Heart Like Mine: A Novel by Amy HatvanyHeart Like Mine: A Novel by Amy Hatvany

Heart Like Mine: A Novel

byAmy Hatvany

Paperback | April 23, 2015

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From rising star Amy Hatvany, an engrossing new novel about a woman whose life is turned upside down when the man she's engaged to suddenly becomes a full-time father to the children from his previous marriage.

Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?

At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again. But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover that there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.

Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant, hopeful portrait of womanhood, love, and the challenges and joys of family life.
Title:Heart Like Mine: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 8.25 × 5.31 × 1.1 inPublished:April 23, 2015Publisher:Washington Square PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1451640560

ISBN - 13:9781451640564

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Kind of an okay book It wasn't super amazing or anything but it was readable. It was a quick and easy book to get through though if the characters just communicated better I feel a lot of things would've been resolved in a more timely manner.
Date published: 2017-06-05

Read from the Book

Heart Like Mine Ava After Dad moved out, Saturday mornings were the hardest. Saturdays used to be when he didn’t have to get up early and head to the restaurant; Saturdays were when he woke us with the buttery smell of his special homemade vanilla-bean waffles toasting on the griddle and smoky bacon sizzling on the stove. I loved to lie in my bed, breathing in the tendrils of those familiar scents, feeling them wrap around me, warm and comforting as my father’s arms. “Breakfast, kiddos!” he bellowed when it was ready. “Come and get it while it’s hot!” Max would scamper down the hallway to beat me to the table, but I stayed in bed with a small, secret smile on my face, knowing exactly what was coming next. My bedroom door was flung open, and Daddy would stomp over to me. “Is there a sleepy little girl in here?” he asked in a teasing, slightly maniacal voice. “Does she need to be tickled to wake up?” “No!” I’d squeal, my smile growing wider, scrunching myself up against the wall, pretending to try to get away from him. “Oh, yes!” Dad said, holding his hands out in front of him and wiggling his fingers like crazy. “Daddy, no!” I said again, but inside I was thinking, Oh, yes! “It’s time to get uh-up!” he said, and then it would come, the dive-bomb of his fingertips to my sides, and I couldn’t help but shriek, giggling and laughing and writhing around beneath his touch. “Are you awake yet?” he asked, rubbing the short stubble of his beard against my neck to tickle me more. “Are you ready to come have breakfast?” “Yes!” I yelled, smiling so wide it almost hurt my cheeks. “Okay! I’m coming!” Dad kissed my cheek and pulled his hands away from my body. “All right then,” he said. “Let’s eat!” Now that he was gone, now that Mama had asked him to leave, Saturday mornings were quiet, empty of any happy laughter. For breakfast we had cereal or toast, and most of the time, I ended up going into Mama’s room to wake her up so we wouldn’t be late for Max’s soccer games. Just last week, she had forgotten that we were in charge of bringing the snack, and instead of just stopping at the store to buy something like any of the other moms probably would have, she’d rushed to bake a batch of cupcakes before we could leave. “Yoo-hoo!” she had singsonged as we finally made our way to the field where Max’s game was about to get under way. “Sorry we’re late!” He’d missed warm-up, but as I carefully balanced the carrying case filled with the chocolate cupcakes, Max raced past us to get to where his coach was picking the starting lineup. The mothers of Max’s teammates barely turned to acknowledge Mama’s greeting. They sat together on the bleachers with heavy plaid blankets over their laps, chattering and laughing at something one of them had said. A group of men stood nearby, laughing and shaking each other’s hands; a few of them shouted encouragement to Max and his teammates. Daddy used to stand with those men, talking and laughing, before he moved out. Now he only came to Max’s games on the Saturdays we were with him. I set the carrying case on the table next to the cooler full of water bottles and watched as Mama tried again. She fluffed her hair and put on her best, brightest smile. “Hey there,” she said as she walked over to stand next to the group. “Beautiful weather for a game, isn’t it?” It was a cold, crisp fall day. A heavyset woman with black, straight hair turned her head and gave Mama a false smile in return. “Yes,” she said, as though stating something incredibly obvious. “It is.” “How’s the other team looking this morning?” Mama asked, shoving her hands into the side pockets of her fitted black leather jacket. The other moms wore Columbia fleece pullovers or earthy-toned wool sweaters. Mama chose tight Levi’s and over-the-knee black boots to match her jacket; the other women had on rain boots or closed-toed Birkenstocks. “Our babies are going to show ’em who’s boss, right?” No one answered her. Instead, a few of them covered their mouths and stifled coughs. Mama’s chin trembled just the tiniest bit before she sat down on the bottom bleacher and tucked her tiny hands between her legs. I joined her, and she put her arm around me, hugging me to her. I wanted to tell her not to worry—that she was prettier than all those other women. Nicer, too. But I didn’t know if I should. If it was good for her to know that I could see the sadness in her eyes when she looked at them—the longing to be made a part of their group. Mama and I were alike that way. She had Diane and I had my best friend, Bree, but that was pretty much it. She looked at those women like I looked at the popular girls at school. Like, Please, just give me a chance. One of the fathers noticed Mama sitting on the edge of the bleachers. He was tall and barrel chested, with sandy blond hair and a goatee. He made a comment under his breath to the other men, and a few of them snickered in response. He walked over to us, propped his foot up on the edge of the bleacher right next to Mama’s leg, and leaned on his thigh with his forearm. “Hey, Kelli,” he said. “How are you?” His words were slick, as though coated in oil as they slid from his mouth. Mama gave him a sparkling smile. “Well, I’m just fine, thank you very much.” Her voice was bubbly, practically dripping with enthusiasm. “How are you?” “Better now,” he said with a wink, and my stomach clenched. I was pretty sure he was Carter’s dad, and the husband of the black-haired, heavy woman, who I only knew as “Carter’s mom.” I didn’t like the way he was looking at Mama. I didn’t like how hairy his knuckles were, either. “Honey,” Carter’s mom called out, noticing her husband talking to us. “Are you watching the game?” “Carter’s not even on the field yet,” he said sharply, giving her a hard look. Then he turned his gaze back to Mama, softening it. “I feel like I haven’t seen you around much. I was sorry to hear about you and Victor. You two always seemed so happy.” Mama kept her smile bright, but I saw the flash of grief in her eyes. Even after all of this time, she still seemed to miss him. A few weeks ago, she had accidentally set a place for him at the dinner table. “I guess things aren’t always as they seem,” she said to Carter’s father now. “I guess not,” he said with a chuckle. He glanced toward the parking lot. “Is Victor coming today?” Mama shook her head. “He wanted to, but he’s working. He’ll be here next week, for sure. It’s his weekend with the kids.” He wanted to? If that was true, it was news to me. I wondered if Mama made that up. Carter’s dad leaned down, closer to Mama. “And what about you?” he almost whispered. “Will you be here?” “Mike!” Carter’s mom said loudly. “Can you please get me another blanket from the car? It’s colder than I thought out here.” Carter’s dad straightened, put both feet back on the ground, and winked at Mama before he looked up at his wife. “Sure thing,” he said flatly. He let his fingers brush against Mama’s arm as he walked past her, and I saw Mama shrink back. “He’s gross,” I whispered to Mama, and she turned her head, her lips pursed. “You hush, now. That’s impolite.” “So was he!” I said, maybe a little too loudly. Mama drew her eyebrows together over the bridge of her nose. “Ava. Watch your mouth. You’re too young to be talking like that about a grown-up.” She straightened in her seat and then cupped her hands around her mouth. “Go on now, Max!” she hollered as the team ran onto the field. “Push ’em back, push ’em back, waaay back!” She jumped up, shimmied her bent arms, and wiggled her tiny behind. “Mama,” I said, cringing a bit as the other women behind us stopped talking and stared. Acting like that would just make the other mothers make fun of her—didn’t she know that? “I think that’s a football cheer, Kelli,” Carter’s mom said, and then I saw her roll her eyes. I gritted my teeth, wishing I had something to throw at her. Something sharp and hard that would hurt. Mama laughed and gave a little shrug. “Oh well,” she said, sitting back down. “I never could keep my sports straight. I guess it’s a good thing Max is playing and not me.” “Oh yes,” another woman said. “What a relief.” She had brown hair and a tightly pinched mouth. “Did you remember to bring snacks?” Mama turned to look at her and nodded. “Chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, fresh out of the oven this morning.” She grinned, awaiting approval. I held my breath. The brown-haired woman frowned. “Peanut butter? We can’t serve that. Taylor is allergic.” She paused. “And Carter is gluten intolerant. Wheat flour is like poison for him. Didn’t you review the approved snack list we handed out at the beginning of the season?” Mama’s smile melted away. “Oh,” she began, her voice faltering. “No. I didn’t realize—” Carter’s mom sighed and stood up. “I can run to the co-op and grab some rice crackers and fruit,” she said. Mama stood, as well. “Please,” she said, “let me. It was my mistake.” “It’s fine,” the woman said as she grabbed her purse. “I’ll just go catch my husband at the car. We’ll go together.” Mama sank back down onto the bleacher, her shoulders slumped. “I’m so sorry,” she said to the other women. “I can bring a better snack the next time.” No one responded, and Mama turned away and faced the field. Her eyes were shiny and she held her chin high. I slipped my hand into hers and squeezed it. “I love your cupcakes,” I said. “They’re the best ones.” This morning we were running late again. Except this time it was my fault—I’d spent too much time in the shower, conditioning my hair and carefully shaving my legs. Mama said the hair wasn’t thick enough for me to need to shave yet, but all the other girls in eighth grade did it, so I begged her to let me do it, too. “They call me Chewbacca during gym!” I told her, and she’d relented. “Ava, hurry up, please!” Mama called out from the kitchen. “Be right there!” I said, glancing in the full-length mirror on my closet door one last time, making sure that the outfit I’d picked out looked okay. I liked my long, purple shirt and I knew I was luckier than a lot of girls in my class; I could wear skinny jeans and still cross my legs beneath my desk. My dark brown hair was held back from my face with a thin elastic headband, and thanks to the expensive salon conditioner I’d saved up my allowance to buy, it looked shiny and smooth. Still, I found myself wishing for the millionth time that my mom would let me wear makeup. The few times I’d tried to sneak it, using my friend Bree’s mascara and lipstick in the bathroom at school, Mama had caught me, even though I thought I’d washed it all off. “You’re a natural beauty, love,” she said, cupping my face in her hands. “Let’s save the makeup for when you actually need it.” I didn’t know why she got to be the one who decided when I needed it. It was my face. Plus, almost all the other eighth-grade girls at Seattle Academy wore makeup; I was fairly certain that meant I should get to, too. But I’d had enough arguments with her about it to understand this wasn’t a fight I was going to win. Sighing, I grabbed her black boots, the ones she said I could borrow, pulled them on over my jeans, then lugged my heavy backpack down the hall. Mama stood by the kitchen counter, still in her pajamas, which consisted of gray yoga pants and a red T-shirt that looked tiny enough that it might have actually been my brother’s. From the back, she looked like a little girl. Her blond hair was pulled into a messy ponytail and she gripped a coffee mug with both hands, sipping from it as she stared out the window into the backyard. It was still dark, but at least it wasn’t raining. “I’m ready,” I announced. She turned to look at me with a tired smile, and I noticed that her lips were the same pale hue as her skin, and the spaces beneath her eyes were tinged blue. For the fourth time that week, I’d woken up to the sound of the television in her bedroom in the middle of the night. She still wasn’t sleeping. “Hey there, sugar,” she said. “You’re as pretty as dew on a rose.” I rolled my eyes a little and shook my head but smiled back at her anyway, accustomed to her flowery comparisons. She was prone to silly compliments about my looks. I didn’t really feel pretty; I was okay, I guessed, but nothing like my mom, who my friend Peter told me all the boys in my class thought was a MILF because she was blond and thin and had big boobs. I’d nodded, even though I hadn’t known what the term meant at that time, so it wasn’t until I got home and looked it up online that I wanted to barf. I knew my mom was better looking than some of my friends’ mothers, but the thought of the boys wanting to have sex with her made me cringe. “Do you want breakfast?” Mama asked. “I made some toast. I could throw peanut butter on it so you’d get some protein.” I shook my head. She knew I didn’t like to eat first thing in the morning, but that didn’t stop her from trying to feed me. “I can have a granola bar after homeroom.” I patted my backpack to let her know I was all set. “Are you working today?” Her job was at a fancy restaurant downtown, the place my dad used to manage before he started his own restaurant. They had met there, and she had to go back to work after he moved out three years ago. She said she liked her job because it was flexible enough that she could drive us to school in the morning and pick us up. She only worked night shifts the weekends we were with our dad. She shook her head. “Nope. But I took a double shift tomorrow, since you two won’t be here. I’m working Sunday brunch, too.” She gave me an empty, halfhearted smile then, like she always did when she knew Max and I would be gone for the weekend. “I’ll have her toast!” Max said, piping up from the table, where he was slurping down the last of the milk from his cereal bowl. “Do you ever stop eating?” I asked, wrinkling my nose at him. “It’s gross.” “You’re gross,” Max retorted, lifting his pointy chin back at me. “Oooh, burn,” I said, rolling my eyes again. He was such a little dweeb. I looked at the clock and then my mom. “Can we go? I don’t want to be late for homeroom.” “Yes, we should.” She shuffled over to me in her slippers and threw her slender arms around my neck. When I was wearing her boots, we were almost the same height. “I love you, baby girl,” she whispered. “So much.” “Love you too,” I said, hugging her back. She felt fragile in my embrace, her bones like brittle twigs that might snap if I held her too tightly. She was getting so skinny; I could circle her entire wrist with my index finger and thumb and still not touch her skin. She said she ate at the restaurant after her shifts, but her clothes had started looking looser the past few months, so I wasn’t sure she was telling me the truth. She’d done the same thing after my dad moved out—no sleep and no food—but Diane made her go to the doctor for some kind of pills and she started getting better after that. I wasn’t sure if she was taking those pills anymore. I wondered if missing her parents had anything to do with how she was feeling now. She had called them last night, but they didn’t answer the phone. They lived in a small town outside of San Luis Obispo in California, where Mama grew up, and they’d never even once come to see us, which I honestly thought was kind of strange, considering they were Mama’s only family and Max and I were their grandchildren. I guess they didn’t even think they could have a baby, but Mama was born when her mother was forty-two and Mama said they thanked God and called her their “miracle.” And even though they never visited, she still called their house a couple of times a year. When they actually answered the phone, the conversations were always short and her voice got tight and shaky as she spoke with them. Afterward, she’d usually go to her bedroom and cry. I tried not to worry about Mama too much, but she sure didn’t make it easy. I looked over to Max, who was making fun of my hugging our mom with a goofy kissy face and pretending to hug himself. “Max,” I said sternly, “go brush your teeth. We’ll be in the car.” “You’re not the boss of me,” Max said as he dropped his bowl into the sink with a clatter. My mother startled at the noise, sucking in a sharp breath, and pulled away from me. “Max!” she said loudly, then took another, slower breath. She put one hand against the wall, like she suddenly had to hold herself up, then spoke again in a quieter tone. “Brush your teeth, little man, right this instant. Don’t make me get the switch.” She winked at him then, and he giggled, knowing full well our mother would never hit us. It was a joke she used, to let us know she meant business. Our dad used to say it to us, too, as a joke, but after he moved out, he stopped. Max raced down the hallway to the bathroom and my mother stared off after him. “Are you okay, Mama?” I asked, noticing she was breathing a little faster than usual. She kept her hand on the wall, her shoulders curled forward. “I’m fine. Just a little dizzy, for some reason.” She turned her head and gave me a tiny smile, dropping her hand to her side and straightening her spine. “Probably too much caffeine.” I nodded, then looked at the stack of paper on the entryway table—bills, I guessed. Ones she hadn’t paid yet. “Want me to help you write the checks tonight?” I asked as we headed out the door and toward the driveway. “Hmm?” she murmured. “What was that?” I felt a twinge of irritation. “The bills.” I knew my friends didn’t help their parents with this kind of thing, but it was something we did together. Mama said it was only because I had better handwriting than hers, but the last time I’d watched her try to do it alone, she started crying, so I offered to fill the checks out and she could just sign them. Max got to put the stamps on the envelopes. We sort of turned it into a game. But when I told my dad about it, the muscles around his lips got all twitchy, and I asked him if it was bad that we helped her. “She’s a grown-up, honey,” he said, putting his long arm around my shoulders and squeezing me to him. “You’re a kid. You shouldn’t have that kind of responsibility.” I shrugged and threw both of my arms around his waist, breathing in the earthy fragrance of roasted meat off his shirt. Some fathers wore cologne; mine wore scents born in a kitchen. “I don’t mind,” I said. I didn’t like feeling that he was criticizing her; I didn’t want to get her in trouble. “I’ll talk with her,” he said, but I don’t think he ever did. Now that they were divorced, they only talked to each other when they had to, and when they did, it was with short, hard sentences that seemed more like weapons than words. “When are you bringing them back?” Mama asked him when he picked us up every other Saturday. She never did quite look directly at him, either. Her eyes drifted just over his right shoulder. “Five o’clock tomorrow,” my dad told her, sometimes even shifting his feet a little, like he couldn’t wait for her to stop moving her mouth. “Like always.” He stood in the entryway, not coming all the way into the house while we got ready to go with him. “Just making sure,” my mom would say, her voice quavering a little, and the muscles in my dad’s face would tighten even more. It was hard to imagine they ever loved each other enough to get married. I knew they had; I’d seen their wedding picture. Mama dressed in a white princess ball gown, her glossy hair piled on top of her head in messy coils. Daddy tall and handsome in a black tuxedo, feeding her cake and trying to kiss her at the same time. They were laughing. Now, standing next to our car, as Max finally sped down the front steps and toward us, making a sound like a jet airplane, my mom reached over and clutched my hand. “What would I do without you, baby girl?” She pulled my hand up to her mouth and kissed it. I smiled at her, my insides shaking, not wanting to say that I sometimes wondered what she might do without me, too. *  *  * “Do you have to go to your dad’s this weekend?” Bree asked me during second lunch. At Seattle Academy, first lunch was for the kids up through fifth grade; second was for sixth through eighth. Bree and I sat together at a small table by the window, away from the other eighth-grade girls. We each had a big slice of pepperoni pizza and a chocolate milk. That was the best thing about going to a private school—the hot lunches were actually decent. The worst thing was that my brother went there, too. Occasionally, he’d see me in the hallway or when he had recess and he’d wave, do a little dance, and start singing, “Ava-Ava-bo-bava, banana-fanna-fo-fava . . . Ava!” I seriously couldn’t wait for next year, when high school would start and I wouldn’t see that little weirdo until we got home. I loved him and all, but man, could he annoy the crap out of me. I pulled a piece of pepperoni off the slice and popped it in my mouth. “Yep,” I told Bree as I chewed. “Our dad picks us up tomorrow morning.” “With Grace?” she said, crossing her eyes and making her lids flutter at the same time. Bree was the funniest girl I knew and wasn’t afraid of other people laughing at the things she did, which was part of why she was my friend. She had short, wispy blond hair and wire-rimmed glasses, and she didn’t need to wear a bra yet, but she didn’t seem to care about being like the popular girls. The girls with really rich parents and their own iPads. The girls who went behind the gym, let their boyfriends feel them up, and didn’t care who knew. The girls that part of me wanted to become. I laughed. “Yes. I keep hoping they’ll split up. But it looks like she’s staying.” Bree’s parents were divorced, too, another reason I liked to hang out with her. She got how weird it was to have two houses to live in, two sets of rules, and parents that might have loved us but couldn’t stand each other. Her dad was a corporate lawyer, so he had to pay her mom a ton of child support for Bree. My dad gave my mom a check every month, too, but he definitely didn’t make as much money as a lawyer. He was a great cook, though, which I thought was kind of a bonus. Bree didn’t say anything more, knowing that my dad’s girlfriend was far from my favorite subject. He had met Grace at the end of last summer and waited a couple of months to introduce us, which I guess is better than if he’d made us meet her right away. I knew he’d probably dated other women after he moved out—one time, not very long after he bought his new place, I found a pair of lacy pink women’s underwear in his hamper when I was helping him with the laundry. But Grace was the only one he wanted Max and me to get to know, so the fact that she had moved in with him last May didn’t really surprise me that much. Mostly, I just tried not to think about the fact that she slept in the same bed as him, which was hard with how many questions my mom asked when we came home from their house. “Did you have fun with Grace?” she’d ask. “What did she feed you?” When I’d tell her that after Dad cooked, or Grace ordered pizza, we all played Scrabble or watched a movie, her shoulders would fall and her face would look like I’d hit her. I wondered why she didn’t get her own boyfriend. She was pretty enough, for sure, and I knew there were a few single dads at our school who would probably ask her out if she did her hair and wore something other than her pajamas to drop us off in the morning. But when I suggested that maybe she could go on a date, too, she waved the thought away. “You and your brother are all the love I need. Your daddy just doesn’t like to be alone.” Neither do you, I’d think. You just want to be with us instead of a date. I wondered if something was wrong with her, somehow, since after all these years she still didn’t seem to be over my dad’s leaving. Which was strange, really, because I knew that she was the one who finally asked him to go. I’d overheard the fight that made him walk out the door. “Yo, earth to Ava!” Bree said, nudging me with the toe of her Converse. “Come in, Ava! The bell just rang. Time for social studies.” She made a face and stuck a finger in her mouth. “Like, gag me with an encyclopedia.” I laughed again, and we cleaned up our mess and headed off to class. On the way, Whitney Blake, whose father owned a chain of organic grocery stores, sidled up next to me. She smelled of citrus and her black hair hung sleek and almost to the middle of her back. Whitney was all sweetness and light to our teachers, but she’d been known to make more than a few other girls in our class cry. I tried not to cross her path unless I absolutely had to. “How was your lunch, Ava?” she asked, popping her pink gum as she spoke. Whitney liked everyone to know that their family’s housekeeper packed organic chicken slices, mixed greens, and some kind of cookie made with agave nectar for her lunch every day, only so Whitney could toss it all and buy whatever the cafeteria was serving with the credit card her dad gave her to use. I shrugged one shoulder in response and kept walking, glancing at her out of the corner of my eye, wary of such a seemingly innocent question. “Did you use your scholarship to pay for it?” she continued in a lilting tone as we walked along, pushing against the small throng of other students in the hallway. “You know, my dad gives a lot of our money to those. So, like, my family’s sort of making it possible for you to be here.” My stomach clenched as she spoke, my cheeks flushed, and tears pricked the back of my throat. I couldn’t look at her. It wasn’t a secret that Max and I were scholarship students and that my mom sometimes served meals to the rich parents of the kids in our classes when they went to the restaurant where she worked. Max was too little to understand what people sometimes said about us, but I wasn’t. I also understood that having a lot of money didn’t just give you nice things, it gave you power. Whitney understood this, too. “Maybe you should say thank you,” Whitney said when I didn’t respond. I couldn’t speak. If I did, I might have cried, and that would just have given her another thing to mock. “Hey, Whitney,” Bree said, stepping in to save me. “Maybe you should go make yourself useful and throw up your lunch. If you hurry, maybe your ass won’t need its own zip code.” Hearing this, Whitney’s normally pretty, unblemished face briefly twisted into an ugly sneer, but she kept her eyes on me. “You should think about trying out for the dance team,” she said. “Maybe Mrs. McClain will feel sorry for you as an underprivileged student and let you join.” Her gaggle of friends tittered at this, my eyes blurred, and Bree grabbed me by the arm. “C’mon. Let’s get to class.” Leaving Whitney and her friends behind us, I let Bree lead me past the few remaining lockers before Mr. Tanner’s room, swallowing hard to make sure any remnants of my tears were gone. “Thanks,” I said as we slid into our seats next to each other. Bree smiled, then pushed her glasses back up to the bridge of her nose. “She’s a total bitch, so don’t listen to her, all right?” I nodded but still felt the sting of Whitney’s words itching beneath my skin. It wasn’t like we were poor; my parents paid for some of our tuition, just not all of it. The one thing my mom and dad still agreed on was Max and me getting the best education we could, and Seattle Academy was the best. “You’re not going to try out for dance team, are you?” Bree asked. I shook my head and gave her a closed-lipped smile. My mom loved to dance—she’d been a cheerleader in high school, and it would have made her happy if I did try out, but I knew that getting on the team would mean I’d be away from the house more and Max would have to deal with Mama on his own. He was too young to handle one of her crying sessions when I wasn’t there. Even if I’d wanted to join, it just wasn’t an option. I took a couple of deep breaths, the tension in my body relaxing just enough to let me pay attention when Mr. Tanner told us to settle down and began his lecture on women’s suffrage. He had only been talking for about twenty minutes when the black phone on his desk rang. He nodded as he listened, thanked whoever had called, and hung up. Only the front office used that phone, so I wondered who had done something bad enough to interrupt class. “Ava?” Mr. Tanner said, and my belly immediately flip-flopped. “You need to get your things from your locker and head to the office, okay?” I sighed. “Is it Max?” That little monster. Mama’s going to be pissed if he got in trouble. Mr. Tanner pressed his lips together and gave his head a quick shake. Bree shot me a questioning look, and I shrugged slightly, then closed up my folder. Every eye in the room was on me, and I felt my face getting warm again. A few whispers started, but Mr. Tanner shushed them. I slowly put on my jacket and took careful, deliberate steps toward the front of the room. I stopped in front of Mr. Tanner’s desk, searching his face for some kind of clue, but there was nothing there. “Is everything all right?” I asked him, and he held my gaze for a moment before dropping it to the floor. “You just need to go to the office,” he repeated, so I walked out the door and made my way alone down the long, quiet hall.

Editorial Reviews

“Readers of Amy Hatvany know that in her books, they will encounter stories that are a cut above most popular fiction…There are no easy answers here, but the engaging characters find their own way forward.”