What Erika Wants

Bruce Clements

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Drawing the line between what we want and what other people want for usA woman with a forehead full of acne scars and a New York edge to her voice crosses the courthouse floor with her hand out. “Erika? I’m your lawyer. Call me Jean. Can we talk?” You’re fourteen, with a play to try out for, a crazy best friend with a ton of money, a boy whom you can’t get out of your heart, and parents who hate each other and are dragging you through court in a custody case. You follow your lawyer to the elevator, and five minutes later you’re in her beat-up car and she’s asking you who you are and what you want. Why tell her the truth when right now all you want is space and time to figure it out for yourself without hurting the people you love?

Written in alternating points-of-view, Bruce Clements's What Erika Wants is a sharp and disarmingly understated novel that charts the course of a caring and careworn teenager who is discovering that the first step to breaking free of a bad situation is to realize she’s trapped in one.


Read an Excerpt

From What Erika Wants

"They're not going to hold it against Mom for bringing me, are they?" she asked. "It's just that she wanted me to see what was happening."
Jean reached her hand out but stopped before she touched her. "It's a simple misunderstanding about the rules. Judge Gifford saw what had happened, decided to assign me to you, and moved on to other things. It won't get in the way of the case. It can be helpful to have your own lawyer. You can call me day or night. I like to get calls from clients, and my husband can sleep through anything."
"Are most of them around


Praise for What Erika Wants

"A touching, realistic portrait...of a real girl emerging from a life controlled by others into the beginnings of a life of her own."  --Kirkus Reviews
"An honest novel.  Clements will no doubt help other teenagers find their own way in the world."  -- SIGNAL
"Clements...develops his plot with a craftsman's precision, allowing readers' understanding to evolve at the same rate as Erika's self-knowledge."  -- Booklist
"Readers will likely remember [Erika's] unassuming strength and root for her to find her own way."  --BCCB
"Clements tells a story of a young girl struggling to survive while caught in the 'wants' of others.  Lucky for Erika, she had Clements and a good lawyer to help her discover what she wants."  --VOYA
"The most compelling aspect of this book was the author's voice -- it pulled you in and didn't let go." --A YALSA Teen YA Galley Reader

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Bruce Clements

  • Bruce Clements is the author of I Tell a Lie Every So Often, a National Book Award Finalist, and its sequel, A Chapel of Thieves, which was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. The author is a board member of the Children’s Law Center of Connecticut, to which all royalties from this book will be donated.

  • Bruce Clements


Available Formats and Book Details

What Erika Wants

Bruce Clements

Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year
  • e-Book