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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. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

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

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ 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 my 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

  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. 5 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 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

    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.

  6. 4 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 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. 4 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 4 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 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 4 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 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 5 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!

  14. 4 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.

  15. 5 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.

  16. 4 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...

  17. 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!

  18. 5 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, 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 4 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.

  21. 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 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

  22. 5 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 5 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    K

    What a crazy roller coaster ride this book is. I cheer for Janice and worried for her and wanted to shake her...sometimes all at once.

  28. 5 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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I was torn between giving Girlbomb a high rating because of it’s grittiness and honesty. The low rating would’ve been because I really got sick of seeing this girl self-destruct over and over again. So I compromised. When I was a preteen, my mom broke up a couple of friendships that I had gained. I was furious! How dare she presume to choose my friends! Who was she to decide who was a good friend or a bad friend? A good person or a bad person? She didn’t know my friends as I did. She didn’t know I was torn between giving Girlbomb a high rating because of it’s grittiness and honesty. The low rating would’ve been because I really got sick of seeing this girl self-destruct over and over again. So I compromised. When I was a preteen, my mom broke up a couple of friendships that I had gained. I was furious! How dare she presume to choose my friends! Who was she to decide who was a good friend or a bad friend? A good person or a bad person? She didn’t know my friends as I did. She didn’t know anything! Well, I came to appreciate her choices. I’m not saying she was always right, but she knew that when you are young, peer pressure is at its greatest. It’s kind of a choice between wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out. One way to do both just to be getting in with your friends while standing out, with the security of your friends around you. So you basically do what they do. The really big problem is drugs. You can see in this book what they do. You can see what happens to these people, these young people in their teens. You can see how they die. You can see how their lives will be completely and forever screwed up until they die. And now… there is the intimate Internet. Any future employer for any job you strive for, any future friends and any person you’d maybe like to see a future with, can just look at what you’ve done and what you’ve been. Very few, like Janice, can come out of it whole. And not everybody has the cards stacked against him when they’re so young. So you think you’re safe? The drugs can happen to anyone. Read about the situation from the other side of the tracks. The book is titled, In My Skin: A Memoir. If you’re with a group that does drugs, enjoys being the rule breakers gets a kick out of being known as the bad boys and bad girls in school and being able to hook up with whoever you feel like at the moment, you’d best look around. Instead of thinking where you’re going to get your next hit of X or coke, you might want to think about what you’ll be doing and just five or 10 short years. And believe me, those years fly. Do you want to be working on some no-where job where you have to skim off the top just to get the drugs that make you feel good? You want to be in some dirty falling-down, roach-infested apartment where you can’t get warm in the winter and sweat all summer? There’s a leak in the ceiling, or the basement, the toilet is always getting stuffed up and at 3 o’clock AM you’re listening to your neighbors fighting and screaming on the other side of the thin wall. If you want to walk to the 7-Eleven or Coke or a pack of cigarettes or the local Mickey D’s at eleven o’clock, you have to keep eyes everywhere so you don’t get mugged and raped. And maybe you’ll still get raped and killed. Caught in a drive-by. Maybe you’d rather be driving a nice car that doesn’t look like a heap to a nice warm or air-conditioned place in a pretty good neighborhood. You can have parties where some people get a little toasted but nobody’s throwing up in the bathroom or having sex on your bed. You know that keeping your life in line is worth having a life that’s safe and comfortable with good friends. Not someone who tries to keep you sane and alive when you’re freaked out on an overdose of drugs but someone you can confide your joys and sorrows to knowing that they’re not going to roll their eyes and smirk behind your back. And you’ll be where you can meet smart men that aren’t total losers. Believe me, there are far too many 60-year-old McDonald’s burger flippers that look like they’re 80 and will have to work till they die just to keep that drafty apartment and food on the table. All in all this book is a manual on what not to do.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karie

    I’m reading more biographies & memoirs than I ever used to – and with each one – I feel more and more odd writing a review. What exactly am I reviewing? The author’s life or how s/he sees their life – or simply the writing style? It’s not like I can comment on the plot or the characters…they are what they are. Which, of course, does not stop me from reading about people’s lives… I think I am at a point in my life where fact is becoming far more interesting (and yes, stranger) than fiction. So I’m reading more biographies & memoirs than I ever used to – and with each one – I feel more and more odd writing a review. What exactly am I reviewing? The author’s life or how s/he sees their life – or simply the writing style? It’s not like I can comment on the plot or the characters…they are what they are. Which, of course, does not stop me from reading about people’s lives… I think I am at a point in my life where fact is becoming far more interesting (and yes, stranger) than fiction. So then – to a truncated and rather unsure review: I spent most of the book yelling at Erlbaum in my head, because as the mother of a young girl, I didn’t want her to make the choices she was making. (This yelling was muffled by the fact that I’ve read Erlbaum’s follow up book, “Have You Found Her?” and know what comes next for the author.) Then again, I certainly can’t blame her for her choices…she was in a terrible situation at home, and given the fighting and violence that surrounded her, who’s to say running away wasn’t the best thing she could have done. There are parts, too, where I wanted to be standing next to her, agreeing with the craziness of the situation. At 15, Erlbaum was constantly being blamed by her mother and later, social workers, for not fixing situations that were clearly not of her own making. When Erlbaum is told that her mother is pregnant with her abusive ex-boyfriend’s child, she listens in shock as her mother tells her, “The fact is that Dave and I are going to have a baby and we are going to try and be a family.” She sounded like she was speaking from notes. “Now we’ve talked about getting couples therapy, and that’s definitely something we’re going to think about. But for right now, I want you to pitch in a little more and help us all get along better.” This coming from a mother who’s already worked out with her daughter when it’s OK to call the cops in the middle of a fight and when it’s not. Charming. Who’s the adult there? Again and again, Erlbaum is forced to decide whether or not her mother can be trusted, if THIS TIME things will be different. Her thoughts at times like these are such a heart-rending mix of scared little girl and world-weary adult. “I could not possibly be falling for this again. I was like Charlie Brown and the football. Like a duckling who could never be retrained, I would waddle straight off a cliff, following her. She threw away your clothes when you left home, it said on my index card. She told Poulos you were insane. She’s done this to you eight hundred times already.” So I feel a great deal of empathy for her…but because I come from a different life than hers, I can’t get my mind around the HUGE amount of drugs she does. I just shake my head as the pot turns into cocaine, that turns into PCP, that turns into Ecstasy…. Again, I didn’t have the life she did, I didn’t grow up in New York, live in a shelter… I guess at the end of the day, I can just hang on for the ride, and be grateful it was her life and not mine…and be glad that I know she became a stronger person for living through what she did. I guess the only other thing I can say is that I never really found out, in either of Janice Erlbaum’s books, what finally made her stronger. What made her give up the REALLY bad drugs and what finally made her stop smoking pot…and what gave her the strength to make better choices? I feel like I know where she came from and where she ended up (at least as of now)…but I’m missing something in the middle. I know the What and the How…but not the why. But – who’s to say that’s any of my business. It’s not my life, after all…

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