Best Betby Laura Pedersen
Since Hallie's father died and left behind ten children, money at the Palmer household is tighter than ever. And just when Hallie thought she was graduating from college, it turns out she's four credits short. A professor needs one more student for a project that will take her around the world, only longtime boyfriend Craig has another proposition for Hallie.
Thus begins Hallie's great odyssey, for the first time she ventures outside the safety of Cosgrove County and the sixty-mile radius in which she's functioned for her entire life. But somehow, escaping home doesn't translate into leaving behind all of her problems, and, unfortunately, not all can be solved by putting her superior gambling skills to work.
Eventually, it's time to return home to all the good people who are great at driving each other crazy. Hallie must finally face the biggest decision of her life.
Humorous and heartfelt, Best Bet underscores the importance of friends, family, and a sense of belonging. The characters in this modest, but neighborly, small town prove that an ordinary existence made up of small but genuine moments can satisfy a soul that's hungry for life in all of its glories and disappointments.
Read an Excerpt
Best Beta novel
By Laura Pedersen
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Laura Pedersen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe good news is that I've had only one roommate this past semester. The bad news is that she plays Enya night and day. At this point, it's questionable what's going to happen first-graduation from college or drowning myself in the Orinoco Flow.
Everyone else is either studying for final exams or preparing to go home for the holidays. I, on the other hand, am packing up for good. By attending summer school the past two years, it was possible to make up the semesters I missed after Dad died.
I check my e-mails one last time before unplugging the computer. Craig Larkin has sent one simply saying: Lark N. Larkin. As a goof, we sometimes toss each other ridiculous names that we could use for our children, though we're not even engaged. It's just for fun. Craig has been my on and off boyfriend since high school, but for the past two years we've been seeing each other exclusively. He was a straight-A student and star athlete, while I won the award for most days missed to go and bet on the horses at the racetrack. But my older and wiser friend Olivia Stockton insists that Craig is a closet Bohemian because he talks to trees when he thinks no one is around. I respect him most for following his heart, like when he dropped out of college to start a pond-building business and everyone wasagainst the idea at the time. (Including me, big idiot that I am.)
There's a message saying that my cap and gown will be shipped to my home address, and also one asking me to stop by the Dean's Office. It must be about unpaid library fines. Last year my roommate owed almost two hundred dollars, so we had to buy a couple of kegs and hold a Fine Party.
In the lobby of my dorm, I use the pay phone to call Craig since I'm the only person on the planet without a cell phone.
"Where are you?" he asks. "For lunch I'm making chocolate chip pancakes with hot fudge and whipped cream!"
"Filling all the holes in the walls with toothpaste took longer than I thought," I explain. "And now I have to go and deal with an unpaid fine, which I really don't understand, since I wasn't anywhere near the library this past semester."
"Should I reschedule my appointment for this afternoon, so I can be there to help you unpack?" asks Craig.
"Gosh, no," I say. "From now on we're going to be together for ... well, a lot of the time." Craig and I have rented an apartment in Cincinnati, where I landed an entry-level job with an Internet marketing firm, and he'll continue to run his pond-building business, which has really taken off over the past year.
"All right," says Craig. "I'll take you out to dinner tonight to celebrate, and we'll have chocolate chip pancakes tomorrow and every day after that."
"Absolutely," I say. "Save that recipe!"
Walking across the Quad and over to the administrative building does not present the usual study in campus life, where students mill around laughing and chatting, sip coffee on a bench, or play hacky-sack near the fountain. Instead, young men and women stumble along with books clutched to their chests and baseball caps pushed low on their foreheads, glancing neither left nor right. The freshmen are the worst looking of the lot, absolute zombies. After three months of hard partying, muddled minds now have to cash all those blank checks written by their bodies back in the fall.
While waiting my turn in the Dean's Office, I actually get excited about the future. Finally, a place of my own where I can put any darn thing I want on the wall and leave it up until I get tired of it or it falls down. And no more having to pack a bag on weekends to see Craig, forgetting to include the books I need, or the right clothes for whatever we end up doing.
Finally, the secretary's voice calls out, "Hallie Palmer," and I'm ushered into Mr. Muller's office. Mr. Dakin, my regular advisor, retired this past fall, and Mr. Muller has replaced him.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Palmer. I'm glad you could make it on such short notice." A second chin takes up a third of his face and almost a quarter of his entire body.
"Hey." I sit down in the chair opposite his desk.
"Please make yourself comfortable. We have an interesting situation." Mr. Muller's eyebrows rise as he finishes each sentence.
Uh-oh. I immediately assume that I've failed one of my final exams. But even if that's the case, my grades were good going into them.
He glances down at a file on his desk. "You took psychology as a science in the second semester of your freshman year."
I recall wanting to get the required courses out of the way as soon as possible and memorizing a bunch of stuff about trained rats and Pavlov's dogs. "The professor gave me a B," I say. You only need to earn Cs in the basic requirements.
"Yes, but by taking psychology as a science, you fulfilled the natural science requirement but not the social science requirement," says Mr. Muller. "It can't be used for both."
I'm confused. "Before planning the last two semesters, Mr. Dakin went over my transcript and said I'd completed all the required classes and only needed to worry about finishing up my major."
"Yes, well, that seems to have been an oversight." Mr. Muller offers me a weak "smile," only it's more like what you get from squinting into harsh sunlight. "Mr. Dakin, was ... well ... he probably should have retired a little earlier."
I'd thought there was something a little odd about Mr. Dakin during that last meeting. A sixty-foot paperclip chain took up a good portion of his office and he kept turning the conversation to the weaponization of space.
"The bottom line is that you need one more four-credit class to graduate," says Mr. Muller.
"Yes, I'm very sorry to be the bearer of bad news." The eyebrows go up, and the squint is more pained, less smiley.
"But I have a job in Cincinnati! They hired someone with a college degree."
In a calming voice Mr. Muller says, "Don't worry. I'll explain what happened to your new employer. Take the class at a college in Cincinnati and simply transfer the credits back here. You can still walk the stage at graduation this January if you like."
I breathe a sigh of relief. It's bad, but not that bad.
"The only thing is that if you complete the course here, we won't charge you, because of the misunderstanding," says Mr. Muller. "But if you decide to take it elsewhere, the school can't reimburse you."
"You need a social science worth four credits-something like economics, anthropology, or political science. Or ... if you want to use the psych class you already took to fulfill your social sciences requirement, then you can take another science course. He picks up a catalogue and begins reading, "Biology, chemistry, physics ..."
No way! I haven't been in a real science class since tenth grade, and that was something horrible about rocks. "Don't get me wrong, Mr. Muller, I've really enjoyed college. But I turned twenty-one in September and am ready to move on with my life. I'm tired of classes, homework, and commuting every other weekend."
"I'm so sorry," he says. "I realize we have some responsibility here, and we're trying to do what we can to help. But unfortunately, I can't just give you credits that you didn't earn."
"Would it be okay if I take some time to think about this?"
Mr. Muller squints-this time as if he smells something unpleasant. "Registration for the spring semester was a month ago and our offices close on Friday for the holidays. You'll need to let me know by tomorrow. If you want to stay here, I can extend your dorm for a semester at no charge. I've already checked and no one is scheduled to move in."
"Yeah, it's safe to say that everyone on campus has heard Enya blasting from our room at two o'clock in the morning."
Mr. Muller walks me to the door. Based on the stack of folders on his desk, Mr. Dakin apparently made a few other oversights. Like about two hundred.
It feels as if I'm walking out of a doctor's office after receiving some horrible diagnosis. I can't even remember which way to turn in order to leave the building. Guys are up on ladders fixing panels in the ceiling. Suddenly my feet fly out from under me and the next thing I know, I'm sliding through a puddle on my butt.
Chapter Two"Whoops-a-daisy!" a janitor shouts as he drops his mop and comes running over.
While helping me to my feet he asks, "Didn't you see the signs?"
I glance around. "You mean the half-dozen three-foot-high bright yellow ones that say Wet Floor?"
"The roof is leaking," he explains.
"I wasn't paying attention."
"You'll have to use the doors on the other side of the building."
I must look confused because he points me in the right direction and then continues shouting encouragement as I stumble off.
The outside air is crisp but not really all that cold for the middle of December. It's the longest fall I can remember. Some of the trees still have a few leaves bravely hanging in there and the wind whips around scattered bits of paper.
Approaching the Quad, I run into Josh, who is now attending classes here for what must be his sixth year. He's changed his major about once a month, and so now we're both seniors-only he has a lot of minors. Despite my big crush on Josh two years ago, we'd ended up just being friends. By the time I arrived back at school after Dad died, I was going steady with Craig, and Josh had a girlfriend.
"Hey, Hallie-you look terrible!" says Josh, who has somehow completely dodged acne and remains boy-band cute. "Everything okay?"
"About five minutes ago I was told that I'm not graduating."
"What?" From the look on his face, I can tell he thinks that I've been expelled. This is not surprising, since there was a run of pranks this fall, including dismantling the president's Mercedes and reassembling it on top of the field house.
"No, I mean I'm four credits short, a social science-a stupid mix-up because Mr. Dakin had Alzheimer's during his final year as my advisor. I should have known something was up when he kept showing me photos of the Soap Box Derby cars he was building."
"I heard about that!" says Josh. "He wrote a fellowship recommendation for my friend Isabel and said she was 'in possession of a pulchritudinous posterior.'"
My eyes widen. "The administration has obviously known about this for a while! It doesn't seem fair. I feel like I should be able to sue them ... or something."
"Just stay for one more semester." Josh, who seems intent upon becoming a permanent student, sounds enthusiastic about the prospect.
"I have a job lined up in Cincinnati. I mean, it isn't first prize-an assistant in the marketing department at this speakers' bureau, laying out brochures and stuff, but it would give me some experience." I don't tell Josh the worst thing about the job, which is that the women are required to wear pantsuits and even skirts sometimes!
"I thought you wanted to work on product design."
"I do," I reply. "But I don't have so much as an internship on my résumé. I've worked as a gardener every summer since I was sixteen."
"Take the class in Cincinnati and transfer it back here," says Josh.
"I guess that's the solution," I say. "Craig is planning to move there with me. We've already found an apartment."
"That's the guy I see you with sometimes, from back home?"
I know he doesn't mean back home to sound negative, but it does, as if I never really grew up at college. I rub my fingers on my temples. "It's just that in my head I was finished with school, you know?"
"Hey, I've got an idea!" Josh says with the same thrill that probably overcomes him every time he switches majors. "Next semester I'm going around the world with a team from the sociology department. A professor has grant money to do a study."
"Around the world?"
"To a dozen different countries," says Josh. "We leave wallets on the ground containing money and I.D. to see if people return them, and if so, whether the money is still there."
It sounds ridiculous, but I'm so confused at this moment that I doubt anything would make much sense.
Taking my arm, Josh leads me toward the humanities building. "Oh, my gosh, Hallie, this is perfect! One of the girls on the team broke her leg playing Frisbee yesterday, and we didn't think we could replace her on such short notice. It totally messes up the hotel arrangements, because she was supposed to room with Amanda, and I'm in with this guy who's a grad student at Ohio State."
"How do you break a leg playing Frisbee?" I ask.
"Maybe it was dark," says Josh.
There were crazier stories, like the freshman who went hang gliding from the bell tower in order to ask some girl to homecoming. To make a long story short, he got a "yes" and also a concussion.
Josh leads me to a group of offices I've never before been inside. We go right past the secretary and to a room in the back with a green nameplate that says Ms. Pritchett on it in white letters. Inside, a woman who can't be older than twenty-eight sits at a desk heaped with paperwork.
Josh knocks on the door but then walks right in, pushing me ahead of him as if delivering a virgin for the altar sacrifice. "Ms. Pritchett, you'll never believe this! Hallie needs four credits in social sciences to graduate-she could take Lenore's place."
Ms. Pritchett doesn't look nearly as thrilled as Josh. In fact, for a woman who is naturally attractive, her pinched expression and furrowed brow make her appear anything but.
"Are you a student here?" Ms. Pritchett peers at me over the top of her wire-rimmed glasses like a librarian on the prowl for sticky fingers and overdue books.
Even though my excitable apricot-colored curls are secured by a maximum-strength ponytail, I smooth the sides of my head just in case. Then I begin to explain the crazy mix-up. Only when Ms. Pritchett hears the words "Mr. Dakin," she stops me as if that explains everything.
"Bummer," throws in Josh.
"Please have a seat," says Ms. Pritchett.
Clearing some file folders off a chair, I sit down.
Ms. Pritchett repeats what Josh told me, only in slightly greater detail. For her PhD, she's studying the honesty of ordinary people in different countries and how their social structures, mores, and religion can impact integrity. Josh wasn't kidding-this small group is traveling to a dozen different countries, all expenses paid.
It sounds totally crazy. I don't know what to say and just sit there as if I've been abducted by aliens and am waiting for the mind melds or the body probes to begin.
"Would it fill Hallie's requirement?" asks Josh.
Ms. Pritchett phones the department. She places her hand over the receiver for a second. "Who's your new advisor?"
"Mr. Muller," I reply.
After a short conversation, Ms. Pritchett establishes that the project would be considered a pass/fail independent study in sociology and make me eligible for graduation in the spring. Only she still doesn't appear all that eager to have me on board. When Ms. Pritchett presents her formal offer, it sounds more like she merely needs me so there will be enough worker bees to complete her all-important research.
"You'll need a doctor's certificate," she states, as if it's a done deal. "Can you be ready to leave on January fifth?" She hands me a folder with the name "Lenore Gomez" typed at the top.
"Uh, can I think about it?"
"You're not afraid to fly, are you?"
"No, of course not." The truth is that I've never been on a plane before, and so how would I even know. But I'd applied for a passport junior year while having hallucinations about spending spring break in Cancún. "I ... uh ... made some other plans that I'd have to change. Mr. Muller just told me about this mess a half an hour ago."
Ms. Pritchett keeps checking her watch like the officious rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. You'd think the plane was departing in fifteen minutes. "I have to switch the flight reservations to your name, get an insurance card, and submit my final list to the administration. You have exactly one week to decide." She jots something on the back of a business card and hands it to me. "Here's my home number."
Excerpted from Best Bet by Laura Pedersen Copyright © 2009 by Laura Pedersen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Laura Pedersen grew up Buffalo, New York; she now lives in New York City. Laura's first novel, Going Away Party, won the Three Oaks Prize for Fiction and her second novel, Beginner's Luck, was selected for Barnes & Noble's "Discover Great New Writers" program. To read more about the author, visit www.LauraPedersenBooks.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
I loved this book! I realized I'm reading this book first even though it is the last book in the series. I want to read the other books in the series so I can get the entire story and I plan to read this book again to help recreate the full story. This book had its laugh out loud moments and I enjoyed reading it. The character lost her father at a young age and dealt with the financial constraints brought about the loss. She thought she was about to graduate from college but was short four credits from finishing college. She tries to get away from all of her problems by leaving the area she grew up and lived in all her life to someplace else. However, she learns that her unresolved problems will follow her around no matter where she goes. All of the characters know each other personally providing a small town atmosphere and warm fuzzy feel. I had a hard time putting down my e-book reader and I would wonder about what would happen next in the book. I would also think about a funny little line the main character spoke which brought a smile to my face and made me laugh. This book touched my heart and I can't wait to read more of Laura Pedersen's books.
Pedersen manages to spin a warm and witty finale to her frolicsome but touching Hallie Palmer series (BEGINNER'S LUCK, HEART'S DESIRE, and THE BIG SHUFFLE). The books can stand alone and be read out of order but they're best together, as main character Hallie goes from 15 - 21. In an interview Pedersen said she loved Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer when a teenager but wanted a gal to have all the glorious adventures for a change. So Hallie dives in head first, getting into scrapes and dusting herself off, usually with a few wisecracks and a bit of wisdom taken onboard. But Hallie's escapades are only the road map and much of the fun lies in all of the fabulous secondary characters, who Pedersen successfully brings back to enlighten and entertain, even while Hallie takes a trip around the world and wrestles with her chaotic romantic life. I was left guessing right up until the very end. This series is hard to describe since you have a coming-of-age story that can be easily enjoyed by an 80-year-old. There's something old-fashioned in the characters and settings, yet timely when it comes to their concerns and problems. I'm thinking Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, and To Kill A Mockingbird all head for Comedy Central. Bottom line: These books will brighten your day. (And not to sound cliche, but you'll laugh out loud if reading in public places, so beware.) I'm waiting for the movie!
This book was one of the best books I've read in a long time. I absolutely loved it and the storyline was intriguing too. I look forward to reading the other books in the series as it would be nice to get the whole back story. I learned this book is the fourth book within the series. I felt sad for the character as she was four credits away from graduating from college. She was so close to meeting her goals and ends up leaving town with hopes that her problems would disappear in the process however she learns her problems followed her everywhere she goes and has confront the issues. The story was comical and touching at the same time. I liked that the author wrote a story to touch others by pulling on their heartstrings and making them laugh hard at the same time too. I would recommend this book to others maybe buy the other books in the series and put them together for a nice gift to given for a birthday or as a nice Christmas present.
I began reading Laura Pedersen's Hallie Palmer series to check out the first book for my niece. This is the fourth, and here I am again, grateful that I had the excuse to pick up the first book, and shamelessly pressing it into the hands of any friends that have the need for a pick-me-up. Hallie's all grown up, about to graduate from college, but she's derailed. Laura has done a great job of updating Hallie's teenage acerbic wit, softening the edges just enough to suit a maturing young woman. What struck me about this book, and what I retroactively realized about the previous ones, was that the first chapter is like the ascent up the first hill of a roller coaster. You hear that a lot about books, but the dialogue is punchy, the phrases well-turned, and the action well-paced and you really get the sense of impending adventure that we can imagine Hallie must feel when things take a sharp turn down a blind alley. My niece came to these late, so she didn't 'grow up' with Hallie per se, but she consumed this one as eagerly as the previous ones, and was so invested in Hallie's story that she surprised me with how much she held after a single read. Another great read from Laura Pedersen, whose characters are full of life and written intelligently, with not a whiff of it being 'dumbed down' like a lot of books for young adults. I highly recommend it not only for the teenage readers in your life, but for yourself, whether a cafe book or a beach book, find a way to fit this series into your life and get some of the literary feel-good you may be missing by sticking to other genres.
Best Bet is a must read - it's so good! I just recently read the 3rd book in this series and was excited to see that the 4th was out! Hallie Palmer, the main character, is awesome - she's funny, heartfelt.and a great gambler! She's had some tragedy in her life too and has some burdens to bear, but this is a coming of age novel about graduating college and what that means and Hallie comes into her own - even if it takes her a trip around the world to get a little wiser. It's a great read - both serious and funny - and I'm sad that this is the final book! More Hallie!!!! Luckily, I've been reading these books out of order and I still have the first two left to enjoy!
This book was the conclusion of a four-part series. The series covers the life of Hallie Palmer. In this series finale, Hallie is anticipating college graduation and a new life with her longtime boyfriend Craig, when she learns that she is short a few credits due to no fault of her own. She embarks on a journey around the world as part of a sociology project for school to earn her degree, and learns a little something about herself and the world while she is at it. Hallie ...more This book was the conclusion of a four-part series. The series covers the life of Hallie Palmer. In this series finale, Hallie is anticipating college graduation and a new life with her longtime boyfriend Craig, when she learns that she is short a few credits due to no fault of her own. She embarks on a journey around the world as part of a sociology project for school to earn her degree, and learns a little something about herself and the world while she is at it. Hallie is still a likable character: "tomboyish" and logical, yet quick-witted. Pastor Costello, whom she secretly gambled with in the basement of the church as a teen, has now taken on a new role in her life. Her brothers and sisters are growing up and moving away to begin lives of their own. Her mother has begun a new life after losing Hallie's father a few years before (in one of the books I didn't read). Hallie is facing the same question that so many others are facing in this day and age: Is the cost of higher education worth it? In a time when college graduates are finding themselves waiting tables or working in department stores to survive, will the financial investment pay off for her? She may find, as others may find, that sometimes it may pay off in ways that you didn't expect. Or perhaps the education will help you in a career that you didn't have planned. And often you have to go away to find, just like Dorothy, that "there's no place like home". There is pretty good character development here. I can "see" the characters in my head, and feel I really know them and "get" them. Some of the storylines and character interactions are a little over the top. The characters can tend towards extreme stereotypes, but the story is enjoyable nevertheless. I think that I enjoyed this one a little more than the first one. There seemed to be a little more "meat" to it (and less Rocky). However let me note that you do not have to have read any of the preceding books in the series in order read this one.
A delightful fourth and final book about the rich, quirky life of 21-year-old college student Hallie Palmer. When the story opens, Hallie is days away from donning graduation cap and gown to begin her post-college life when she discovers a clerical error has left her one social-sciences class short. Minutes later, she bumps into Josh, an old crush of hers who tells her she can get the course credit if she signs up with a sociology team (of which Josh is part) to travel the world, dropping wallets containing $20 each, as part of a professor's doctoral study on humanity's global honesty. But if Hallie embarks on this globe-trotting mission, it will throw a jumbo-sized wrench into her plans to move in with her longtime boyfriend Craig and start work at her new job. However, for this small-town girl, the opportunity is too irresistible to refuse and just before she departs, a stung Craig bestows a free-spirit status on them both. While her journey is fraught with food poisoning, an earthquake and various assorted comical conundrums, Hallie must also try to remain in her professor's good graces as well as withstand life with her roommate Mandy, a Mennonite who suddenly morphs into a henna-tattooed siren on the second day of the journey. Wiser for her tribulations, Hallie returns home to her family with eight siblings, her hysterically funny gay friend Bernard, and his perpetually politically correct mother, Olivia, and Craig. What follows is a marvelous ending with a funny domino-like sequence of surprises for Hallie and others. Though the book can be found on young-adult shelves, the story is more than sufficiently sophisticated to grab adults as well. Literary and cultural references add a wonderful depth to the anecdotes and metaphors. The book's laugh-out-loud funny, and readers will find themselves rereading lines just for the sheer joy of it. They may also find that going back to the preceding three books will prove irresistible. A sure bet. KIRKUS