Monday, May 23, 2016
Name: Sharyn Konyak
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: These Pieces of Me
The day before her 16th birthday, Olivia Callahan is the victim of a tragic accident. When she wakes, she has no recollection of it or the last two years of her life. Her only connection is a haunting recurring dream she can’t make sense of. What happened that is so terrible her mind has chosen to lock it away rather than allow her to know the truth?
These Pieces of Me is an evocative tale of a teenage girl’s struggle to reassemble her life from a jar of memories she doesn’t recognize. Her journey forces her to face the truth about herself and those she holds dear.
The novel, told through Olivia’s eyes, propels the reader through Olivia’s confusion as she comes to recognize that the truth is the one thing blocking her recovery. She must face the reality that the control she craves in her life is just the thing she needs to surrender in order to become whole again. Every day brings her closer to another memory and a more complete version of herself.
The bottom of a lush ravine envelops me, dense and suffocating like a wave crashing over me and pinning me to the ocean bottom. For a moment of intense panic, I have no idea which way is up. I thrash at the air hoping to find something to grab on to. A heaviness in my chest weighs me down, trapped and helpless. I am suspended, a puppet on a string tethered to some invisible anchor, arms pinwheeling free, unable to rid myself of the harness.
Trees obscure my vision, a heavy velvet curtain appearing black instead of green. Is it day or night? My eyes struggle to focus, catching only flashes of light, fleeting and inconsistent. I wait for them to deliver me but there’s never enough. Fear rises in me, threatening to collapse onto me.
The smell of earth has settled in my nostrils, damp and musty mingling with a chill that has, likewise, taken a hold of my bones. My body aches. I feel nothing and everything. A sharp twinge of pain at my temple and a phantom ache in my knee resonate in my consciousness.
I have the strange sensation I am not alone, though I pray I am. I turn my head to locate someone, anyone. It’s no use. There is nothing, only more blackness.
I hear a voice calling across the distance. It’s origin unclear. For a moment, I think it may be my own though I doubt I can make a sound. My lips are dry, my throat thick, my tongue leathery and parched. I swallow hard, trying to rid myself of the acrid metallic taste.
The voice must belong to another. Someone in control. For although it searches, it does so with purpose, with authority. Olivia, it calls. In a moment of clarity, I realize it’s my name I hear. An urgency pushes me toward it. I struggle to utter a sound, to will this mute tongue to issue more than a grunt. A word.
As I call out, questions paralyze my mind. Where am I? How long have I been here? Why am I here at all? Time seems to stand still yet spin out of control.
Have they heard me?
Will they find me?
An intense panic shakes me to the core, however, it’s one I’ve felt before. I feel someone reach out and grab my hand, attempting to pull me back from the edge just before I careen over into the blackness. But the anchor is temporary, I feel myself slipping away.
And then, it all goes black and it’s over.
Until the next time.
Opening my eyes now, I realize that experience, the one I’ve been living over and over again, with no resolution, is only a dream.
I can’t remember the first time I had the dream, or how often. I know it like my heartbeat, grounded in every fiber of my being, the one thing familiar in all of this.
I am Olivia Callahan. That I know for certain. But, here. This place. This is not the tortured dream.
My mind comes into focus shortly after my eyes, surveying the scene around me trying desperately to make sense of the images. Heart-shaped “Sweet 16” balloons fill the room, swollen globes of purple and white bobbing, adrift on a silent sea, their strings dancing just above the floor. Did I have a birthday? I can’t recall. How could I have missed it? It’s only August, after all. I’ve got a full month to go. Wait. 16? But I’m 13. I have to be. School just started. Freshman orientation. Locker set up with Joss and Maura. That weird chat with Kirsty.
My mind struggles to make a connection. This is my bedroom, familiar yet different to me now. Everywhere vases are bursting with big yellow sunflowers, my favorite and the reason I painted my room this sunny, never-turned-off color.
“Geez, Liv,” my best friend, Maura, had joked after our first attempt at painting had left us both covered in the stuff. “It looks like a highlighter exploded all over your walls."
Though everyone’s reaction was the same slightly uncomfortable ‘WOW?!’ I couldn’t have cared less. I remember thinking no matter what happened, I could never have a bad day waking up in this room.
Get well soon cards line the ledge of the sill around the windowseat. Someone has taken the time to line them up by size, just like I would. Their encouraging words and cheerful pictures create their own little cheering section. I love that windowseat. It’s my favorite place to curl up with a book or just stare out onto the backyard and daydream. There have been days I never wanted to leave it.
I turn my focus inward, secure in the idea that I am neither tethered nor suspended, but rather stable and secure, comfortably perched on a soft mattress enveloped in blankets.
The chill has left me. I feel better; if this fogginess can be called feeling better. I’ve felt it before but not quite this way. This hazy half-consciousness when Dad wakes me up super early to tell me some crazy thing he just read on the Internet. He thinks I’m awake, mumbles on about this or that and, satisfied he’s just imparted some knowledge I just couldn’t survive without, finally gives up and goes back to his computer.
This time is different though. No dad.
As the fogginess continues to lift, there’s a tightness at my temple. My hand reaches up feeling scratchy nylon strings. The same ones that poke you when you’ve forgotten to careful snip the tag off of your new shirt. Vaguely familiar, they remind me of the five stitches I got in my shin once in 3rd grade.
The rest of me seems the same. The neatly manicured nails, the long mahogany hair, plaited into a braid.
The clock on my nightstand reads. That’s strange. I should be in school right now. But I’m here, in bed, wearing cuffed sweatpants and a hoodie with a giant neon green X on it? I never dress to impress anyone but me. That’s what Poppie says he loves best about me. ‘You don’t give a fig what they think. Do you, Magpie? That’s what makes you a Callahan’ he always says.
A stifled snore from beside me gets my attention. Kaydon? What is he doing here? Shouldn’t he be at practice? Instead, he’s plopped in my chair; his head hanging off the back of one arm, legs draped over the other, arms spilling onto the floor as if someone just tossed him there and didn’t bother to rearrange him before he passed out. Mom says he’s been ‘growing like a beanstalk’ but he must have grown like five inches overnight.
“Kaydon?” It comes out as a whisper. I try again. ”Kaydon?” louder this time. Still no response.
Looking at him there, all messy and snoring, fills me with a calmness. For the first time, I actually feel safe. Kaydon is here with me. Maybe he has been all along. Maybe he is my silent partner. I can’t help but think how perfect he is. Kaydon P. Callahan. I used to kid him the P stood for perfect even though we knew it stood for Patrick, after dad.
Name: Julie Walters
Title: Confessions of a High School Survivor: The Freshman Reinvention
Genre: Young Adult, contemporary
Pubic-Head, Jew-Fro, Big Brown One. If Jennifer Arnold knew how to make her classmates stop bullying her, stop breaking her with each nasty name and rumor, she’d do it. If only she were strong enough to believe in herself, but a lifetime of emotional abuse from home and bullying from school have left her hollow and splintered.
Just when she needs her most, Jennifer meets Becca. Beautiful, self-assured and fearless, Becca quickly becomes her new best friend. At overnight camp for the summer, Becca teaches Jennifer how to begin to find her inner strength, tackle her body image issues, and accentuate her outer beauty.
In the fall, when her friendship with Becca evolves into a secret romantic relationship, Jennifer grapples with understanding her sexuality and morals. Her Reinvention plan works though, and nearly all bullying at school ceases. Jennifer confronts her burgeoning fortitude when debating sharing her clandestine relationship with her best friends. If she can’t, she will be forced to hide what is quickly becoming the most life altering relationship she has ever known. However, her secret being divulged and resuscitating the now defunct abuse scares Jennifer into a claustrophobic silence and traps her in a cocoon of lies.
“Have a great summer, Pubic Head,” he yells at my back after I pass him on my way out of this god forsaken hellhole of a school.
“Yeah B.B.O. Maybe you’ll learn how to tame that Jew Fro,” sneers one of his cronies. Their gang of goons erupts with laughter. “Or just shave it off and save yourself from looking like my jock.”
They can’t see my beet-red face or smell the sweat that dampens me instantly or feel the tremors wracking my body. Nor can they see my desperate soul leaking out through the fresh wounds ripped open by their words, bleeding me dry.
This is what I know about life at fourteen: It Sucks. Capital S.
But the way I see it, I can continue spending my time wallowing in my misery, focusing on nothing except the epic Greek tragedy that is my life, or I can play an active role in my own reinvention and try to forge a new path. A path that leads to a life not filled with self-loathing or urgent wishes to be born into a different body or a different family in a different town in a different state where people aren’t assholes.
“Jen, anybody home?” Mara snaps her fingers in front of my face, eight days into summer break.
“Sorry. Lost in thought,” I mumble as I pick my cuticles bloody.
“Does it have anything to do with your nightmare last night?” Becca questions as she tosses her long, blond waves from her shoulders with a graceful shake of her head, her mesmerizing bright green eyes beckoning my atman to liberate itself.
Becca’s spent the past four days with me at Mara’s before we head off to overnight camp for the summer together. Eight non-parentally supervised weeks in the Poconos with Mara, my best-of-the-best friend since third grade and Becca, who has gone from stranger to confidant after barely one hundred hours together. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and it’s my chance to do the impossible, to metamorphose. If I fail, if I can’t instigate a hiccup in the social disaster of my life, if I can’t get people to stop making fun of my hair, clothing, Jewish face, I know I won’t survive 9th grade.
When I first met Becca I felt shy, snatching quick glances before averting my eyes to the floor, not wanting to get caught gawking at her beauty. But her kind spirit ripples away from her in a fog-like wave, a constant blanket of warmth that makes me feel comfortable, less awkward. Accepted. We’ve become close in these past four days, and although she climbed into my bed last night when I woke up crying, wrapping her arms around me to soothe my desperation, I still couldn’t tell her about my last afternoon at school. Nor any of the miserable days prior, for that matter.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I mumble, walking toward Mara’s bathroom.
“Are people at school still being assholes, Jen?” Mara asks my back, but I ignore her as I close the bathroom door.
Walking out of Mara’s bathroom with my toiletries bag tucked under my arm, struggling to wrangle my massive helmet of frizzy hair into a ponytail, I see Mara and Becca sitting on the bed with my yearbook open between them. Their faces masks of horror. I abandon my hair as I rush to snatch the book from them, blood rushing to burn my cheeks.
“Please. Don’t,” I choke as I close the book with trembling hands, sweat beading along my forehead and above my lip instantly. I know it’s too late. I can tell by their expressions that they saw it. All of it.
Mara pats the bed next to her indicating that I should sit with them. “Jen, why didn’t you show this to me? Did you show this to a teacher, your advisor, anyone? This needs to stop.”
Flaying my cuticle from my pinky with my central incisors, I whisper, “No. Whatever. It doesn’t matter.”
Becca reaches across Mara to hold my quivering hand, saving my cuticles from further massacre. “It matter, Jen. How long has this been going on?”
“Feels like forever,” Mara croaks.
“Don’t we need to leave for the bus soon? Let’s grab a muffin on our way out.” But my diversion tactic falls on deaf ears.
Becca slides off of the bed and moves to sit next to me, wrapping an arm around my shoulder and pulling me against her side, her temple resting on my head.
“I’d like to help you Jen, but you need to bring me up to speed. I won’t judge you,” Becca starts but I cut her off.
“I don’t want your pity, Becca.”
“I wouldn’t dare. Just talk to me. When did this start?”
But I can’t. I can’t force my vocal chords to produce sound or my lips to form the words.
“Listen, we’re already friends and we’re about to spend eight weeks together, inseparably if you ask me. I’m not gonna let this go so you might as well save us both and tell me now.”
“You can trust her,” Mara encourages.
Trusting Mara’s endorsement implicitly, I take a deep breath before sliding from the precipice’s edge.
“5th grade but it didn’t go grade-wide viral until 6th. Now it’s of epidemic proportion. I’ve asked them to stop, but…” My voice trails off as my stomach clenches and threatens to explode even though it’s empty.
“They call you Pubic Head? Jew Fro? And those pictures. How could someone draw that in your yearbook?” Becca asks, her voice thick with incredulity. She squeezes my hand, forcing me to look at her exquisite face as my eyes fill with liquid despair.
“It’s my fault,” I offer as I attempt to reign in my emotions, to force them back into the tightly lidded compartment of my heart. “I mean look at me. I’m a mess. My hair, my face, my clothes. I make it easy.”
“Bullshit, Jen. They don’t have the right,” Becca states with the bravado of a politician.
We sit in silence for a few moments before Becca suggests the very thing I want desperately. “Jen, how about if I help you with a makeover. We have all summer to perfect it before the start of 9th grade.”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I want but don’t know how to accomplish, transmogrification. Steal their ammo like a summer thief.” I feel almost giddy with excitement, but the feeling is fleeting. “But how?”
“Makeovers are kind of my thing. We’ll start with your hair and eyebrows. Those are quick fixes but they’re invaluable life-long lessons. Then we’ll talk fashion. You’re hiding under way too much clothing. And you’ve got to stop mauling your fingers.”
I nod, extricating my thumb nail from between my teeth.
“Also, we need to work on your nonexistent self-esteem.” Mara adds sympathetically. “It’s paralyzing your potential and you’re too amazing for this shit.”
“First thing’s first. Let’s fix your appearance. It’ll take, like, an hour. Then we can move on to the tough stuff, digging through your issues, the causes and workable resolutions. That’s the real project for the summer, but it’s where I excel.” Becca says as I bite my lip and I turn away.
I know she’s right but I also understand how traumatic it will be to expose my psyche for examination. Mara smiles, but there’s guilt clouding her eyes. Or is it jealousy? Or something else?
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Name: Kate Langdon
Genre: Middle Grade; Contemporary
Title: The Great Rainy Schmidt
When a crow starts stealing cherry tomatoes from her mom’s garden, 10-year-old new wheelchair user Rainy Schmidt is impressed: the crow’s expert flying maneuvers remind her of her hero, the WWII fighter pilot ‘the Great Bambinzo.’
Rainy begins feeding the crow, and as thanks, he leaves her gifts in the birdbath. But one day, it’s not a piece of sea glass or a rusty bottle cap that awaits Rainy — it’s a beautiful diamond ring with a mysterious engraving.
Rainy’s not sure what to do with the ring until the grand prize for her town’s annual Halloween costume competition is announced: a free trip to New Orleans. New Orleans is home to the WWII Museum, and the museum has something that Rainy considers the world’s greatest treasure: the airplane that belonged to the Great Bambinzo himself.
Embarrassed by her wheelchair, Rainy believes the only way she has a chance at winning is if she buys an expensive costume off the internet, something her parents can’t afford. When her plan to sell the ring fails, Rainy decides to attempt unraveling the mystery of it’s engraving, hoping to discover it’s rightful owner — and maybe get a big reward in the process.
My name’s Lorraine Blatz Schmidt, and before you flip your wig about how stupid of a name that is, you should know I actually go by Rainy, and my fighter pilot call sign is Rain of Death. Mom only ever calls me Lorraine (or “LORRAINE BLATZ SCHMIDT!” when I’m in trouble), but sometimes Dad calls me Rain of Death, which I really do appreciate. I think all fighter pilots probably prefer their call signs over their real names. Except if they have a bad one maybe, like Chuckles or Brillo-pad.
Before I tell you anything else, you should probably know that what happened to me earlier this summer is worse than having a name as stupid as Lorraine Blatz Schmidt. A lot worse. I haven’t really seen anyone from school since it all happened — I haven’t wanted to.
But the days kept on marching forward, July turned into August, and now, somehow, the last day of summer vacation is finally here.is the first day of fifth grade, and I’ve got to go to school and see everyone whether I like it or not.
I’m in the living room, trying to distract myself from this fact by watching one of the most classic aerial fights in the history of World War II. The footage is old and fuzzy and the quality’s pretty bad, since I’m streaming it to the TV from YouTube, but I don’t mind. I’m watching my favorite clip, the one where my hero, The Great Bambinzo, is almost brought down by his arch-nemesis, the Silver Devil.
“The Silver Devil." I shiver. Just whispering his name out loud is enough to send an icy chill down my spine.
Mom is on the phone in the kitchen, and despite the BLASTS! and the BOOMS! of the scrappy P-51 dogfight, I can hear her conversation.
“It’s been hard,” she says, sighing. “Gerry’s been working double shifts, but we’re barely making ends meet. And Lorraine… oh, my sweet Lorraine. She hasn't been outside all summer. Andwill be the first time she’s really seen any of her friends. Since, you know. The Accident.”
The Accident. Mom always says it the same way, tilting her head to the side and lowering her voice. I’ve heard her use The Accident voice in other conversations, too.
“Susan’s husband. You know… the alcoholic.”
“Jennifer and Dan haven’t spoke since, well. You know. The divorce.”
I turn up the volume on the TV.
The Great Bambinzo has shaken off the Silver Devil for now, but his left wing is smoking, and he’s suddenly flanked by two more enemy planes! In a classic lift, he pulls above them, and then he’s firing, his bullets raining down… rat-a-tat-tat!… he hits one! The enemy plane goes down whistling — PEUUWWWWWWWW — and then explodes — KABOOOOOOM — in a great big fiery ball!
“Lorraine,” Mom says, poking her head in from the kitchen. “Will you turn that down? I’m on the phone.”
I make a big show of lowering the volume a few levels with the remote and then turn back to the TV.
“Actually, Jessica,” Mom says, “I should go. Can you still stop by? Oh, that’s great. See you then. Thanks again for calling.” Mom comes over and plucks the remote from my hands.
“Hey!” I protest as she clicks off the TV. “It hasn’t even gotten to the best part yet!”
“You can watch more later. It’s a beautiful day,” she says, sweeping her arms toward the window. “Go outside. Get some fresh air, a little sunshine.”
“I don’t need fresh air,” I grumble. “What I need is to see the Great Bambinzo exact his revenge on the Silver Devil.”
“Go,” Mom says, pointing to the screen door. “I’ll bring you some lunch in a couple of minutes.”
I sigh dramatically, loud enough so Mom will hear me on her way back into the kitchen. If she does, she pretends not to notice. I sigh again, but this one’s just for me.
I spin around, and try to figure out what my route will be. I still haven’t gotten used to the turning part.
“These turns are a real tough nut to crack,” I say out loud. That’s one of the Great Bambinzo’s favorite phrases. He also says things like horsefeathers, jeepers, and ah, applesauce! This one time, in a radio interview, he was talking about some lady he thought was a good dancer and he called her a ducky shincracker. I laughed so hard that orange juice came out of my nose.
I maneuver around the couch alright, but I bump into the end table with a loud crack. The lamp rattles, wobbling back and forth, and for a minute I think it’s going to crash to the floor. I’m strangely disappointed when it doesn’t.
I go outside. After a few minutes, Mom joins me on the porch with a PB&J and a bunch of purple grapes.
“Thanks,” I say, as she sets it down in front of me. She’s still hovering by the door, and I can tell she wants to say something else. I look up at her. “What is it?”
“Well, I was just thinking,” she says, dragging out her words. “Why don’t you give Brie or Sarah a call? You could invite them over for dinner. I could even make that lasagna that Brie likes so much. What do you think?”
I pop a grape into my mouth and look into the yard. Brie and Sarah have been my best friends since kindergarten. We always hang out at Sarah’s house, because she’s got this killer diller attic that her parents turned into a playroom for her and her brother. You can only get in by tugging on a string that hangs from the ceiling, which pulls down a rickety old ladder. It squeaks and trembles as you climb, and it’s thrilling, because you know that at any second it could fall apart and crash to the floor with you on it.
But honestly, It hurts something fierce to think about that attic. Sarah’s called to invite me over a few times since she’s been back from camp, but each time she’s asked, I’ve pretended to be sick. And let me tell you, it sure doesn’t help that Mom doesn’t get it. Why don’t you go over to Sarah’s house? she’s been asking me. Why not, Lorraine? Why not?
Well, I want to holler, you can’t exactly climb up a rickety old ladder when you’re stuck in a stupid wheelchair, now can you?
I take a big bite of my sandwich and shrug. “They’re probably busy, Mom. I’ll see them at school. I’ll talk to them then.”
Mom’s making the face like there’s still more she wants to say, but this time, I’m the one who pretends not to notice.
“Alright, well…” Mom says, trailing off. She’s looking at a big black crow that’s flapped onto our backyard fence, right by her vegetable garden.
“That’s the thief who’s been stealing my cherry tomatoes!” she says, pointing at the bird with one accusing finger. She runs inside and comes back out with a broom. She marches down the stairs and into the yard.
“Shoo!” she yells, thrusting the broom at the crow. “Shoo!”
Name: Sarah Alexander
Genre: YA Mystery/ Suspense
Title: Clueless Academy
Have you ever wondered what happened to the characters from the Board Game Clue? They were all cleared of murder and went on to live normal lives. But in the young adult mystery novel, Clueless Academy, their children are also suspected of murdering their professor.
Rawling Pratt is the Headmaster of an elite preparatory school that houses six very unique students; Indigo Plum, Magenta Scarlett, Hunter Green, Jasper Mustard, Pearl White, and Sapphire Peacock. They were all present at a party that was broken up by Miss Waddington. An hour later, her dead body was found in the cafeteria. A piece of evidence was found that tied all six of them to the crime. The only problem is that they maintain their innocence.
The six students must find a way to get past their differences and work together to find out who the real killer is. As if this wasn’t difficult enough, they are being guarded by crooked special investigators, Headmaster Pratt is planting evidence, and one of them has already been arrested.
It becomes a race against time to find the real killer and it all ends in a good old fashioned gun fight.
Indigo Plum was called into the detention office first thing morning. She had partied pretty hard last night and was definitely not in the mood to deal with Headmaster Pratt. She had put on a merlot colored blouse and black skinny jeans. Normally, she would wear heels with this ensemble but today she was barely walking straight. Flats were the way to go. Hopefully they would assume her unbalance was from exhaustion instead of inebriation.
“Miss Plum, thank you for deciding to grace us with your presence. Have a seat. We have something very urgent to discuss.”
She sat down at a desk overlooking the field of her elite preparatory school and admired the mountains. They always helped her to feel at peace. Then she looked down at the gate and saw the armed guards. There appeared to be more than normal and she was instantly on edge.
“What can we do for you Headmaster?” Indigo asked in a mocking tone. He choose to ignore her and addressed the five other students who would be subjected to his tirade.
“You have all been called here because we have proof that you attended a party at Hunter Green’s suite last night. At around Miss Waddington called to inform me that she was headed over to shut said party down. An hour later, her body was found.” Headmaster Pratt seemed to be barely holding it together. His voice wobbled on the word dead and he took a minute to get control of himself again.
Indigo’s mouth fell open and her body tremored a bit. She had no idea that this was what he was going to say.
“I will be questioning all of you to determine what happened when you left the party. One of you might have seen something that could be useful in determining who the killer is. We have some suspects in mind but I am not at liberty to discuss it with you.” Pratt stood up a little higher as if to show how superior he was.
“But how could this have happened? You boost about your security measures all the time. It’s in like every brochure. How could you let a murderer on campus?” Indigo sounded angry but that was because she was desperately trying to hide the fear. She pouted her lips to keep them from shaking.
“Miss Plum, some respect please.” He said but Indigo noticed that he did not answer her question.
“The police have been notified but until they get here, the school’s investigators will be analyzing the remaining evidence. I can say that we do have evidence that each of you was in the hallway around the time of the murder.” He said this a little harshly.
Indigo felt herself start to panic. She looked over at her friend, Sapphire Peacock and saw the same alarm in her eyes.
She could hear her heart beating but she refused to show him any sign that he was affecting her. Any type of weakness may be deemed an admission of guilt. Indigo squared her jaw and looked him dead in the eyes. “I thought that we were just witnesses. You’re making it seem like we’re suspects.”
“As I said, we are just looking to get a time line to figure out exactly what happened. One of the armed guards here will be escorting you to my office for questioning.” He turned to leave the room but Pearl White stood up.
Indigo looked at her and rolled her eyes. Pearl must have missed the memo about being strong as she was a sniffling mess.
“The guards are here for our protection right? The killer, he could still be out there.” Pearl’s voice had a slight hitch in it.
Pearl was currently seeing Hunter, Indigo’s ex-boyfriend, so Indigo desperately wanted to ignore what she had to say. However, she had to admit that Pearl made a valid point. The very real killer was still out there. It had never crossed Indigo’s mind that the killer might still be in the school. Sure, she was sad for Miss Waddington’s death but it hadn’t occurred to her that her safety may actually be at risk.
“The killer, he or she, is definitely still out there. It is the guard’s job to protect us. I have called in every one on our payroll so there is extra protection in case anyone tries anything else.” He gave all six of them a pointed look and Indigo could not shake the feeling that Pratt knew a lot more than he was letting on.
Hunter joined the conversation next. “Shouldn’t we have an attorney present? Aren’t we being questioned in a criminal trial?” He sounded exactly like his lawyer father and spoke in a calm manner. But Indigo knew better, she noticed that his knee was shaking from distress.
“I’ll be questioning you, not the police. At the beginning of the school year, your parents authorize me to act as your guardian if anything were to happen. So really, think of our talk as one with paternal motivations.” Pratt smiled but it was not pleasant. He looked like the Grinch before he stole Christmas.
Hunter looked like he wanted to say something else but quickly quieted. It was actually Magenta Scarlett who felt the need to add her two cents.
“How was she killed?”
“She was bludgeoned to death with at least two weapons. At this point, we have not identified or found them. Does anyone have an idea what they could be?” He looked around again accusingly. “I mean, did any of you see anything on your way back to your rooms last night? Anything out of place?” Nice recovery, thought Indigo.
“Headmaster, if we saw a bloody hammer on the floor, I think one of us would’ve said something before now.” She tried to make light of the situation but this was clearly the wrong response as everyone gave her frustrated looks.
“Do you think this is funny? A teacher has been killed! She was young, beautiful, smart, and caring. Where is your compassion Miss Plum?” She figured this was a rhetorical question and kept quiet.
Luckily Sapphire chimed in for her defense.
“Indigo is just grieving. She doesn’t know how to handle this much emotion so she made a joke. I’m sure she understands the travesty ahead of us.” Indigo smiled at her friend.
The truth is, she had locked up her feelings and refused to show the weaker ones to anyone. Sitting in the middle of the floor and rocking back and forth was not going to bring Miss Waddington back. Besides, Pearl was basically doing that already. No, she would keep her emotions together and look back on them in a private space.
“Well this is not the place for any of this. I want all of your cell phones. We need to keep your stories pure so we don’t want you talking to any of the students outside.” He walked down the aisles of the classroom and took each phone.
As Pratt passed Indigo, he stopped for a second too long and gave her an appraising look. She felt uncomfortable and thought she smelled alcohol on his breath. But that was probably just her. Hopefully he didn’t notice.
Name: Priya Narayanan
Genre: Middle Grade - Slice of Life, Humor
Title: The Promise
The two things Seventh Grader Shamit cannot do without in his life are watching the television and sleeping. So passionate is he about these that he ends up breaking many a promise made to his mother, just so he doesn’t compromise on his favourite activities. However, the tables get turned on him when one day, having to choose between sleep and another darned promise, he chooses the former. Only when he wakes up late in the afternoon does he realize the gravity of his choice – Shamit, in his groggy, sleep-deprived state has promised Amma that he’d not watch TV for the rest of the week! That the said days are settled comfortably in the lap of the summer vacations only add to his woes.
What will Shamit do without his ‘idiot box’ time?
Will he keep this promise or will he break it like all those times he’d done before?
The Promise is a tale peppered with wry humor about a cheeky 12-year-old’s travails as he trudges through five TV-less days during the summer holidays. With each day presenting him with new challenges and experiences, Shamit discovers a facet of himself and his quirky family he hadn’t yet bothered to explore.
Once upon a time, I made a promise.
Now, it wasn’t as though I wanted to make the promise. No sir! Promises are not for me since more often than not, I end up breaking them. I have a sneaky feeling they were invented only to be broken -definitely the doing of a cruel mind. You goad someone into believing you, rely upon you for something of great importance and then SMASH!
You simply break the promise along with the person’s heart. NOT a good idea. But that’s not to say nobody should make a promise. You want to make one? Go ahead . . . but hey, make sure you know to whom you’re making it out to.
Your friend? Cool.
That girl you have a crush on? Umm . . . fine.
Your best friend? Red Alert!
But your mother? NEVER!!
Never ever make a promise to your mother. Especially if your mom is anything like mine. Amma has the knack of coming up with punishments (she calls them ‘self-enrichment exercises,’ by the way) that seem harmless at first glance but manage to make my life miserable nevertheless.
Take the Case of the Unfinished Assignment from a few months back, for instance. I promised her I’d complete my Environmental Sciences assignment soon as I finished watching my favorite TV show. Just as I was about to turn off the TV as promised, a trailer for the latest Batman movie jumped out at me. Boy, did I dig that mech-suit he wore or what! And then the next show started without warning, drawing me into a curious plot about banana-eating aliens. The next thing I knew, it was time for dinner followed by bed.
When I came back with a note from the teacher the next day, Amma let out an exasperated sigh. It was the seventh such note I’d brought home in Seventh Grade. Although I thought it had a nice ring to it -seventh note in seventh grade- the same could not be said of Amma. And so, I spent the next weekend in the neighborhood nursery where I received hands on experience in the topic of my missed assignment – composting and vermiculture. YUCK!
So, call me chicken if you must, but I choose not to make a promise at all. But wait . . . didn’t I just say I made a promise? Oh well, I do surprise myself at times!
I still have a vivid memory of that day. It must have been a balmy morning because I could hear the faint hum of Amma’s favorite tune as she sauntered into my room. I wouldn’t know for sure, of course. I was quite groggy, sprawled on my stomach on the couch with one hand dangling down and the other hand still gripping the remote control under my chest.
“Shamit . . .” Amma called out in her happy tone.
“Mmmm . . .”
“Shamit . . . wake up dear, it’s .”
“Mmmmmmmm . . .”
“SHAMIT! Wake up!! Everyone’s already at the breakfast table. And remember we’ve planned to visit the temple after that?”
“Five minutes Maaaa . . . and in any case, I’m not interested in the temple. You go ahead without me, okay? And wake me up after you’re back.”
“But you promised me you’ll come to the temple this time! Grandpa and grandma are going to be super upset. This is not done!”
“Shamit, did you hear me?”
More silence . . . followed by Amma shaking me vigorously, causing the remote to fall to the floor.
“Oh, so that’s the way it’s going to be . . . huh? Well, you can sleep through the afternoon, right until evening for all I care,” Amma raised her voice quite uncharacteristically. I could see a blurred vision of her picking up the remote and staring hard at it as though her top-secret laser vision would teleport it to the land of the banana-eating aliens for good. “But get this straight Mister, you break this promise and I’ll make sure you pay for it with a far more torturous one. Do you hear me?”
Honest to goodness, I did want to get on my feet right then and follow her to the temple like a puppy dog; I was just not up for one more promise. But hey, I’d watched TV until the previous night (or early morning if you please). And I now had to choose between one of my favorite things (the other being the TV, of course) and a darned promise? So you know what I chose.
“Mmmm . . . okay Ma, I promise to do whatever you say; just leave me alone okay . . .GO . . . PLEEEEASE . . .”
“Okay, have it your way. If your ears are awake, let them know your new promise is that you’ll not watch TV for the rest of the week.” Amma’s voice started off as a whisper and gathered enough decibels along the way to help her achieve the glass-shattering level that only divas at the opera are blessed with. This was followed by a thud, which I assumed was the sound of the remote landing on the rug, and the bang of the door.
And then there was silence . . . and sleep.
When I finally woke up at quarter to one and narrated my surreal dream to Amma as she went about setting the table for lunch, I was met with an icy glare.
“Oh, so it wasn’t a dream . . . okay. No problem . . . umm . . . I was just joking Ma. A promise is a promise. I’ll stand by it . . . okay?”
But Amma’s eyes refused to leave mine. And with that, I stared at the prospect of five TV-less days ahead of me. That the said five days had settled comfortably in the lap of the summer vacations only made matters worse.
What does one do on a hot summer afternoon if not chill on the couch with a plate of succulent mangoes and TV? But thanks to my promise, all I did the first day of my TV-less ordeal was to wander like a zombie around the house. I got into everyone’s way as I aimlessly trudged up and down the stairs of our bungalow, inviting innumerable scowls and angry glares.
When Amma decided to tend to her plants, I chugged along behind her, much to her surprise. I had no intension of helping her in her yawn-inducing hobby though, especially after my experience with vermiculture. I simply moved around pulling out sharp blades of grass and plucking leaves off her well-manicured plants. The result was a couple of ferocious looks from her that prodded me to slink away. Clearly, she was still mad at me.
As I moved back towards the comfort of my room, the TV – perched like royalty on the stucco-finished white wall – lured me mockingly, like the witch who lured Snow White with her juicy red apples. Only, I was no Snow White. I wouldn’t give in to my temptations and break another promise . . . or would I?
A brilliant idea sneaked into my head. What if I found a loophole? Or maybe I could just work around the promise without hurting Amma?