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Authors: Laura Wiess

Ordinary Beauty

BOOK: Ordinary Beauty
11.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Praise for Laura Wiess and

“I don’t think I have loved a book as much as this one in a long time.”

—Reading Is Bliss

“Reading this elegantly written novel is like looking through a kaleidoscope with a different picture in every chapter.”


“Amazingly well-written . . . had me in tears more than I would like to admit.”

—My Book Views

“Wonderful and sad at the same time.”

—Chick with Books

How It Ends
just blew me away. . . . If you haven’t read any of Laura Wiess’s books, this one is the perfect place to start.”

—Katie’s Book Blog

“A unique coming-of-age tale that explores some of the most fundamental human bonds and experiences.”

—Book Soulmates


“Like her equally gripping debut, Wiess’s suspense story delivers an outsize jolt of adrenaline. . . . Although the ‘best friends against the world’ theme is not new, Wiess’s clear insight . . . and her layered storytelling bump up the subject to a much more challenging playing field.”

Publishers Weekly

“A riveting story. . . . I love this book.”

—Laura Fitzgerald, national bestselling author of
One True Theory of Love

“Dramatic and disturbing. . . . A captivating book that will keep you turning the pages.”

—Teens Read Too

“Reading Blair and Ardith’s story is like scratching a mosquito bite—you can’t stop scratching until it bleeds. And as much as it hurts, you won’t be able to put
down until you finish it.”



Chosen as one of the ALA’s 2008 Best Books for Young Adults and 2008 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers

“Brilliance comes in a small package. . . . In the character of Meredith, Laura Wiess has created a girl to walk alongside Harper Lee’s Scout and J. D. Salinger’s Phoebe.”

—Luanne Rice,
New York Times
bestselling author of
What Matters Most

Such a Pretty Girl
hooked me on page one, and Laura Wiess’s masterful prose kept me turning the pages. This is the first book in a very long time that made me say, ‘Wish I’d written this.’”

—Ellen Hopkins,
New York Times
bestselling author of

“Wiess has created a spunky heroine—tough, darkly humorous, yet achingly vulnerable. . . . A nail biter of an ending. [A] gutsy and effective thriller.”

Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

“A gritty, terrifying novel about a father’s abuse of power and trust. . . . A page-turner that ultimately sends a startling message of empowerment. . . . Extremely satisfying.”


“Powerful. . . . Mature teens who enjoy realistic fiction with an edge will devour it.”


“Strikes just the right balance between hope and despair, and Meredith’s will to survive and ability to take action in the face of her terror are an inspiration.”


Such a Pretty Girl
is a riveting novel and Meredith is a wholly original creation: a funny, wise, vulnerable girl with the heart of a hero and the courage of a warrior. This gut-wrenching story will stay with you long after you finish the last page.”

—Lisa Tucker, author of
The Promised World

“Beautifully written and painfully real. Laura Wiess has crafted a gripping story that is heart-rending—and important, with a capital ‘I.’”

—Barbara Delinsky,
New York Times
bestselling author of
More Than Friends

“Gritty yet poetic, gut-churning yet uplifting—a compelling, one-of-a-kind read.”

—A. M. Jenkins, author of
Night Road

“So suspenseful you’ll wish you’d taken a speed-reading course. But slow down, because to rush would mean missing Laura Wiess’s wonderfully precise language, her remarkable access to Meredith’s darkest emotions, and a shocker of an ending, which you’ll want to read twice.”

—Tara Altebrando, author of
What Happens Here

“Spellbinding tale. . . . We need more characters like Meredith in our world and more authors like Wiess to spin them into heartbreaking, enchanting heroines.”


These titles are also available as eBooks.

Also by Laura Wiess from MTV Books

How It Ends


Such a Pretty Girl

Gallery Books A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2011 by Laura Battyanyi Wiess

MTV Music Television and all related titles, logos, and characters are trademarks of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International Inc.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Gallery Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

First MTV Books/Gallery Books trade paperback edition June 2011

GALLERY BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or [email protected]

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

ISBN 978-1-4391-9396-9
ISBN 978-1-4391-9398-3 (ebook)

For Stew, with love,
For my sister Suzanne,
without whom my heart would be so lonely.

It’s always a pleasure to thank my agent Barry Goldblatt for his excellent advice and support, and my editor Jennifer Heddle for her guidance, insight, and her amazing ability to ask just the right questions. Working with you guys is the best.

A deep curtsy goes out to production editor John Paul Jones, copyeditor Victoria Mathews, publicist Erica Feldon, and art director Lisa Litwack, for lending their talent, skill and enthusiasm to the creation of this book.

Love and thanks to Sue Dial and Jane Russell Mowry, who were brave enough to read the first draft and report back, and to Bonnie Verrico, Wendy Gloffke and Shelley Sykes who were never too busy to offer support, or to listen to my writer’s angst.

Next time, ladies, the coffee’s on me.

Much love and thanks go to Stewart Russell for his support, patience, and especially his encouragement, which gave me the room and the freedom to disappear into this book and not come out again until I was done. It was exactly what I needed. I am truly a lucky girl.

And to my family—Barbara, Bill, Scott, Suzanne, and Paul—who have always been my rock solid foundation and the core of my heart: Thank you, forever.

Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.

—Maya Angelou

Betrayal, though . . . betrayal is the willful slaughter of hope.

—Steven Deitz

Ordinary Beauty
Chapter 1

in the morning is not the worst part of my life right now, which, since the road is nothing more than a mile-long rutted, frozen, unlit dead-end dirt track through the woods, really ought to say something.

I tuck the warm, grease-stained bag of leftovers close against me and train the dull beam of the flashlight on the uneven ground ahead, trudging past thick stands of barren trees and the hungry wild animals that slip like shadows among them.

What’s worse than the walk is the cold, and how the roaring wind hurls itself down the mountain, rattling branches, numbing skin, and pelting me with snow as hard and stinging as sand.

I nestle my chin lower into my jacket and plod on.

What’s worse is owing Marisol, the other busgirl, a lot of gas money for driving me eleven miles out of town and dropping me at the Route 40 intersection for the last eight nights, then having to walk another mile up the dirt road alone just to crash at Harlow Maltese’s dump of a trailer after ten straight hours of busing tables full of Dug County families together for the holidays. What’s worse is overhearing their laughter, watching them hug hello and kiss good-bye, seeing glowing couples holding hands, and friends talking for hours. Seeing all those townies and their kids home from college wearing their new Christmas clothes, spending money on appetizers and entrées and dessert and coffee, ordering exactly what they want and having it brought to them fresh and hot. What’s worse is that flash of recognition in their eyes as I pass with a blank face and an armload of their leavings, and their not-quite-quiet-enough,
Isn’t that Sayre Bellavia? You know, Dianne Huff’s kid?
And then the speaking looks that follow, the women sliding casual hands down the backs of their chairs to make sure their purses are still hanging there, the sudden calculated interest in the men’s sly, gleaming gazes.

What’s worse is busing a table of Bowden and his friends, and having him not look up at me once, even though we’d skipped school together the Monday before Christmas vacation started, gone over to Snö Mountain so he could ski and I could fall down all day like the rank amateur that I was. He’d paid for everything—my ski rental, lunch, a movie afterward—and then on the way home we’d parked in the deserted ball field outside town and he’d kissed me, sweet at first, then harder and crazier until the windows steamed up and there was nowhere left to go but the backseat.

Which is when I sat up, said it was late and that I had to get home. He laughed, not nicely at all, and said,
C’mon, Sayre, who do you think you’re kidding?
And I could feel myself go cold inside, and said,
What’s that supposed to mean?
And he looked away, ran a hand through his disheveled hair and said,
You know what it means. Don’t make me say it.
And with attitude in my voice I said,
No, go ahead, say whatever’s on your mind.
And he got mad at seeing the night end without a better return on his investment, I guess, and so without looking at me, said,
Nobody’s waiting for you anywhere.
And when I didn’t reply, just sat there numb and receding, he made an aggravated sound, started the car, and roared out of the ball park, taking me back to the dingy, low-roofed, four-room cabin where Candy, me, and my mother were staying.

What’s worse is that in Dug County your parentage is either your blessing or your brand, and the lines are drawn early. Their reputation becomes your reputation the moment you slide out into the world, your future charted and indelibly stamped with how high you’ll rise or how far you’ll fall, and no one will ever forget your beginning or be surprised by your end. Your reputation will cut and mold you, and its legacy, like your last name, will remain as constant as your shadow, always two steps ahead of you and one close step behind, and—

Something rustles in the dark woods beside me. I stop, heart pounding, tuck the bag of food farther under my arm, and run the quivering flashlight beam along the tree line. The shine catches a lone, golden-eyed bobcat, big and thick furred, tufted ears high and huge, clawed foot raised in midstep.

We stare at each other.

The bobcat’s nose twitches.

I shouldn’t do this, but it’s hungry and so I inch my hand down into the bag and slowly remove the first thing my fingers close around, which turns out to be a big, fatty wedge of pork. I flick my wrist and the greasy chunk of meat lands less than two feet in front of him. “Now go,” I say, voice hoarse.

The wind gusts, swirling my hair and ruffling its fur, but the cat doesn’t move.

Doesn’t even blink.

I keep the beam trained on its still, angular face and holding my breath, slowly walk backward up the road. After the eighth step, when there is distance between us, the bobcat snatches the pork, wheels, and vanishes into the night.

I exhale. Wipe my hands on the bag. Turn forward again, knees shaking, and catch my foot on a hump of frozen ground. Stumble but don’t fall. Was that a sound? I shine the light along the deserted wood line. No, just the wind. I’m all right. Bobcats don’t eat people, it’s too cold for bears and rattlesnakes, and the coyotes haven’t howled up here in a week, so just keep walking, Sayre. Don’t run. Prey runs. And watch your step. If you get hurt, you’re on your own.

What’s worse is that Bowden was right. There isn’t a person out there who would miss me if I was gone.

The wind howls, and high overhead the bare branches click like chattering teeth. I round the bend at the icy creek. Startled, three does snort in alarm and, white tails waving, break up the bank beside me. I scan the swaying tree trunks ahead, searching hard for the flat shaft of fluorescent light from Harlow’s kitchen window.


I find it, and keep moving. The snow stings my skin and peppers the bag of food, which is no longer warm. I smell the smoke from his woodstove, hear a faint snatch of music, and finally pass his mailbox bolted on top of an old truck axle. Head up the slope, skirt the broken-down riding mower, the three-legged chair, the piles of junk car parts, the cracked pink toilet, and the battered Kenmore washing machine anchored to the ground with ropes of bare vine, dormant honeysuckle. Switch off the flashlight to save what’s left of the batteries, then trip over an empty plastic flowerpot and switch it back on.


The light’s gone dead.

What’s worse isn’t knowing that Harlow will be drunk when I get there because when Harlow’s off his meds he’s
drunk, but that if it’s a mean drunk he’ll throw me out. No matter that he and my mother have been drinking buddies for a couple of years now, and he knows I don’t have anywhere else to go. No matter that I’ve barely slept since a furious Candy tracked me down six days ago on Christmas to tell me my mother was in the hospital, that my feet ache, my eyes are grainy, and my thoughts scattered and stupid, and that right now giving up would be far easier than going on. No matter that without me Harlow would have no food, and neither would his crippled-up dog or that scared, skinny little feral kitten holed up in the frozen dirt under his trailer.

No matter anything because I’m Sayre Bellavia, and I have to take what I can get.

I weave through the rubble, snagging the leg of my jeans on a sheaf of rusty metal, bruising my hip on the handle of an old plow, stubbing my toe on something I can’t even name. The pain throbs but I’m too exhausted to care, and a dull thought rises: Hasn’t it always been this way?

No. Not always.

The worst of all is knowing that it hasn’t always been this way.

Out ahead, the kitchen light lifts the path of darkness to gray. I follow it up the wooden steps and shove the dead flashlight under my arm, then flex my stiffened fingers and open the door.

BOOK: Ordinary Beauty
11.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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