At twelve-and-a-half, Samantha Gold needs braces, though not yet a bra (""My body hadn't grown but unfortunately my teeth had""). Starting junior high, she is shy and scared. An awkward try to make potential boyfriend Lenny Marshall notice her misfires, and she loses him to Jessica Farley, seventh-grade popularity queen. Discouraged, Samantha bows out prematurely from an election campaign she later realizes she could have won. These troubles are compounded by her conflict with her mother. Mom ""who can understand every kid in the world except me,"" has been a children's author; now, with fanfare and a feature in People magazine, her first adult novel is published--Together Again, a sexy exposÃ‰ of a town just like Millburn, N.J., where the Golds live. Friends and neighbors, even Samantha's father, are pained and outraged as they recognize themselves; Samantha's friends titter over purple pages; Samantha would like to move away (preferably to another planet), kicks Together Again across the room, and wonders, ""How come she [Mom] didn't think about how I would feel when the book came out?"" Because ""All she thought about was herself. . . ."" Well, Samantha does think about other people. With insight gained from having quit the campaign too soon, she prevents friend Janey from making a similar mistake; she participates feelingly in another friend, Sue Ellen's, Bat Mitzvah; and in preparing her speech for her own Bat Mitzvah (which her mother has been too distracted to help plan), she selects a telling passage from Proverbs about a true ""woman of valour""--thereby rousing the mother from her self-absorption to do some belated growing up. This is all very breezily told--by awakening Sam--but it's closely attuned to the customs and rituals of junior-high society and devastating on the consequences of writing a roman Ã clef.