By Lois Lowry. Published 1984.
Anastasia has freaked Awesome Mom out. She’s brought home a pair of gerbils she’s named Romeo and Juliet. Awesome Mom just calls them rodents, and won’t even look at them. Anastasia intends to mate them and have that be her science project.
Because they are being kept in Anastasia’s room, Awesome Mom will no longer go in there to clean, so she leaves a note on the vacuum cleaner telling Anastasia to do it herself. Anastasia thinks this is unfair, and also embarrassing. In fact, she thinks a lot of things about her mother are embarrassing lately. So she informs Awesome Mom that she is going through menopause. Awesome Mom points out that all Anastasia’s friends are also embarrassed by their own mothers, and it’s just because they’re all thirteen, it’s what happens with all the hormones.
Anastasia’s not too sure about this, and decides she needs to see a shrink. Awesome Dad asks her all sorts of questions about her mental health, including if she has any sexual problems. He’s hilarious. Awesome Parents say she can’t go to a shrink, she doesn’t need it, and they can’t afford it anyway. Awesome Dad gives her a book of Freud to read instead.
Poor Sam is being bullied at school by a kid named Nicky, who is a biter. Awesome Mom wants to call Nicky’s mother, but Awesome Dad thinks the kids should work it out themselves.
Anastasia goes to a garage sale with her friends, and gets hit in the head by a bust of Freud. So she buys him, and declares that she has a psychiatrist. She talks over her problems with him.
When she gets home, both of her hamsters have given birth, so she now has a grand total of eleven.
Anastasia has the idea to invite Nicky and his mother over, so Nicky’s mother can see the abuse for herself. When they get there, they discover that Nicky is actually a girl, and really is a holy terror. She wreaks havoc in every room of the house. But her mother just ignores it, throws out some empty threats, and calls Nicky hyperactive. When they’re finally gone, Anastasia discovers that Nicky made it in to her room, too, and all eleven hamsters are loose in the house.
Over the next month, Anastasia and Sam somehow manage to wrangle all the hamsters up. They even let Awesome Dad in on it. Anastasia notes for her science project that gerbils can cause you severe emotional problems, and that this was a traumatic experience. Talking things over with Freud, she decides he would give the gerbils to someone he hated, but Anastasia doesn’t think she hates anyone that much. She also decides all her psychiatric counseling helped her adjust to her parents, and all her hormones are gone.
Sam comes home with a note saying Nicky has broken both legs, and will be out of school for six weeks, and would probably appreciate cards and gifts. Sam says he’s going to send her dog poop.
Awesome Mom finds a piece of paper that Sam was typing, and it’s clear evidence that there are eleven gerbils, and they were on the loose. Anastasia assures her they’re all caught, but Awesome Mom demands that she get rid of them. Anastasia says she would, but she’s not sure how. Sam says he knows a way, and he thinks they would be a lovely present for Nicky. Awesome Dad says he would feel guilty about it, if she hadn’t torn a page out of his first edition Hemingway. I would have broken the kid’s legs myself.