhanced"), and so on. Gritty, deeply depressing, Erlbaum's prose is vivid enough to leave the reader feeling hungover and strung out along with her. Unfortunately, the endless waves of description of drugs, sex, and a small dose of rock'n'roll leave the reader wondering if the experience was worth it. Erlbaum offers glimpses that the unending tide of slime is an ironic means of conveying her teenage ennui and mindless search for self, but except for the very end, there's little sense of any epiphany or understanding.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Hiester

    I picked this up because I love memoirs, I was a teen in the 80’s and I did spend some time in NYC. Girlbomb is a true story of a teenager in 1980s NYC that leaves home because her mother takes back her violently abuse spouse. The author recreates that hectic life she has experienced in her mother's home while living in shelters and group homes. It was fun to read, but I did have a problem with how her one-night stands and serious drug abuse were basically revered. There is no salvation at the e I picked this up because I love memoirs, I was a teen in the 80’s and I did spend some time in NYC. Girlbomb is a true story of a teenager in 1980s NYC that leaves home because her mother takes back her violently abuse spouse. The author recreates that hectic life she has experienced in her mother's home while living in shelters and group homes. It was fun to read, but I did have a problem with how her one-night stands and serious drug abuse were basically revered. There is no salvation at the end and I'm left to wonder if the author has ever found a place that she belongs. 3 Stars

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    What a life this woman had as a teenager. Although I can't relate to anything she has gone through (which is for the best), I still found the book interesting. So much drugs, sex and craziness, I'm glad to see she made it through alive (barely at times!). She must be doing well today (since she wrote this memoir and works with homeless teenagers now). Thanks Morgan for letting me borrow it! What a life this woman had as a teenager. Although I can't relate to anything she has gone through (which is for the best), I still found the book interesting. So much drugs, sex and craziness, I'm glad to see she made it through alive (barely at times!). She must be doing well today (since she wrote this memoir and works with homeless teenagers now). Thanks Morgan for letting me borrow it!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maggie S

    This was such an interesting book and at times I caught myself wondering how it could be based on true events. The main character Janice, who is also the author, did an amazing job keeping the reader interested. Every time I started to read it I couldn't stop myself. It gave me such a different perspective on a teenagers life and the hardships some of us go through. I wish there was more to read! This was such an interesting book and at times I caught myself wondering how it could be based on true events. The main character Janice, who is also the author, did an amazing job keeping the reader interested. Every time I started to read it I couldn't stop myself. It gave me such a different perspective on a teenagers life and the hardships some of us go through. I wish there was more to read!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    I read this after "Have You Found Her" by the same author. It's a quick read, the author's account of her years as a teenage runaway. For those of us who still cringe at memories of high school -trying to be popular, illicit drug use, and hooking up with guys we didn't care for may want to skip this book. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable way to spend a snow day. I read this after "Have You Found Her" by the same author. It's a quick read, the author's account of her years as a teenage runaway. For those of us who still cringe at memories of high school -trying to be popular, illicit drug use, and hooking up with guys we didn't care for may want to skip this book. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable way to spend a snow day.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie

    I had a hard time putting this book down, the author wrote in such an easy-going manner. I admire this author and hope to hear more from her.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeannie

    I had a hard time putting this book down, the author wrote in such an easy-going manner. I admire this author and hope to hear more from her.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peacegal

    I truly enjoyed this look into the author’s life. As so many of my patrons at the library have hard-luck lives such as the author’s, I found Erlbaum’s memoir intriguing.

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