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Funny How Things Change

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Overview

Remy Walker has it all: he found the love of his life at home in crumbling little Dwyer, West Virginia, deep in his beloved Appalachian Mountains where his family settled more than one hundred and sixty years ago. But at seventeen, you’re not supposed to already be where you want to be, right? You’ve got a whole world to make your way through, and you start by leaving your dead-end town. Like his girlfriend, Lisa. Lisa’s going away to college. If Remy goes with her, it would be the start of everything they ever ...

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Overview

Remy Walker has it all: he found the love of his life at home in crumbling little Dwyer, West Virginia, deep in his beloved Appalachian Mountains where his family settled more than one hundred and sixty years ago. But at seventeen, you’re not supposed to already be where you want to be, right? You’ve got a whole world to make your way through, and you start by leaving your dead-end town. Like his girlfriend, Lisa. Lisa’s going away to college. If Remy goes with her, it would be the start of everything they ever dreamed of. So when a fascinating young artist from out of state shows Remy his home through new eyes, why is he suddenly questioning his future?

The author vividly depicts a rich and beautiful place in this powerful novel about a young man who, over the course of a summer, learns how much he has to give up for a girl, and how much he needs to give up for a mountain.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Wyatt’s prose is tautly evocative throughout; her plot is a welcome departure from the stale conventions of the hero’s journey.” —Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“Good writing drives stellar characterization of this strong but introspective protagonist struggling with his own version of the universal questions of who he is and what matters most . . . . Kinship with Remy will come easily to readers facing similar decisions about growing up and leaving home.” —School Library Journal

“Beautifully spare language portrays the quiet story of a good guy.” —VOYA

“Readers will identify with Remy and his feeling of being torn between a comfortable past and uncertain future.” —Booklist

“This timeless drama of a teen trying to make the right decision about his future is credibly set against timely issues about bad local economies based on unsustainable mining practices, making for a memorable and truly compelling coming-of-age-story.” –Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Thoughtfully written.” —Teensreadtoo.com

“An intimate look into a young man’s life and the decisions he must make.” —Towerofbooks.wordpress.com

“A beautifully written male character.” —Apatchworkofbooks.blogspot.com

“A great look at reasons to leave home versus reasons to stay (without involving any abuse, death or depression) and also has an environmental angle involving mountain top removal . . . . Very well done.”—ChasingRay.com

VOYA - Melissa Moore
Seventeen-year-old Remy Walker has graduated and cannot imagine life without Lisa, his beautiful girlfriend. He has lived his entire life in the small, rural community of Dwyer, West Virginia, but the two of them have made secret plans to leave the all-but-dead mining town. Lisa will go to college, and Remy will get a job as a mechanic (he's very good) and maybe, eventually, get his certification. A chance encounter with Dana, a visiting artist, gives Remy pause, however, and he comes to see his family history and beloved Appalachian Mountains in a new way that makes him question everything he once took for granted. Beautifully spare language portrays the quiet story of a good guy, perhaps lacking in worldly ambition but honest and real, who wonders where his place in the world ought to be. Remy will attract both male and female readers, and the setting takes on character as issues of the environment and the true value of land become central to the story. It is refreshing to find a young person capable of contentment, willing to wrestle with issues larger than himself, and sensitive to family history and elders yet still believably imperfect. The cover design and less-than-dramatic story line will require librarians to push this title, but readers who listen will be rewarded many times over. Reviewer: Melissa Moore
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Following high school graduation, Remy Walker is working at a gas station in Dwyer, WV, a town that is limping along in the wake of its coal-mining past. Strong feelings for Lisa, his girlfriend who is going away to college, lead Remy to decide to leave Dwyer and the mountain that has been his family's home for more than 150 years, and go with her. Her parents don't support this plan, but his father, who is self-employed and without other resources, offers him the proceeds of selling Walker Mountain to the mining company, to allow access to other peaks where they are practicing mountaintop mining removal. To complicate matters, the earnest youthful passion that he feels for Lisa is shaken not only by his ties to the land and his dad, but also by Dana, an intriguing artist painting murals on water towers during her summer break from college. Good writing drives stellar characterization of this strong but introspective protagonist struggling with his own version of the universal questions of who he is and what matters most. Wyatt creates a vivid sense of place where nobody has much, but the land is an organic and awesome presence in the lives of people with ties to it. Kinship with Remy will come easily to readers facing similar decisions about growing up and leaving home, especially when it comes to leaving a small town or a place suffering a downward economic spiral.-Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA

Kirkus Reviews
Remy Walker is torn. High school is over and Lisa, the girl he loves, is leaving West Virginia for college. She wants him to come, too, but everything else calls him to stay in Dwyer, where Walker roots go back to 1840. Many locals-Remy's mother was one-can't wait to escape this hardscrabble life with diminishing job prospects, where mountaintops are systematically destroyed to reach dwindling reserves of coal left from centuries of mining. Others, like Remy's dad, stay on, stubbornly eking out a living. Remy gives in to Lisa's plans, but the arrival of an attractive young outsider, alive to the harsh enchantment of Remy's world, makes him question his choice. Laconic but full of heart, smart, thoughtful and proudly working-class, Remy makes a fresh and immensely appealing hero. Wyatt's prose is tautly evocative throughout; her plot is a welcome departure from the stale conventions of the hero's journey. What Remy seeks, his terra incognita, lies not in some distant place, but beneath his feet and all around him, the achingly beautiful, vulnerable landscape of home. (Fiction. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374302337
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/27/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 376,168
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

MELISSA WYATT fell in love with the landscape of Appalachia on trips “home” with her husband, whose family is from West Virginia. She lives in York, Pennsylvania.

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Read an Excerpt

ONE

“Come with me,” she said again, and everything around them was still, silent, waiting.

“Okay.”

Because he had to be with her. He knew that much.

“Really?” She pushed up again, staring at him.

“Yeah, really. Let’s do it.”

His decision washed over him, leaving him feeling slightly drunk or like he’d just stepped off a cliff. And the joy that spread across her face reached out and caught him, held him up. He felt a laugh rise in his throat, a kid’s laugh, and he didn’t feel raw at all anymore. He felt like he could crack the whole mountain himself, if he wanted to.

“Remy, baby.”

That was all it needed. He grabbed Lisa and pulled her down again, his face in her neck, her hair everywhere. Her lips met his and her .ngers slid into his hair. He felt the soft warmth of her spread across him, like she could melt into him, pushing away that gasping feeling of having made such a big decision.

“It’s getting late,” Lisa breathed in his ear. “Aren’t you working today?”

He swore, sat up, his head swimming with burning and kisses and plans. There were a lot of plans to be made, people they’d have to tell. Like his dad. His dad was going to hate this. But Remy pushed everything down with an almost physical effort and grabbed his shirt and skinned it over his shoulders.

“Remy?” Lisa’s voice rose with uncertainty. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” He hunted around for his boots. “Yeah, I’m okay. It’s just . . .”

“Don’t worry!” She smiled. “It’s going to be great! Perfect.”

She understood him, knew how he felt without him having to say. He held her, his hand behind her head, feeling the surprising strength of the slim tendons of her neck against his .ngers. His heart still picked up speed when he looked at her. That day in tenth grade might have been the moment she decided he was worth noticing, but it wasn’t the .rst time he’d noticed her. Long before that, every time he passed her in the halls at school or saw her on the streets in Dwyer, he felt like he was looking at a prize that was way out of his reach. So that day in history class, they both knew. It wasn’t even a question.

He kissed her again. She soothed him in ways she didn’t even know. She’d like that. He ought to tell her, but he didn’t want to risk breaking whatever spell she cast without knowing it. His lips still touching hers, he fumbled with his shirt, buttoning it blind.

“I gotta go,” he told her. “I’m covering Jimmy’s—” Kiss. “—shift tonight and then I’m—” Kiss. “—on again in the morning. I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon, maybe.”

“You staying in the bottom tonight?”

“Yeah,” Remy grunted as he jerked on the laces of his scuffed boots.“If Duff’ll let me sleep in the garage.”

He didn’t have a car and it was nearly an hour’s hike from Duff’s Gas and Go down in the creek bottom at the north end of town all the way up Walker Hollow to where he lived with his dad on the mountain south of town. Not worth the effort when he was pulling a double shift.

“Let me drive you to work,” Lisa said, brushing off bits of leaves and pine needles from her tank top.

“No time.” He grabbed her wrist and tapped the face of her watch. “You gotta go get Scott.”

Scott was her little brother, waiting to be picked up from swimming lessons at the park pool, the opposite direction from where Remy was headed.

“Oh damn, that’s right.” She jumped up and they hiked down the mountain to her mother’s car, where she bundled the blanket into the trunk. “Well, it won’t be long and we’ll be together all the time, just us, in our own place.”

Looking at her, Remy thought how cute she was with her hair tousled and her makeup all kissed off. How lucky he was, how lucky he’d be to get to see her like this every day.

“You’re beautiful,” he said.

“Oh, go to work!” She put her hands .at on his chest, gave him a little shove, and climbed into the car.

“See you tomorrow.” He kissed her again through the rolled-down window and stood back to watch her drive off before he started on his own way.

Sweat was rolling down Remy’s back by the time he hauled himself over the guardrail onto Route 25. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t have minded. He liked the walk along the highway, with the mountain rising on one side and the valley and the town spread out on the other, liked the sense of walking halfway between the two. But now his mind buzzed with thoughts he couldn’t smack down. Mostly about telling his dad he’d just decided to up and leave. It would cut them both, his dad more than him because his dad would be alone. But it was no good thinking about that. Better to think about Lisa, the smell of her still clinging to his skin, like she was part of him even when she wasn’t there.

The highway had been cut through the mountain more than .fty years ago and the rock was still bleeding water. Mostly, it only oozed steadily, covering the rock in a shiny glaze in summer and freezing into geologic formations in winter. But in some places, it made little waterfalls. If the outfall was low enough, people put in pipes and bottled the water for drinking. To Remy, it only proved that the mountains were alive—great living things with cool, clear water in their veins.

He stopped where a decent spring fell from an outcropping maybe .fteen feet over the road and stuck his head under the cascade of water. Even in mid-June, the water was cold enough to make him shout at the shock of it on his neck. He threw back his head and let it splash over his face, steaming from the climb, felt it run down his chest and back, soaking his shirt.

“That looks great!”

Remy straightened, the water .attening his hair down over his forehead and running into his eyes, so that he had to step out of the fall, pushing dark hair and water out of his face, to see who had spoken.

It was a girl. On the other side of the road, she sat on a small scaffolding built around the front of the Dwyer municipal water tower, surrounded by cans of paint. How had he not noticed her? Or at least her car, a red Mustang convertible parked in the pullover that overlooked the town. He didn’t recognize either the girl or the car. He felt stupid, like he’d been caught dancing in his underwear.

“Is it safe?” the girl asked. “Can you drink it?”

He looked at the steady stream of water, as if he could analyze it by squinting, and shrugged.

“I guess,” he said.

“Oh, good.”

She hopped down from the scaffolding and crossed the road. “I ran out of tea an hour ago and didn’t want to go into town for something to drink. It takes so long to get anywhere down here!”

He could tell by the way she talked that she wasn’t from anyplace nearby. And that “down here” crack con.rmed it. An outsider. She held cupped hands under the water and bent over to drink. Remy could see that she wasn’t as old as he .rst thought. A little older than him but not by much, maybe nineteen. Small and compact, like her car.

She smiled at him, water dripping off her chin.

“That’s so good! Better than Evian. You ought to bottle this stuff and sell it.”

She yanked off the bandanna that was holding back her short brown hair, held it under the water, and then wiped her face and neck, damp little curls clinging to her temples and the nape of her neck. When she raised her arms to tie the wet bandanna back over her hair, Remy caught himself staring.

What was wrong with him? He’d been with Lisa forever, it seemed. They’d known each other since they were kids, had both been virgins that night two years ago when they’d gone to the dugout behind the high school while most of the county was inside watching the annual reenactment of the Rope River Mine War. He hadn’t felt drawn to look at another girl like this. Why should he when he had everything he wanted?

The girl stared back at him, and he felt brown eyes .ecked with green move over his face and follow the droplets of water that trickled down his body, running over the .at muscles between the two halves of his open shirt. He was made by the mountains, tall, thin, and wiry, his body shaped by years of climbing trees and rocks and the kind of physical work most people didn’t think anyone had to do anymore, not in this country, anyway.

For a second, he had this crazy mental picture of kissing her, just taking hold of her and kissing her. Then a car swept by, close on their side, the draft kicking up hot air and dust, scaring the girl so that she took a bad step and slid into the rainwater gully.

Swearing, she scrabbled up, and Remy reached a hand to pull her back onto the road.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, thanks.” She smacked dust off her bottom. “Serves me right for admiring the scenery when I should be working.” She looked at him, squinting a little. “You live around here?”

“Close enough,” he said.

She pointed at the black letters on his arm. “What’s that stand for?”

He looked at his arm, like he forgot what was there. “Just my initials. Remington Alvin Walker, that’s me.”

“Remington?” Her eyes widened.

“It’s a family name.”

That’s what his dad said, laughing and following it up with “Yep, that shotgun is like a brother to me.” Part of his hillbilly put-on, like the stoneware jug he kept in the kitchen of their small trailer, telling visiting distant cousins it was full of moonshine when Remy knew it was only .lled with Jack Daniel’s, bought special for the occasion from the liquor store. Still, it wasn’t always easy carrying around a joke as a .rst name. A lot of people took it seriously, thinking you were named after a gun. And outsiders— like the girl—either thought it was quaint or scary, neither of which felt especially good.

“Remington.” She rolled his name over her tongue like she’d done with the water. “That is such a cool name. Very unique.”

Nobody had ever thought it was cool. He gave the girl another look.

“I’m Dana Shaeffer,” she said. “For no particular reason.”

He nodded acknowledgment. “Where are you from?”

“I’m from Maryland, originally, near Washington, D.C. We moved to West Virginia, to the eastern panhandle, a couple of years ago because it was cheaper.”

Yeah, he’d heard about that. It was supposed to be good for the state, to have these commuters move in. But all they did was drive up the prices so the local people couldn’t afford to live there anymore.

“So what are you doing away down here?”

“I’m painting the water tower,” she said.

He looked at her to see if she was kidding, but she seemed serious. “What for?” he asked. “Just been painted a year ago.”

“Not that kind of painting,” she said. “I’m painting a mural on it. Come and see.”

He followed her across the road where she unfolded a big piece of paper with a picture drawn on it in pencil. It took a couple of minutes of hard staring to .gure out it was a jumble of important points in McGuire County history. There was the old county courthouse bigger and more impressive than it had ever looked, a train heaped with coal, the writer Rosella Banks, U.S. Senator John T. McGonaugle, the obligatory coal miner, and some mountains in the background.

“Did you draw this?”

“Mm-hm.” She nodded.

He had to keep looking at her, his ideas about her shifting so quickly in such a short time.

“It’s good.”

“Thanks,” Dana said.

“What’s it for?”

“What do you mean, ‘What’s it for?’ ” she asked. “It’s art. It’s supposed to make you think. I’m doing four of these down here this summer. I’ve already done two up in Blair County. I won a grant.”

“From who?”

“The state government.” She rolled the picture back up.

“The state is paying you?” Remy asked. “To paint pictures on water towers?”

“Uh-huh. Not much, though. I was hoping to have enough so I could live off-campus when I go back to college in the fall. I hated living in the dorm. Not that my parents wouldn’t help me out, but you know. I thought it would be cool if I could say I paid for some of it myself. My dad thinks majoring in art is a total waste of time. It’d be nice if I could show him I can make some money from it.”

His ideas about her shifted again. A transplanted running-atthe-mouth Maryland rich girl, painting scenes of civic pride on the water towers of dying towns and getting paid by the state to do it.

“Yeah, well, see ya,” he said and started back across the highway.

“You don’t have to go!” she shouted after him. “Why don’t you stay and talk to me?”

“Got to work,” he said without turning. “I wouldn’t drink any more of that water.”

“Why not? You said it was okay.”

“I said I guessed, but you never know. I heard they were starting mountaintop removal over on Jarrett Mountain this week. Heard blasting today. No telling where they’re dumping the overload.”

“What’s that mean?”

He stopped in the middle of the road and turned around. “They tear the top off the mountain so they can get to the coal easier. Then they dump the waste down in the valley and the acid from the slag gets into the creeks and groundwater. Why don’t you put that on the water tower?”

Her face went all red for a second, like she wanted to yell at him. Then she put her hands on her hips and said, “You want to explain to me how this is all my fault?”

“Take too long. I’ve got a job to get to. Some of us work because we have to, not because it’s a cool idea.”

He could hear her banging paint cans around the whole way down the bend and laughed with satisfaction. Maybe he shouldn’t have told her that lie about Jarrett Mountain. The blasting he’d heard was miles away. The water was .ne to drink. But there was something about her that pricked at him—being paid by the state to paint pictures, going crazy over the spring water, calling him “scenery” like he was only there for her personal viewing pleasure. Let her drive into town and pay for a drink.

Excerpted from Funny how things change by Melissa Wyatt.

Copyright © 2009 by Melissa Wyatt.

Published in 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction

is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or

medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2012

    Beautiful YA Romance

    This book is an overlooked little gem of a character study of a young man deciding what is most important in his life. The West Virginia setting is so beautifully drawn, it becomes a secondary character in the novel. Wyatt's prose is lyrical but accessible and readable.

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  • Posted November 23, 2010

    great book

    this book was great. it was a good book to read that put you in the place of the charchacter. while reading this book i made strong connection to the charictors and felt over welmed by the emotional strands that came out and bit you.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2010

    This book will attract anyone who reads it

    This story is about a boy named Remy who is in love with a girl named Lisa. you will fall in love with it more and more as you read it. It's a thrilling , never want to stop reading until the last page , and then you want to read more. If you have a chance to read this book and you don't , you're missing out on a good book. I think everyone , who likes a book that you feel like you're living yourself this is the perfect book for you!

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  • Posted July 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by coollibrarianchick for TeensReadToo.com

    It's not very often that you read a love story from a guy's point of view. FUNNY HOW THINGS CHANGE by Melissa Wyatt is not a typical love story, either, which makes this book all the more desirable.

    When you grow up you, you move out and move on, at least that is what Remy's girlfriend, Lisa, is doing when she heads to Pennsylvania in the fall for college. Of course, Remy wants to go - it's what Lisa and him have been talking about for years. The start of a whole new life, everything they have always wanted.

    Or is it? It's okay to be uncertain, especially at seventeen. You are not expected to know everything, but if you are going to leave, make sure you are doing it for all the right reasons.

    For Remy, Dwyer, West Virginia, is his home and no matter where he goes or wants to go it will always be his home. Some people may look at Remy and think that because he is one of those mountain people that he is a hick, a redneck, or a hillbilly. Home is where the heart is.

    While he doesn't have much, he and his pops live in a trailer up in Walkers Hollow, Remy knows every nook and cranny of that place, and he looks forward to seeing those mountains every day. He knows he is home. His family all lives there and his roots are deep into the soil of the mountains.

    The two loves seem to be in competition with each other. Which one is stronger? There are a lot of factors that play into this tug-of-war. His family, money, and even an outsider's opinion will weigh heavily on what he decides. What is the right choice?

    I think there should be more characters like Remy Walker. By no means is he perfect, but he has a good heart and head on his shoulders. Through Wyatt's characterization, you get a real good feel as to who Remy really is. To me, Remy is a hero.

    Thoughtfully written, this was a good, quick read that made me want to go to the mountains of West Virginia and see the same beauty Remy saw.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2010

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    Posted March 5, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2011

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