Being thirteen is never easy, but it's worse when your father's an alcoholic.

At 2:35 in the morning, when normal fathers are in bed asleep, Samantha's father staggers in the front door, breaks a vase, and ends up face down in a plate of cold lasagna. And when he finally gets upstairs, she can hear the thud as he stumbles and hits something solid in the hallway, before lurching into his bedroom, demanding that her mother get him an ice pack. She knows that the next morning there will be bruises on his face, his shin, his elbow, and he won't remember how they got there. He won't remember anything. He never does.

But it's not just his drinking. It's the lying, the hiding, the sneaking around. She can't tell anyone about her dad, not even her best friends. That means no sleepovers at her house, not telling anyone what life is like at home after her father gets home from work. She never knows what's going to happen—one moment calm, the next, cussing, slamming doors, and throwing things. That's what life's like when your dad would rather drink than breathe.

The worst part of it all is that she doesn't have anyone to talk to, no one she can tell how horrible life has gotten. Then one day, when she can't stand it anymore, she writes a note, and looks for the right person to give it to. She's at the library, and there's a high school girl named Juliet who has red hair and a sense of humor. Maybe she can be the big sister Sam needs. She leaves the note in the study carrel Juliet always uses and hopes for the best. The next day she gets a note back, and the conversation on paper begins. But it's not from Juliet. It's from someone called A.J.K., who has just as many parent problems as Sam does. Sam's broken her promise to keep her father's secret. But can that broken promise make a difference when her dad's a lush, her mom is in denial, and her baby brother will have to spend the rest of his life with a scar that cuts his face in half?

This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian, and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.