Authors: Kristen D. Randle
“The thick wall an abused teenager builds between himself and the world is penetrated at last by an extraordinary pair of friends … Smitty's slow, agonizing recovery is convincingly handled…but the real strength of this book lies in the complex, sensitively drawn relationships … A strong book with healing at the end, memorable for its spirited friendships and unpreachy soul-searching.”
“The overall impact of this psychological novel is so powerful.”
“As Smitty is pulled reluctantly from his protective silence, his bizarre and painful past is revealed and the novel becomes utterly compelling…totally satisfying. A fast-moving, unusual contemporary romance that should have great appeal.”
—School Library Journal
“Ginny's first-person confessional draws readers right in and brings them to a satisfying, hopeful conclusion.”
“Smitty is totally honest and caring—a very romantic figure.”
“In this compelling tale of friendship, we learn of the horrors of sibling abuse and the 'specialness' of true friendship.”
“An inside look at a 'good' family gone bad.”
—The ALAN Review
“This intelligently, if sentimentally, handled tale should appeal to readers who bask in the heat of a good emotional crisis.”
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Powerful and moving, a book that I've read over and over again.”
“This is one of those books that you read and reread.”
“This is one of those books that you have to finish before you turn out the light at night.”
“It's my favorite book of all time.”
“I've read this book too many times to count.”
“An engaging page-turner.”
“A very touching story!”
“This book has helped me get through some rough times in my life.”
“Anyone would enjoy reading this book, especially people who feel left out.”
“I stayed up all night to get to the end.”
“A truly thought-provoking, intense, and emotional book.”
“The most powerful book I've ever read.”
Copyright © 1995, 2009 by Kristen D. Randle
Cover and internal design © 2009 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Tim Green/The DesignWorksGroup
Cover image © sdominick/iStockphoto.com
Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the publisher.
Printed and bound in the United States of America
VP 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
he first time I ever saw Smitty Tibbs, I was having one of the worst days of my life. Truth—up till then, I'd been a happy person—happy, cheerful, confident, easy going, reasonably popular even. Well-adjusted, in other words. Everything in my life had always been so balanced, so friendly, so
And then my brother Paul, probably my best friend in the world, up and left for college. It was the biggest shock I'd ever had.
This should not be a big surprise for you,
he'd said to me. And he was right. It's just, I wasn't ready for it, somehow, and the reality ended up hitting me in the face like a bucket of ice water. I couldn't figure out how Paul had all of a sudden gotten so old. When I said that very thing to my mother a couple of months ago, she pointed out that I just happened to be starting
last year of high school, talk about people growing up.
I wish she had said anything but that.
We've always had this tight little family: my three brothers, me, and our two parents. My mom'd had us kids in five and a half years' worth of marathon pregnancy. (“I always wanted you guys to be close,” she says now. “Just don't ask me to do it again.”) So living in our house had been a little like being raised in some kind of crazy boys' dorm.
We'd always lived in the same house, in a middle-sized town where everybody who counted knew our names, in the West where there are always great sunsets and never any winter. All of my friends I'd known since kindergarten. Everything well ordered, solid, and wholesome—constant as the earth under your feet.
Too darned comfy,
Paul would say.
It never even crossed my mind that things could ever change; I just figured we'd go on that way forever—always, always, always, as natural as breathing. Stupid kid that I was, I thought it was just Life.
But I've gotta go,
Paul had said.
The only way to get things to stand still is for us all to die at the same time. And I don't think we're going to be into that.
So, he paid his tuition, packed up—it was like the ground fell out from under me, and I didn't know where I was anymore. Actually, I was right about that; I'd been living in a beautiful dream that was coming to an awful, sickening end.
A month and a half before Paul actually departed for the Mysterious Beyond, my dad comes out with this announcement: “The good old ancestral air is going a little stale. I think, dear family, we need a little stirring up.”
And what, exactly, did he mean by that? I'll tell you what he meant: he intended to sell our good old house and move us thousands of miles
“I promise you
…” he says, like he's performing some kind of great magic, “…
. A House with a Fireplace. New
. Fresh Blood. My children— this may very well be our
“What about the stuff we've already got?” I pointed out. “What about
faces? What about
norms?” But the boys bought it. The boys would have bought snake oil too. My mother, on the other hand, is a stable, reasonable kind of person; she likes money in the bank and old friends and things of familial historical significance. I kept waiting for her to do something, to tell Dad this was the stupidest idea he'd ever had.
But no. She just sat there, smiling, while he stuck signs in our yard and signed papers and made us go through all the stuff in the attic.
And suddenly, there I was, Ginny Christianson, displaced person, sitting at a marked up desk a thousand miles from home, in the middle of a school filled with hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who didn't even know they didn't know me.
A new life,
Paul had said to me.
Built on the beautiful model of the old one. Take hold, old Gin. Attack it the way you would a wild windmill.
Nobody in this place was talking to me. Nobody needed me. Nobody even knew I was there.
I was totally alone for the first time in my life.
And I really hated the way it felt.
I decided then and there—no Great Adventure is worth this kind of pain. No new life is worth demoting the old one to Beautiful Model. No Great Adventure will ever be worth the price. I swore to myself, feeling a lot like Scarlett O'Hara,
I'll never go wandering again
. Give me a safe, warm hearthside and comfortable, old furniture; give me familiar, beloved faces—definitely, I am a fan of the Known and Constant Universe.
In a desperate bid for sanity, I told myself,
This is the first day of school for all these people; everybody's got to be a little off-balance.
I could hear Paul telling me,
Never, never make the mistake of thinking you're the only alien on the planet.
But that's exactly the way I did feel—different desks, different schedule, halls and halls and halls that all looked the same to me. Everybody else knew their way around. I might as well have been a million light years from home.
Then, all of a sudden, this girl across the aisle—one of those very cute, totally secure looking people; somebody like I might have been, myself, once, in another life—smiled at me. “I don't know your face,” she said to me. “You a transfer? Or did you just move in?”
“Just moved in,” I said, hoping my mouth didn't look as rubbery and stupid as it felt. It was like I was hearing my own voice from the outside, and I didn't sound natural.
“I hate being new,” she said, commiserating. “You just feel so—off register, you know what I mean?”
The image was lost on me, but I was pretty sure I knew what she meant, so I smiled, and she smiled, and things began to seem not so utterly desolate.
“I'm Hally,” she told me.
“My name's Ginny,” I answered, still sounding like a total nebbish.
But Hally didn't seem to notice. She was too busy asking me stuff—where I was from and what I liked to do. She finally hauled out her schedule and made me show her mine. As it happened, they turned out to match almost exactly.
She glanced over my shoulder and started to grin. “Not a bad start,” she whispered to me. “Scott Holyoak's over there giving you the eye.”
“Is that good?” I whispered back.
“Ain't bad,” she laughed. “Yep. He's interested, all right.”
So, of course, I glanced back over my shoulder, and that was the first time I saw Smitty Tibbs.
Just then the bell rang and the teacher came through the door. I never got the pleasure of embarrassing Scott Holyoak. I never even saw him. It was the boy in the far corner of the front row that caught me by the eyes and made me forget just about everything else in the world. This unearthly, beautiful boy.