An arresting story about starting over after a friend’s suicide, from a breakthrough new voice in YA fiction
dear caitlin, there are so many things that i want so badly to tell you but i just can’t.
Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid—and Caitlin herself.
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Nina LaCour (www.ninalacour.com) is the author of the award-winning Hold Still and widely acclaimed The Disenchantments. Formerly a bookseller and high school English teacher, she now writes and parents full time. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Nina lives with her family in Oakland, California.
Her best friend is gone . . .but she left something behind.
I get down on the carpet to look under my bed. I stick my arm under and feel around, find a couple mismatched socks, and something I don’t recognize—hard and flat and dusty. I pull it out, thinking maybe it’s a yearbook from elementary school, and then I see it and my heart stops.
For some reason, I feel afraid. It’s like I’m split down the middle and one half of me wants to open it more than I’ve ever wanted to do anything. The other half is so scared. I can’t stop shaking.
Did it get kicked under the bed one night by accident?
Did she hide it?
I stare at it in my hands forever, just feeling its weight, looking at the place where one Wite-Out wing is starting to flake off. Then, once my hands are steadied, I open to the first page. It’s a drawing of her face—yellow hair; blue eyes; small, crooked smile. She’s looking straight ahead. Birds fly across the background. She drew them blurry, to show movement, and across the top she wrote, Me on a Sunday Morning.
I turn the page.
As I read, I can hear Ingrid’s voice, hushed and fast, like she’s telling me secrets.
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The Disenchantments Nina LaCour
Everything Leads to You Nina LaCour
If I Stay Gayle Forman
Just Listen Sarah Dessen
Looking for Alaska John Green
Paper Towns John Green
The Truth About Forever Sarah Dessen
Where She Went Gayle Forman
Willow Julia Hoban
Wintergirls Laurie Halse Anderson
Table of Contents
Her best friend is gone . . .but she left something behind
Other Books You May Enjoy
Questions for Discussion
Behind the Music
An excerpt from Everything Leads to You
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for my family and for Kristyn
I watch drops of water fall from the ends of my hair. They streak down my towel, puddle on the sofa cushion. My heart pounds so hard I can feel it in my ears.
Mom says Ingrid’s name and I start to hum, not the melody to a song, just one drawn-out note. I know it makes me seem crazy, I know it won’t make anything change, but it’s better than crying, it’s better than screaming, it’s better than listening to what they’re telling me.
Something is smashing my chest—an anchor, gravity. Soon I’ll cave in on myself. I stumble upstairs and yank on the jeans and tank top I wore yesterday. Then I’m out the door, up the street, around the corner to the bus stop. Dad calls my name but I don’t shout back. Instead, I step onto the bus just as its doors are shutting. I find a seat in the back and ride away, through Los Cerros and through the next town, until I’m on an unfamiliar street, and that’s where I get off. I sit on the bench at the bus stop, try to slow my breathing. The light here is different, bluer. A smiling mom with a baby in a stroller glides past me. A tree branch moves in the breeze. I try to be as light as air.
But my hands are wild, they need to move, so I pick at a piece of the bench where the wood is splintering. I break a short nail on my right hand even shorter, but I manage to pull off a small piece of wood. I drop it into my cupped palm and pry off another.
All last night, I listened to a recording of my voice reciting biology facts on repeat. It plays back in my head now, a sound track for catastrophe, and drowns everything out. If a brown-eyed man and a brown-eyed woman have a child, the child will probably have brown eyes. But if both the father and the mother have a gene for blue eyes, it’s possible that their child could have blue eyes.
An old guy in a snowflake cardigan sits next to me. My hand is now half full of wooden strips. I feel him watching but I can’t stop. I want to say, What are you staring at? It’s hot, it’s June, and you’re wearing a Christmas sweater.
“Do you need help, darling?” the old guy asks. His mustache is wispy and white.
Without looking from the bench, I shake my head. No.
He takes a cell phone from his pocket. “Would you like to use my phone?”
My heart beats off rhythm and it makes me cough.
“May I call your mother?”
Ingrid has blond hair. She has blue eyes, which means that even though her father’s eyes are brown, he must have a recessive blue-eye gene.
A bus nears. The old guy stands, wavers.
“Darling,” he says.
He lifts his hand as if he’s going to pat my shoulder, but changes his mind.
My left hand is all the way full of wood now, and it’s starting to spill over. I am not a darling. I am a girl ready to explode into nothing.
The old guy backs away, boards the bus, vanishes from sight.
The cars pass in front of me. One blur of color after another. Sometimes they stop at the light or for someone to cross the street, but they always go away eventually. I think I’ll live here, stay like this forever, pick away at the bench until it’s a pile of splinters on the sidewalk. Forget what it feels like to care about anyone.
A bus rolls up but I wave it past. A few minutes later, two little girls peer at me from the backseat of a blue car—one is blond and fair; one is brunette, darker. Colored barrettes decorate their hair. It isn’t impossible that they’re sisters, but it’s unlikely. Their heads tilt to see me better. They stare hard. When the light changes to green, they reach their small hands out the rolled-down window and wave so hard and fast that it looks like birds have bloomed from their wrists.
Sometime later, my dad pulls up. He leans to the passenger side and pushes the door open. The smell of leather. Thin, cold, air-conditioned air. I climb in. Let him take me home.
I sleep through the next day. Each time I go to the bathroom, I try not to look in the mirror. Once, I catch my reflection: it looks like I’ve been punched in both eyes.
I can’t talk about the day that follows that.
We wind up Highway 1 at a crawl because Dad is a cautious driver and he’s terrified of heights. Below us to one side are rocks and ocean; to the other, dense trees and signs welcoming us to towns with populations of eighty-four. Mom has brought her entire classical CD collection, and now we’re on Beethoven. It’s “Für Elise,” which she always plays on her piano. Fingers dance softly across her lap.
On the outskirts of a small town, we pull off the road to eat lunch. We sit on an old quilt. Mom and Dad look at me and I look at the worn fabric, the hand-sewn stitches.
“There are things you should know,” Mom says.
I listen for the cars passing by, and the waves, and the crinkling of paper sandwich wrappers. Still, some of their words make it through: clinically depressed; medication; since she was nine years old. The ocean is far below us, but the waves crash so loudly, sound close enough to drown us.
“Caitlin?” Dad says.
Mom touches my knee. “Sweetheart?” she asks. “Are you listening?”
At night, we stay in a cabin with bunk beds and walls made of tree trunks split open. I brush my teeth with my back to the mirror, climb up the ladder to the top bunk, and pretend to fall asleep. My parents creak through the cabin, turning on and off the faucet, flushing the toilet, unzipping their duffel bags. I pull my legs to my chest, try to inhabit as little space as possible.
The room goes dark.
I open my eyes to the tree-trunk wall. Once I learned that trees grow from the inside out. A circle of wood for each year. I count them with my fingers.
“This will be good for her,” Dad says softly.
“I hope so.”
“At least it will get her away from home. It’s quiet here.”
Mom whispers, “She’s hardly spoken for days.”
I hold still and stop counting. I wait to hear more, but minutes pass, and then the whistle of Dad’s snore begins, followed by Mom’s even breaths.
My hands lose track of the years. It’s too dark to start over.
At three or four in the morning, I jolt awake. I fix my eyes to constellations that have been painted on the ceiling. I try not to blink for too long because when I do I see Ingrid’s face, eyes shut and lips still. I mouth biology facts to keep my head clear. There are two stages of meiosis and then four daughter cells are produced, I whisper almost silently, careful not to wake my parents up. Each of the daughter cells has half the chromosomes of the parent cells. Outside, a car passes. Light sweeps over the ceiling, across the stars. I repeat the facts until all the words cram together.
Twostagesofmeiosisandthenfourdaughtercellsareproducedeachdaughtercellhashalf thechromosomesof theparentcellstwostagesofmeiosis . . .
Pretty soon I start to smile. It sounds funnier and funnier each time I say it. And then I have to grab my pillow and bury my face so my parents don’t wake to the sound of me laughing myself to sleep.
On a hot morning in July, Dad rents a car because he has to go back to work. But Mom and I stay in Northern California like it’s the only place we’ve heard of. I sit in front and navigate, keeping us within the invisible boundaries on the map—no farther north than a few miles into Oregon, no farther south than Chico. We spend the summer wandering through caves and forests, surviving crooked roads, and eating grilled-cheese sandwiches at roadside restaurants. We only talk about the things right in front of us—the redwoods, the waitresses, the strength of our iced teas. One night, we discover a tiny old movie theater in the middle of nowhere. We see a children’s movie because it’s the only thing playing, and pay more attention to the kids laughing and yelling than we do to the screen. Twice, we strap flashlights to our heads and grope through lava caves in Lassen National Park. Mom trips and shrieks. Her voice echoes forever. I start dreaming about the cardigan man. In the middle of the forest, he drifts toward me in a tux with a red bow tie. Darling, he says, and holds out his phone. I know Ingrid’s on the other end, waiting for me to talk to her. As I reach for it, I notice—surrounding me are green trees, brown earth, but I am in black-and-white.
In the mornings, Mom lets me drink coffee and says, “Honey, you’re pale.”
And then, out of nowhere, September comes.
We have to go back.
It is 3 A.M. Not the most logical time to take a photograph without lights or a flash or high-speed film, but here I am anyway, perched on the hood of the boxy gray car I should be able to drive by now, camera tilted to the sky, hoping to catch the moon before a cloud moves across it. I snap frame after frame at slow shutter speeds until the moon is gone and the sky is black.
My car creaks as I slide off, moans when I open the door and climb into the back. I push down the lock and curl up across the cloth seats.
I have five hours to get okay.
Fifteen minutes go by. I...
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Book Description No binding. Book Condition: Good. Former library audio book. Will have library markings and stickers and possibly no inserts. Plays perfectly. audio book. Bookseller Inventory # 012-5D9H-XX3H
Book Description Penguin Audio, U.S.A., 2009. Audio CD. Book Condition: Good. 6 AUDIO CDs withdrawn from the library collection. We will polish each CD for a clear listening experience. Some library shelf wear. You will receive a worthwhile set. Enjoy this reliable Audio CD performance. Audio Book. Bookseller Inventory # 14J1Auerbach394