High school senior Kathleen is a good girl who does not drink, smoke, get in trouble, or even drive a car. All that changes one night when she sneaks out to a party with best friend Jen, who proceeds to get drunk, forcing Kathleen to call her older brother Nick for a ride home. Except Nick never makes it because the icy roads lead to an accident that kills him. Kathleen's life is shattered in more ways than one. In the midst of her personal grief and that of her parents, she finds that she is never sure which reality she will awake into--is she Kate, Kay, Kathy, or Kathleen? Every choice Kathleen makes is generating a unique universe embodying the consequences of her decisions. At the funeral she meets Luke, supposedly a friend of her brother's, and he knows all about her "shifting" experiences because it has happened to him too and he seems always to be available, regardless of which universe she is inhabiting. Can she find a reality in which her brother is still alive and her family intact? What will she lose in the process? It is an interesting--if somewhat difficult to follow--premise in this speculative tale where conflicting desires result in very different lives. One redeeming feature of the story is that eventually all versions of the protagonist decide to start taking some positive steps to fix what is broken in the relationships with family members. This is light reading that will appeal to teens with an interest in the paranormal. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
Choicesby Deborah Lynn Jacobs
SHIFTING BETWEEN MULTIPLE REALITIES A teenage girl consumed by guilt over her brother's death tries to find a universe in which he is still alive.
Sticky notes rim the mirror in rainbow colors. REMEMBER. DON'T FORGET HIM. READ THE NOTEBOOK. Remember what? Remember who? And what's this about a notebook? There's another note, bottom center of the mirror./p>
SHIFTING BETWEEN MULTIPLE REALITIES A teenage girl consumed by guilt over her brother's death tries to find a universe in which he is still alive.
Sticky notes rim the mirror in rainbow colors. REMEMBER. DON'T FORGET HIM. READ THE NOTEBOOK. Remember what? Remember who? And what's this about a notebook? There's another note, bottom center of the mirror. THE DREAMS ARE REAL.
In an unconscious effort to find her dead brother, Kathleen slips between universes. Choices begins in one dimension, then fractures into four distinct voices with every deision Kathleen/Kay/Kate/Kathy makes.
After the death of her brother Nick, Kathleen starts slipping between similar worlds. Each world is formed when people make choices: to turn away from a friend, to dye hair a startling color, to go to a party. Kathleen exists in all of the universes, but her multitude of selves all differ. In one universe, her mother drinks; in another, Kathleen’s her best friend; in yet another, she’s lashing out at everyone around her. Yet in all universes there are two constants: Fellow world-hopper Luke is always present, and Nick’s still dead. It’s Luke who finds Kathleen and explains to her what is happening, and who is the object of her increasingly ardent desires. Yet Kathleen’s burgeoning feelings for Luke aren’t enough to cure her grief, her rage or the lives that fall apart in every universe she inhabits. Kathleen’s melancholic tale does justice both to the moving story of a girl coming to terms with the death of her brother and to the magical adventure of a universe-shifting girl trying to find her way home. (Fantasy. 12-14)
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By Deborah Lynn Jacobs
Roaring Brook PressCopyright © 2007 Deborah Lynn Jacobs
All rights reserved.
I jolt awake. What a freaky dream,
one where it was me in the mirror and yet not me. My hair for one thing, chopped and spiked and dyed deep blue. And my face, my face, was out of focus, phase-shifted, like a double exposure with two images badly superimposed.
I wobble to the bathroom, my knees fighting the adrenaline rush that woke me.
I relax when I see my reflection: shoulder-length brown hair, eyes normal — well, normal for me, anyway, since one is brown and the other green — and my face clearly focused.
Then I notice the sticky notes. They rim the mirror in rainbow colors. Remember. Don't forget him. Read the notebook.
Remember what? Remember who? And what's this about a notebook?
There's another note, bottom center of the mirror.
The dreams are real.
I find a notebook on my desk. It's red, spiral-bound, college-ruled. A neon-green sticky note screams: Read me.
I open it to see my own handwriting, the back-slanted sprawl of a leftie. I flip through the notebook, noticing the names — Kathleen, Kay, Kate, Kathy.
* * *
My memory is fading like an old photograph left too long in the sun. The edges curl and the images grow faint. The colors bleed away, leaving indistinct people with blurry faces.
Maybe that's my mind trying to protect itself. Not for the first time do I wonder if all these lives and timelines are the products of my own insanity. Kathleen, Kay, Kate, Kathy — how could I have been all of them? And all at the same time?
* * *
The people in my dreams? The faces in the mirror?
* * *
I'm writing down everything, starting with the party, just as it happened. No, not as it happened. As if it's happening, right now. Who knows? Maybe it is happening, in some other universe.
I should learn to drive. I should. Almost eighteen and still I rely on Jen, my best friend, to take me everywhere. But I hate cars. Cars, they're fragile. Tear like tissue paper. Crumple like Styrofoam cups. Death traps, that's what they are.
Those are my thoughts, two hours into a new year. I'm slumped on the stairs that lead to Matt's bedroom, where Jen lies in a drunken stupor. Outside, freezing rain slants down through winter darkness.
Where's my brother, Nick? I called him two hours ago for a lift. What's taking him so long?
"Oops, sorry," shouts a male voice as beer splashes down. A few drops land on my jeans. I look up to see Matt lurch down the smoke-hazed staircase.
"How is she?" I yell over the pounding music.
"Baked," Matt says with a lopsided grin.
I feel like smacking the grin off his face. Jen's baked? Jen never drank, never got high. Until tonight. All it took was Matt, the heartthrob of our senior class. He offers weed, she smokes it. He offers alcohol, she drinks it. It's not that Jen's a pushover. Jen has no difficulty saying no, even to Matt. She just wanted to impress him. Fit into his world.
Some world. Some party. If the music were any louder, my eardrums would explode. My eyes are stinging from secondhand smoke, and I don't mean cigarettes. Countless guys have pressed a drink into my hand. But they can never quite figure out which eye to focus on — the brown one on the left or the green one on the right. They usually settle for staring fixedly at my nose. Like they think I don't notice that? After a few seconds of nose-watching, they find excuses to drift away.
I poured the drinks into the dieffenbachia's pot in the front hall. Its leaves are drooping. I guess it can't handle rum and Coke any more than I can.
Matt sways past me on the stairs and looks out the window. I see headlights as a car swings into the driveway.
My brother. Finally.
"Uh-oh," Matt says. "The cops."
"What!" I yell.
"Stall them!" He pushes into the throng of people in the living room. He shouts something, but his words are lost in the reverberating music. He switches the noise off and calls out, "Drink it, eat it, or stow it. We've got trouble."
From the living room comes a cacophony of sounds: the clink of liquor bottles; people shuffling around, bumping into each other, swearing and giggling. Kenny, a guy in my English class, stares at the pipe he's holding in his hand as if staring at it might make it magically disappear.
The doorbell rings. Matt motions for me to open it. "Stall," he repeats in a fierce whisper. He runs down the hall, clutching an armload of half-consumed beers, leaving a dribbling trail in his wake.
Stall. Great idea. I should never have let Jen talk me into coming. Yeah, right. That's what I say every time Jen talks me into something. Next time I'll put my foot down.
I say that every time, too.
The doorbell rings again. I peek out through the window to see a uniformed policeman, young, skinny, with a prominent Adam's apple. He takes off his cap and mangles it in his hands.
I open the door and slip outside to stand shivering in the porch light. I'm hoping the smell of marijuana hasn't followed me.
"May I help you?" I ask.
"Uh, I'm looking for Kathleen Ker ... uh ..." The policeman hesitates, looks at his notes.
"Kerchenko. That's me. I'm she. I mean, I'm Kathleen." I don't understand. Why is he asking for me by name? Uh-oh. He's looking at my eyes. I wonder if I have a contact high. Do your pupils dilate if you have a contact high?
His gaze shifts from my right eye to my left, then drops to his notebook.
"I'm Officer McClaren, Pine Ridge Police," he says. "Your brother's been involved in an accident. Your parents are at the hospital. I'm under instructions to take you there."
"That's impossible," I say. "My brother is coming to pick me up, because Jen pass —" I shut my mouth before I blurt out the rest of the sentence. Because Jen, my ride, is passed out in Matt's bedroom.
"Your brother is Nicholas Kerchenko? License plate ..." He pauses, flips open a notebook, reads off Nick's license plate number.
What? What's he saying? Nick? In an accident? My head spins as if I've been drinking after all.
"What? How is he? Is he hurt? Is he going to be okay?" I say, tripping over my words.
"Uh, I think it's best if your parents fill you in," the policeman says. "Would you like to get your jacket?"
My jacket is inside the house where people are dashing around, panicking, hiding bottles of vodka and rum.
"No. Let's just go," I say.
He glances at me sideways, but nods.
Cold rain falls. Freezing rain. It slicks the driveway with an invisible but treacherous coating of black ice.
We creep down the road. I'm anxious to see Nick. To make sure he's okay. To hear him laugh and say, "It's nothing, Kath. Just a few bruises. I get banged up worse in a scrimmage."
What if he's seriously injured? Cars, they're death traps. What if he's ...?
This drive is taking forever.
I ask the cop, "Shouldn't we put the siren on? And the lights?"
He glances at me and turns his attention back to the road. It takes me a few silent miles to decipher his expression.
Partway to the hospital, I wonder: had Nadia been in the car with Nick? Then I remember our conversation, when I'd called for a ride.
* * *
"Sure, Kath. Where are you?" Nick had asked.
"The address is on the fridge."
There's a pause as he goes to check.
"Okay, got it. Yeah, I know that area. Be right there."
"Will Nadia be mad?" After all, it was New Year's Eve. My parents had gone to Aunt Lydia's, so Nick and Nadia were having a romantic evening alone.
"Nah. She fell asleep at around eleven. I had to wake her up at midnight just to get my kiss." He laughed. "She fell back asleep about two seconds later. I'll leave her a note, just in case."
* * *
The Emergency Room doors sigh open. I'm directed to a waiting room. On the couch, Mom is sobbing. It's a horrible, ragged sound, like someone is ripping her apart. Nadia, her face streaked with tears, sits beside her, holding her hand.
Dad slumps in a chair to the side of the couch. His elbows rest on his knees, his head down, his face covered by his hands. I think he's crying. More than anything, that shocks me. Oh, God, Nick must really be hurt.
"I tried to call your cell," Nadia says, "but you didn't answer. So I gave the police the address on the fridge." She's talking in a faraway voice, like she's in shock.
I nod. The party was too loud for me to have heard my phone. I sit down on the other side of Mom. My heart is pounding so hard I think I might faint.
"Where's Nick?" I ask. "Is he okay? What happened?"
Dad composes himself, wipes his face, clears his throat.
"Nick was driving north along State Street," he says. His voice is strangely empty. I get the feeling that if he gives in to his emotions, he won't be able to stop.
"A van was traveling east on Ottawa Drive," Dad continues. "The van had a stop sign. Nick had the right of way. The driver of the van tried to stop but the conditions were too slippery. He went through the intersection and hit Nick's car."
I can hear the sound of the impact. Like the last time I drove, just after I got my learner's permit, and I was stopped at a red light when some idiot plowed into me — wham — and the sound of my trunk crumpling was the sound of metal screaming.
Dad's voice breaks. "The van pushed Nick's car across the intersection. It hit a utility pole. They think Nick died on impact."
"He can't be dead." The room sways around me.
"I'm sorry, Kathleen," Dad says. "There was nothing they could do for him."
My vision grays. I put my head down between my knees. It can't be true. I just talked to Nick a few hours ago. Things like this don't happen, they don't.
Out of nowhere, anger takes over. I want to hit something. I jump up, pace around the room.
"What about the driver of the van?" I demand.
"He's fine," Dad says.
"What? Nick dies and the other guy's fine?"
"It was a full-sized van, Kathleen. Nick didn't have a chance." Dad runs his hands through his sparse hair.
"So what's the guy's excuse?" My voice comes out shrill. "Was he drunk?"
"No, not drunk. It was no one's fault."
"No one's fault? You can't be serious. What's his name?"
"Michael Agius. That's what the police told us."
"Some old guy? Some old fart who shouldn't be driving?"
"Young guy," Dad says tiredly.
"Young? Like, what, was he on his cell? Text-messaging with one hand, driving with the other?"
"No, nothing like that. It was an accident." Dad stops my frantic pacing. He puts his arm around my shoulder and leads me back to the couch.
I realize I'm on the edge of hysteria. I fight to calm down. "I need to see him, Dad."
Dad takes a while to answer, as if he's trying to find the right words.
"They don't recommend that," he finally says. "Nick was trapped in the car, between the pole and the van. They had to call for the Jaws of Life."
His voice breaks again. He turns away, and I know he's crying.
I should break down. I should cry, shouldn't I? Isn't that what people do? But, for some reason, I can't. All I can think is: it can't be true. Nick can't be dead.
It's freezing outside. An Alberta Clipper, they call it. A cold air mass moves down from Canada, turning Wisconsin into a giant ice cube.
Why didn't the cold come a day earlier? Twelve hours earlier? Turn the freezing rain to dry, powdery snow, like the stuff that is sifting down outside. I watch it from where I'm sitting on the living room couch. It's beautiful, nothing but a harmless white dusting on the road.
I didn't sleep last night. Every time I closed my eyes I heard the sickening crunch of metal, loud, so loud, echoing in my head. Was that the last sound Nick heard before he died? Did he suffer?
I just want to go back. Go back to where I let Jen talk me into going to the party. Go back, and this time say no.
I remember the conversation I had with Jen, word for word. We were sitting on my bed, listening to music, eating popcorn.
* * *
"Why can't we have a sleepover at my house?" I had suggested. "We'll have a movie marathon."
"That's what we always do, Kath," Jen said.
"So? What's wrong with that?" I said, grabbing a handful of popcorn.
Jen pulled her fingers through her dark hair. Expertly, she fashioned it into a French braid, going by feel alone.
I finger-combed my own shoulder-length hair, wondering if I should cut it shorter. "I don't know. If my parents ever found out that Matt's parents will be out of town, they'd kill me."
"Don't tell them that part." Jen pulled her hair back out of the braid, twisted it into a sloppy bun.
"I don't know ..."
"Kath, come on. Live a little."
"I live," I said, feeling defensive.
"On the sidelines," said Jen. "Like when we went to Six Flags."
"Well, someone had to capture the moment," I said. "I was your official cameraman."
"You didn't go on a single ride."
"But I got some great video."
"And the time we went to the water park?"
"Those slides can be dangerous," I argued. "You enter the water so fast you can lose your bikini top."
"And when have you ever worn a bikini?"
"Well, never," I said. "So, obviously, I've never lost my top."
Jen snorted. "Look, just come to the party, okay?"
"Why? Because it's Matt's party?"
"What's wrong with that?"
"What do you see in him anyway?"
"He's hot," she said, as if that explained everything.
"He's an immature boy," I said, "whose acne just cleared up last year."
"Kath, you set your sights too high. Who are you saving yourself for?"
"Something better than Matt."
"Look," she said, "it's one party. One night. Just come with me."
"Why don't you ask Maya?"
"She has to babysit her little brother," she said.
Poor Maya. If her parents said Maya had to babysit, then Maya had to babysit.
"What about Steph?"
"Family vacation down south. You're my only hope, Kath. You have to come. I can't go alone, now can I?" Jen blinked rapidly, letting her long bangs tangle in her eyelashes.
* * *
So I went to the party. And because of me, Nick is dead. It's all my fault.
Or is it? What about Jen? Pushing me to go. Guilting me into it.
And then she'd gotten loaded. She knew I couldn't drive home. What kind of a friend abandons you like that?
If she had stayed sober, I wouldn't have needed to call Nick. He'd still be alive.
* * *
The doorbell rings, cutting through my thoughts, breaking the dust-thick silence in the house. Trojan, our Great Dane, answers from Nick's room, a querulous woof, as if to ask, "Isn't anyone getting that?" Mom is in the kitchen, making another call in a long series of calls.
"Yes, closed casket. The funeral is Sunday." That's my mother's voice, almost a whisper. It breaks when she gets to "funeral."
From my position on the living room couch, I watch Jen as she stabs the bell again. She steps back, peers through the front window, waves at me.
I ignore her. Refuse to make eye contact. Go. Just go.
She taps on the window. She's standing in the flower bed, holding up the jacket and purse I left behind at the party.
I shake my head. She's the last person I want to talk to right now.
"I'm sorry," she shouts. Coming through double-paned windows, it's muffled but clear enough that I get it.
I don't budge. Sorry doesn't quite cut it.
Her face goes blotchy the way it always does when she's trying not to cry. She hangs my purse and jacket on the doorknob. She slouches down the driveway, feet dragging, head dropped low.
My throat closes up. What am I doing? We've been friends since middle school. How can I let her walk away, hurt and angry? She might never talk to me again. I know Jen. She's not the forgiving type.
I should call her back, I should. I can imagine myself doing it. I'll fling open the door and call her name. She'll race back up the drive and launch herself through the door. She'll throw her arms around me and nothing will have changed between us.
But then I hear that sound again, in my head. Metal twisting. Crushing. Screaming. I look out the window and watch Jen drive away, leaving whirls of powdery snow in her wake.
Neighbors trickle over. They bear loaves: lemon, blueberry, zucchini, carrot. Mom double-wraps each loaf in aluminum foil. Labels each one: Zucchini Loaf, Mark and Sylvia Anderson; Blueberry Loaf, The Petersons; Lemon Loaf, from Leslie next door. She lays them in the freezer, side by side, like little metallic coffins.
Aunt Lydia arrives. She envelops me in a hug, big-boned and pillow-soft. "How're you holding up, honey?" Her voice, roughened by thirty years of cigarettes, grates in my ear. It's oddly reassuring.
"Okay," I lie.
"Where's your dad?" she asks.
"In the den. Watching sports. He only comes out to eat," I say.
"We all grieve in our own way," Aunt Lydia says. Just the same, her lips purse in disapproval.
Aunt Lydia heads to the kitchen, bearing gifts: cabbage rolls, pierogi, poppy-seed cake. For after the funeral, she says.
We all grieve in our own way. I've thought of going in there, of offering whatever comfort I can. But the truth is this: the only person who could comfort my father is gone.
I run my hand over the coffin, and feel the perfect smoothness of polished wood. I refuse to believe Nick is in there. He's alive. In some time and place, he must be alive.
I'm still in denial, I know it, I do. I should have worked through this stage. Denial, anger, what's next? I don't remember. I'm stuck.
Excerpted from Choices by Deborah Lynn Jacobs. Copyright © 2007 Deborah Lynn Jacobs. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Deborah Lynn Jacobs, author of Powers, which was praised by Kirkus Reviews as "bewitching," lives in Wisconsin.
Deborah Lynn Jacobs is a transplanted Canadian, now a Wisconsin resident. Debbie admits to having many previous careers: college counselor, college instructor, life-skills coach, newspaper and magazine freelancer. Since her children are now in college, she lives with her husband and a 100-pound Doberman. When she’s not writing, Debbie can be found in her perennial garden or paddling down a river somewhere in the wilderness. Powers is her first novel for older teens. Roaring Brook published Choices in Fall 2007.
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Kathleen is at a New Year's party with her friend, Jen, who is drunk. Since Kathleen can't drive, she calls her brother, Nick, for a ride home. It isn't Kathleen's brother who knocks on her friend's door but a policeman. He tells Kathleen that her brother has been in a car accident, and that he's been instructed to take her to the hospital. Sadly, she finds out that Nick died on impact. Then it begins...Throughout the story things happen, but then it seems they didn't happen. Did these things happen? Yes, it seems so. But where did these happenings occur; in which Universe? And who experienced what, when; Kathleen or Kate or Kay or Kathy? And is it possible for Kathleen to see her brother again? And who is Luke, really? Deborah Lynn Jacobs has one character, Kathleen, become four - no, I'm not talking about multiple personalities, although that's what I thought it was for a while - and my mind is stimulated to the last page with all of the "shifting". It also didn't escape my attention that family & friendship issues were worked out through it all. I don't know if I could have made the decision Kathleen made in the very end, but we all have our reasons for the choices we make. Paranormal isn't a genre I'm usually drawn to, but the title of this one got my attention. It was an interesting read penned by a very skilled writer.
If only she had her driver's license. If only she wasn't afraid to drive. If only Jen hadn't gotten too drunk to drive home. If only she hadn't called Nick to come and get her. If only... If only...
Kathleen's life is altered on the night she goes to a party where her best friend gets too drunk to drive her home. Kathleen calls her brother, Nick, to pick her up, and being the great brother he is, he doesn't hesitate to get out on a cold and slippery night to rescue his little sister.
When police knock on the door of the party everyone assumes they're busted. Kathleen is given the job of stalling since she is sober. Instead, the police are there for her - to take her to the hospital where Nick was taken after he was hit on the way to pick her up.
Kathleen's life drastically changes after Nick's death. Her father isolates himself in his office watching sports on television and her mother begins drinking a little more every day. Kathleen is left feeling alone until she meets someone new at Nick's memorial service. Luke offers kindness and concern when no one else is focusing on her needs.
The night after the funeral Kathleen, full of sadness, falls asleep in Nick's bed. When she wakes up she realizes she isn't in the same "reality" as she was the day before. Little things aren't right. Jen, who she's been fighting with since the night of the party, so much so that she didn't even come to the funeral, shows up to take her to school on this particular morning like nothing had ever happened. They are still amazingly close. Confusion plagues Kathleen's mind all day. Finally, she realizes what is going on.
Kathleen realizes there are certain moments everyday when she makes decisions, and depending on what decision she makes, her life takes a different path. The problem for Kathleen is that she retains the memories of the previous path while she also has to live in the new one. All of these paths run parallel and go on at the same time with different consequences. Kathleen ends up splintering into several paths, which she keeps track of by the different names she gives to herself. She becomes Kay, Kate, and Kathy, in addition to her original self. Her major problem is that she doesn't know who she'll be when she wakes up in the morning. Her one constant is Luke. He manages to find her no matter who she is.
Deborah Lynn Jacobs has created a thought-provoking novel about the importance of life choices. Kathleen learns a lot about herself as she navigates her way through her many lives, attempting to reconcile with family, friends, and her own feelings about loss and love.
i think really one of the best books out thre...even though it doen't get that much attention i think it's trully amazing....it's not really you're typical science fiction book...it has everything in it, which i loved...i just hoped that at the luke would have remembered kathlene, but again the content of the story was very original!!!!!!! hands down an amazing book!!!!
This book was truley amazing.Iloved it and there arnt that many books out there for me!
this book was aweosme, i havent read powers, but i have to say this is definitely one of my favorite books, i love kathleen and luke, and anyone who is a sucker for a love story or wants to read something to get their minds off stephanies new release, this is the book, its as great as twilight