Baddby Tim Tharp
Now, Ceejay can't wait for Bobby to return home from his tour in Iraq. But then he turns up unannounced
Ceejay has never been pretty or popular, but she knows who she is: she's younger sister to Bobby, the most charming bad boy in town. Bobby's a bit wild, but with his big heart and sense of fun, everybody loves him. And nobody understands Ceejay like Bobby.
Now, Ceejay can't wait for Bobby to return home from his tour in Iraq. But then he turns up unannounced and seems to be avoiding his family. And he's so different. His wild streak has become reckless. His sense of fun has become desperate. And seeing this, Ceejay's own tough shell begins to crack. How can she believe in being strong when her hero is broken?
As she tries to get Bobby back, Ceejay begins to reexamine her family, her community, and everyone in her life. What she finds is that true strength is not quite what she thought it was.
From the Hardcover edition.
Alcohol, weed, fighting and sex are par for the course for Ceejay, except sex is not a big thing personally. Her mentor and close pal, big brother Bobby, has always been in and out of trouble, too. When Bobby is dishonorably discharged from service in Iraq, Ceejay can hardly bear his increasingly self-destructive actions. And she really can't stand that he's palling around with Captain Crazy and Mr. White, a loopy Vietnam-era hippie and a geeky boy, respectively, instead of her.Gradually, though, they help to change both her and Bobby's outlook—but when Mr. White, now her friend, suggests that Bobby may be suffering from PTSD, Ceejay can't bear it. Tharp is not quite as sharp with females as with men (Knights of the Hill Country, 2006, etc.), but he successfully draws Ceejay's intensity and pride, as well as her self-destructive behavior, all of which makes her strut and explains both the love and the fight in her. Allowing Ceejay to be reporter and observer hones the story to essentials without moral judgments interfering. Absorbing and redemptive.(Fiction. YA)
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Captain Crazy must die.
This might sound like tough talk coming from a girl, but I'm a tough girl. One hundred percent. And my friends, Gillis, Tillman, and Brianna, agree with me about the captain. We trade off ways to do the deed. We'll pickle him in brine, we'll feed him to the blender, the lawn mower, the garbage disposal, the Chihuahua. We'll slice off his fingers and toes like fresh carrots, dice him and mince him and chop off his head. Pack his leftovers in ice, French fry them in a deep-fat fryer. We'll draw and quarter him, go after him with chainsaws and garden shears. We'll stuff him and sell him at the flea market.
No, we won't. Not really. We're not some kind of evil devil cult. But you still don't want to mess with us.
Actually, I'm the only one with a reason to be mad. The others just want something to happen around here. Anything. But with me it's personal because of my brother Bobby. He's in the army, see, in Iraq. Well, he was in Iraq, but now he's in Germany. We're expecting him home in a month, and we sure don't need Captain Crazy putting a hex on him before he gets back. I mean, this time I know he's coming home. He really is. It's just hard to believe it for sure until he wraps me up in one of his big bear hugs and says, "It's me, Ceejay. Don't worry, little sister, don't worry. It's me and I'm home for good."
The Captain Crazy business starts when me and Brianna are cruising in her car and Gillis calls me up and goes, "Listen, Ceejay, you gotta get over here to the courthouse. Captain Crazy's throwing a Vietnam War protest. It's hilarious!"
Vietnam! Leave it to the captain to go all radical over a war that's been over for thirty-something years.
Two minutes later Brianna and I pull up to the courthouse in her car. That's the one and only good thing about living in a town the size of Knowles. Your friends can call and tell you to come somewhere, and you're there practically before they hang up the phone. So when I get to the foot of the courthouse steps, the captain's just starting to really roll, pacing like a preacher on crystal meth, his face red, his eyes bulging. He's not even Captain Crazy anymore. Now he's Reverend Crazy shouting down the devil. And don't you know, if there's anyone who's really seen the devil, it's him.
He's got the usual paisley guitar and the conga drum close at hand but hasn't started in playing them yet. Behind him, three posters on six-foot-tall sticks stand propped against the granite wall, each with flowers painted on them--purple, red, yellow, chartreuse--just like it's really the dead-and-gone sixties hippie days. On the first sign, he's scrawled get out of vietnam now! On the second, it's the president is insane, and the third one says, kiss the fish mouth! Only Captain Crazy knows the secret meaning of that one.
A couple of women, three old men, and about seven kids from school are watching the show. Nothing much else to do on a late-May afternoon in Knowles now that school's out. A couple of older girls from my high school--the cupcake twins, I call them, because they're all sugar frosting and no substance--look at ugly Gillis, huge Goth-girl Brianna, and scrappy little sixteen-year-old pit-bull me with these expressions like, "Oh God, there they are."
Next to the fish-mouth sign, Mr. White stands with his arms crossed like he's the captain's bodyguard, and I have to admit I'm as bad as the cupcake twins because I can't help thinking, Oh God, there he is.
Mr. White. He's even weirder than we are--the long-haired, stick-figure guy from my English class who never says a thing. The new kid in town. Well, actually he's been here a whole year, but in a town where everyone's known you since you were a zygote, you're still the new kid until you've lived here for at least five years.
His real name's Padgett Locke, but we call him Mr. White because he always dresses completely in white. Probably never been in a fight in his life. Today he has on a plain white T-shirt, white shorts, white socks, and white tennis shoes. His skin is almost as white as his clothes. It's like he finally broke out of his room, where he's been cooped up reading books and listening to alternative bands that no one ever heard of, and now he thinks he's at Wimbledon. The only thing not white about him is his long, stringy brown hair and his black-framed glasses. Anyway, I'm not surprised he hooked up with the captain. Maybe he thinks he'll be like an apprentice and take over the job of town eccentric when the captain retires.
Gillis is standing in the front row of the small crowd, grinning like an evil leprechaun. I don't call him a leprechaun because he's short. I mean, he's around my height, five-six, but he's real solid, about as wide as he is tall. No, the leprechaun thing comes from his Irish pug nose and that sparse red wreath of a high-school-boy beard. Not a pretty sight, but he's my buddy, so who cares?
He waves me and Brianna over and goes, "Check this out, Ceejay. The captain's finally lost it all the way down to his socks," and I'm like, "What socks?"
That's the captain for you--ankle-high corduroy pants, ancient ruins for shoes, and no socks. He's a mess. A scraggly sixty-something-year-old reject from a mental ward with a beat-up baseball cap and a beard that doesn't look so much like he grew it as like it exploded out of his face.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
TIM THARP lives in Oklahoma, where he teaches at Rose State College. He is the author of the highly acclaimed YA novels Knights of the Hill Country and The Spectacular Now, which was a 2008 National Book Award finalist.
From the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Ceejay has always been close to her older brother. It's been them against the rest of the world, or at least the rest of their family. Unfortunately, when Bobby's mischievous ways lead to the point of a joyride in a stolen car, a choice must be made. Their parents chose the military over jail for their errant son. With the exception of leave time, it's been years since Ceejay and Bobby have been together. He is expected home soon, and Ceejay can't wait to pick up where they left off. Surely after returning from Iraq, Bobby will be ready to party and enjoy his time with now sixteen-year-old Ceejay. The summer starts with Ceejay's parents announcing that she will be working for her Uncle Jimmy. She'll be slapping paint on whatever project he assigns, but that's better than the job her little sister, Lacy, gets. Lacy will be living with their grandmother several hours away. She'll be taking care of the ungrateful woman while she undergoes chemotherapy. At least, while working for Uncle Jimmy, Ceejay will be at home and able to hang out with Bobby when he gets back. Ceejay is shocked when she sees someone that looks like Bobby cruising by with an old flame. It takes some investigation, but she learns that he has returned from Iraq early but hasn't seen fit to show up and greet his family. When Ceejay discovers where he is staying, she confronts him and discovers that something about him has changed. Bobby's first meeting with family is filled with tension, and a BBQ party planned in his honor turns to chaos when he announces that he was asked to leave the military and earned only a general discharge. Ceejay doesn't care about that. She is just frustrated that he is choosing to hang out and live with Captain Crazy, an old Vietnam protester who lives on a nearby, rundown farm. When a friend suggests that Bobby may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Ceejay is quick to defend her brother and deny the possibility, but as time passes, she realizes there might be some truth to the suggestion. Tim Tharp, author of THE SPECTACULAR NOW, has used his unique talent to create a novel focused on a topic becoming increasingly more common as our soldiers return from war in the Middle East. Families like Ceejay's are facing the return of sons and daughters who aren't the sons and daughters they remember. By including the Vietnam issue, Tharp lets his young readers know this is not the first war to have a profound effect on soldiers and the families left behind. I appreciated the depth of character development and the depiction of the varied emotional impact caused by Bobby's return, as well as the other problems faced by this typical American family.