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Young Adult Fiction Coming Of Age

Cleaning Up

by (author) Leanne Lieberman

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Apr 2023
Coming of Age, Homelessness & Poverty, Girls & Women
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 13 to 18
  • Grade: 7 to 12


Jess finds a secret diary and imagines what it would be like to be a girl who has everything. Will she become so wrapped up in someone else’s life that she misses a chance to create her own?

Jess cleans houses to save money for college, because her dad — unemployed and off the wagon yet again — has moved the two of them out of the city into a decrepit borrowed tent and trailer. Jess wavers between anger at her father and fear that poverty and addiction may be her fate, too, and she decides she will do whatever it takes to avoid it.

She gets a gig cleaning a gorgeous country home and discovers the trashed bedroom of the teenaged daughter, Quinn. Jess wonders how a girl with a perfect life – private school, horseback riding – could have wrecked such a beautiful room. As she cleans, she finds troubling clues – including, tucked behind the bed, a diary.

Gradually Jess learns that Quinn’s life is not what it’s supposed to be. Jess begins to imagine becoming friends with Quinn, and when she begins to write down a new story for Quinn, she risks turning her back on the opportunities that are right in front of her – new friends, new interests, a fresh beginning.


Key Text Features

biographical note



journal entries

About the author

LEANNE LIEBERMAN is the author of five young adult novels, including The Most Dangerous Thing, Gravity (Sydney Taylor Notable), The Book of Trees and Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust (Sydney Taylor Notable and Bank Street Best Book). Her adult fiction has been published in New Quarterly, Descant, Fireweed, the Antigonish Review and Grain. She’s a schoolteacher in Kingston, Ontario.

Leanne Lieberman's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Cleaning Up is an engaging read, keeping the central mystery as a thread connecting Jess to new people and places over the summer while also allowing readers to see Jess grow over the course of the book.

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

Jess's situation and the decisions she must make will be familiar to many teens.

School Library Connection

Cleaning Up introduces teens to the fact that we need to practice empathy towards others, as we don’t know what they might be experiencing privately.

Canadian Children’s Book News

Strongly recommended for YA collections.

School Library Journal

Teen readers (especially diary writers) will enjoy the tension as Jess fights for a better life.

Winnipeg Free Press

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