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The House on the Gulf
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The House on the Gulf

4.3 103
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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When Britt's older brother, Bran, lands a summer job house-sitting for the Marquises, an elderly couple, it seems like a great opportunity. Britt and Bran have moved to Florida so their mother can finish college, and the house-sitting income will allow their mom to quit her job and take classes full-time. Having never lived in a real house before, Britt is thrilled


When Britt's older brother, Bran, lands a summer job house-sitting for the Marquises, an elderly couple, it seems like a great opportunity. Britt and Bran have moved to Florida so their mother can finish college, and the house-sitting income will allow their mom to quit her job and take classes full-time. Having never lived in a real house before, Britt is thrilled. There's only one problem: Britt starts to suspect her family isn't supposed to be there.

She's been noticing that Bran is acting weird and defensive -- he hides the Marquises' mail, won't let anyone touch the thermostat, and discourages Britt from meeting any of the neighbors. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Britt starts investigating and makes a startling discovery -- the Marquises aren't who Bran has led her and their mom to believe. So whose house are they staying in, and why has Bran brought them there?

With unexpected twists and turns, award winner Margaret Peterson Haddix has again crafted a thriller that will grip readers until its stunning conclusion.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Britt's first-person narrative makes riveting reading."


Children's Literature
In this stunning page-turner about a house-sitting job gone awry, Haddix combines exquisitely painful suspense with a powerful and poignant message on the importance and limits of forgiveness. Twelve-year-old Brit comes to suspect that all is not right with the summer house-sitting job her adored older brother, Bran, has arranged for their family, so that their overburdened single mother—disowned by her own family after eloping at sixteen with the children's no-good father—can finish her undergraduate degree and pursue her dream of someday becoming a doctor. Why is Bran so reluctant to introduce Brit to the homeowners before they leave? Why will he not let Brit touch the thermostat? Why does he insist on packing away all the Marquises' dishes and family memorabilia? It turns out that the Marquises are not who Brit and her mother think they are, as one gut-wrenching revelation follows another. Haddix has Hitchcock's flair for making even the smallest detail reverberate with agonizing significance—we squirm unbearably over a telltale scrap of paper cut out of the junk mail circulars delivered to the Marquises' house. As impressive, however, is her sensitive creation of a struggling family whose overly-protective older son is ready to make a tragic mistake from love. And the theme of when and why one ought to forgive—or possibly withhold forgiveness—is genuinely deep and moving. 2004, Simon & Schuster, Ages 8 to 12.
—Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Twelve-year-old Britt's older brother has helped watch over the family for as long as she can remember. So when Bran tells Britt and her mother that he's convinced a family to let them house-sit for the summer, no one questions the arrangement. This house-sitting job will give their mother the chance to go to school full time and try to get a scholarship to finish. However, when they move in, Bran starts acting strange, and Britt discovers that the owners really didn't give them permission to live there, only for Bran to mow their lawn. She also learns that they are her maternal grandparents, estranged from her mother. Bran explains that because their grandparents disowned her when she eloped, using their house is simply a long overdue payback. Britt isn't sure that she buys this, but goes along until they are discovered. Lo and behold, the owners of the house aren't their grandparents at all, and they are all in deep trouble. This novel starts out as an interesting and lightly suspenseful mystery but becomes too far-fetched to be believed with the "happy ever after" ending. Britt's character is the only one with depth; the supporting characters, especially the mother, are rather shallow. Not a bad read, but for books with more character depth try Avi's Midnight Magic (Scholastic, 1999) or Wolf Rider (Bradbury, 1986).-Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bran's house-sitting job seems like a dream, but the Marquises have also allowed him to bring along his mother and sister. The money that they will be able to save on rent will allow their mother the opportunity to go to school full-time, getting her one step closer to the college degree that has always been out of reach. Things seem ideal, but then why does Bran seem so nervous? He cautions them not to use any of the Marquises' things, not to change the thermostat. He even makes them use their own furniture. Determined to figure out why Bran is being so secretive, Britt begins to investigate. A subtle mystery builds to a surprising climax with enough twists to keep readers guessing along the way. Not satisfied with easy suspense, Haddix plumbs the depths of familial relationships, both past and present, to offer more than just a fun jolt. A subtle and rich page-turner. (Fiction 8-12)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.96(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.57(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The House on the Gulf

By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Copyright © 2004 Margaret Peterson Haddix
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0689854226

Chapter One

Bran was up to something.

I knew it the first day he showed me the house. He was speeding ahead of me on his bike, while I struggled and sweated behind him, huffing and puffing because even after three months in Florida I still wasn't used to the heat. I didn't know how Bran could be either, but my brother seemed to do everything right, even if it meant not sweating in 90-degree heat, with 90-percent humidity. Then suddenly he slammed on his brakes.

"Wait -- ," he said, placing both feet firmly on the sidewalk.

My bike's an old one we got at a yard sale, and the brakes are a little iffy, so I practically ran into him as I screeched to a halt.

"What do you mean, 'Wait'?" I asked. "Is this it?"

I looked at the house beside us, a flat-roofed, concrete-block cube painted lime green. We'd lived worse places. Heck, we were living in a worse place now.

"No," Bran said. "It's a lot nicer than that. Up there. The yellow one." He inclined his head ever so slightly. I guessed he meant a sunshine-colored house in the next block, mostly hidden by palm trees. Trust Bran to be the only sixteen-year-old on the planet to still remember -- and obey -- those grade school lectures about it being rude to point.

"Call me crazy," I said, "but wouldn't it be a lot easier to see the place if we were, say, in front of it?"

My brother fixed me with a patient-Bran look. He's been giving me those looks, I think, since I was a baby and he was four and I would take his toys. Mom swears he never hit me, never grabbed them back; just looked disappointed and patiently tried to explain to me why I'd done something wrong. From anyone else, those looks would be maddening. But it's hard to get very mad at Bran.

Even when I was a baby, Mom says, he almost always talked me into giving his toys back.

Now he shook his head.

"Not yet. I have to make sure...," he said. He leaned forward, peering toward the house. I didn't have the slightest clue what he was making sure of, but after a few minutes he relaxed a little and said, "Okay, let's go."

We inched our bikes forward and crossed the street. The house looked better and better the closer we got to it. The yellow stucco seemed to gleam in the sunlight, and the palm fronds swayed gently against the windowpanes.

"Wow." I breathed. "I can't believe the Marquises are going to let us live here for free, all summer long."

Bran looked around like he was afraid someone would overhear me bragging and take away our great deal. But the street was deserted -- all the people who were used to living in Florida knew enough to stay out of the heat.

"For free?" he asked. "They're paying us, remember?"

There was a little edge to his voice. He was so proud of the arrangement he'd worked out, the miracle he'd wrought. House-sitting, it was called. The whole concept was new to me. I'd never heard of someone letting you live somewhere without expecting you to pay for it. But the Marquises were a retired couple who lived in Florida in the winter and New York in the summer, and they'd gotten worried about a rash of burglaries on empty houses. So they were paying Bran to stay here and take care of the house while they were away. And they were letting Mom and me live here, too. It was about the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to our family.

I remember the night Bran announced he'd gotten this house-sitting job. Mom and I just stared at him for maybe five minutes straight. We were eating dinner, and we practically stopped with the forkfuls of Hamburger Helper halfway to our mouths. But Bran kept talking about what he'd figured out, revealing each detail like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat.

"Mom, if we don't have to pay any rent, and if I'm working at the restaurant, you can go to school full-time this summer. And then -- "

"I could qualify for the scholarship this year," Mom said slowly, as if in a trance. The scholarship was just about all Mom had talked about since we'd moved to Florida. She'd been trying to finish college for longer than I've been alive, but there'd never been enough money for that. When she heard about the school down here offering a special scholarship for single mothers, she nearly flipped out. She said that they must have written the guidelines just for her -- except that she had to be a junior, and after thirteen years of trying, she only had enough credits to be a sophomore.

"See, Mom, it could all work out perfectly," Bran had finished excitedly.

But Mom shook her head. The trance was over.

"I can't let you do that," she'd said. "You're only sixteen. It's not fair to make you support your whole family. Not when I can be working, too."

"You wouldn't be making me," Bran said quietly. "I want to do this."

He sounded so dignified and noble that I felt a surge of pride. Bran would do anything to help Mom or me. I was really lucky to have a brother like that.

But Mom was still shaking her head.

"You need to save your money for your own college fund."

"But, Mom -- " Any other kid would have sounded whiny saying that. Not Bran. He sounded downright authoritative. "You've got to look at the big picture. You said yourself that that scholarship will pay more in living expenses than you can make as a waitress. So the sooner you get the scholarship, the more money we'll have as a family. And you know I'll find a way to pay for college."

Mom could have seen that as an insult -- Bran would find a way to pay for college, even if she hadn't. I've seen other mothers who would have flown off the handle at that: "Oh yeah? You think you're better than me? Just forget the whole thing!" Back in Pennsylvania, my friend Wendy's mother was the worst one in their whole house about slamming doors and stomping up the stairs. But my mom's not like that. She just tilted her head and gave Bran a sad little smile and said, "Okay. I won't rule out anything yet. Let's figure this out rationally." She pushed the dinner dishes aside, and they got out a pencil and paper and started calculating how much Bran could make in tips, what we'd save in rent, how much it'd cost to move again in the fall. I watched the numbers lining up on the paper, and even I could tell what was going to happen. The excitement in their voices was contagious. I grabbed Mom's hands and started dancing around the room with her, singing, "Mom's getting the scholarship! Mom's getting the scholarship!"

Laughing, Mom dropped my hands and declared, "Goodness. I wish everyone had as much confidence in me as you two do."

Mom says things like that -- goodness, good grief, even my gracious -- that make her sound about two billion years old. But she's only thirty-three, and looks probably ten years younger. She's got wavy blond hair and greenish eyes that almost glow when she's excited. Back in Pennsylvania the college boys were always hitting on her. I once heard Mom's friend Carlene say, "Honey, if I looked like you I'd be a model, not a mommy." Mom had just laughed. What she really wants to be is a doctor.

All that was running through my mind as Bran and I rolled our bikes toward the house.

"I'll show you the backyard first," Bran said.

We leaned our bikes against the side of the house and followed first the narrow driveway, then a short sidewalk that led around the corner. A small square of neatly mowed grass lay between a screened-in sunporch, a small shed, the driveway, and a chain-link fence that separated the Marquises' yard from their neighbors'.

"So this is where it all started, huh?" I kidded Bran. He'd gotten to know the Marquises in the first place because he'd offered to mow their lawn.

"Yes, I -- ," Bran started, then broke off as he whirled around to face the house. Someone was inside, rattling the doorknob of the back door. And then that someone stepped outside.

It was an old man. Later I'd wish that I'd looked at him more closely, that I'd studied his face carefully, memorized every detail. But at that moment, all I really noticed was that he was old.

"M-Mr. Marquis," Bran stammered. Bran never stammers. He almost choked on the last syllable of Mr. Marquis's name. "You scared me. I didn't see your car. I didn't know anyone was home. I thought you were leaving for New York yesterday. I -- I thought you were a burglar or something."

He didn't seem relieved that it was Mr. Marquis instead of a burglar. He kept looking back and forth between me and Mr. Marquis.

Mr. Marquis chuckled.

"You are conscientious, aren't you?" he asked. "I don't think the yard's grown much since you mowed on Thursday. Remember, overmowing can be as bad for a yard as ignoring it. So just follow the schedule I gave you. No more, no less. All right?"

"Yes, sir," Bran said. "I wasn't planning to mow today. I was just, uh, checking up on the yard. I know it's a constant battle to keep it alive in this salt air. Just like you told me."

Something was wrong. Usually Bran was great with grown-ups -- not just polite and respectful, like you're supposed to be, but actually comfortable talking to them. But now he was so shaken he hadn't even remembered to introduce me.

That bothered me. I wanted Mr. Marquis to know that I'd be conscientious living here too, that all of us intended to take good care of his property. I wanted him to know how much living here was going to mean to us.

"Excuse me," I said carefully. Unlike Bran, I am not usually all that comfortable talking to grown-ups. "I'm Bran's sister, Britt -- well, Brittany, really -- and -- "

"Oh, yes, this is my sister," Bran interrupted. "Sorry. Sis, could you go take our bikes back out to the front sidewalk and wait there? I just need to talk to Mr. Marquis about a few details. We'll be quick, I promise."

My face flamed red, suddenly as hot as the Florida sun. Here I was trying to be so polite and mature, and Bran had interrupted me. He'd been rude! And why? It was almost like he didn't trust me to talk to Mr. Marquis, didn't trust me to hear the details of his house-sitting job. What could be so secret? Shouldn't I know everything, since I was going to be living in the house too?

And when had Bran ever called me sis before?

It was on the tip of my tongue to tell Bran off, to totally let him have it. But then I saw Mr. Marquis looking at us. He had big bushy gray eyebrows -- I did notice those, at least -- and they were squinted together like he was puzzled.

What if he went from being puzzled to being angry, and then decided we couldn't live in his house for the summer after all?

"Okay," I said meekly, though it felt like my innards were boiling.

I obediently walked around the corner of the house, but I didn't move the bikes right away. I stood still, just out of Bran's sight, and listened.

"Sorry," Bran was apologizing again. "We didn't mean to bother you. We'll be leaving in just a minute. Didn't you feel well enough to travel yesterday?"

That sounded more like the Bran I knew, polite and considerate.

Mr. Marquis's reply was a dim rumble -- something about a freak spring snowstorm in Tennessee -- and then, a little louder, "But the Weather Channel says the ice has melted now, so we're leaving as soon as Mary gets back from the beauty parlor. Women! She already had her hair appointment made up North and was fretting so over having to cancel it. I told her to go ahead down here; we could wait another hour...."

Why didn't Bran want me to hear that?

I got scared that any minute now, Bran would come around the corner and catch me eavesdropping, so I wheeled his bike out to the sidewalk. When I was coming back for my bike, I heard Mr. Marquis saying, "And don't lose the key -- "

Wouldn't he want to make sure that Mom and I didn't lose our keys either?

"I won't, sir," Bran said. "Good-bye. Have a safe trip."

I ran my bike out toward the curb. A second later, Bran rounded the corner of the house and came up behind me.

"What was that all about?" I asked.

"Nothing," Bran muttered. "Come on. We need to get home now."

"But I haven't seen inside the house! Why'd we ride all the way over here if -- "

"Ssh," Bran said. Rude again. He still looked spooked, too. "We don't want to intrude. I didn't know they hadn't left yet. They're probably still packing."

"But wouldn't they be done packing if they were planning to leave yesterday?"

It wasn't like me to persist. But I was still steamed about being banished to the sidewalk.

"Brittany," Bran said, and his voice was like steel. "I said, come on."

I swung my right leg over my bike seat, but I didn't start pedaling. I sat there, balanced on my bike seat, trying to decide what to do. I still think about what might have happened if I'd ignored Bran, strutted up to the Marquises' front door, begged to be let in.

But I was used to doing what Bran told me. And something about the house had already been ruined for me because of the way Bran was acting. I really didn't want to see inside it that day, with Mr. Marquis watching us.

"Okay," I relented, and pushed off, launching my bike into the empty street.

Bran zoomed ahead of me, leading the way, as always. And only then did I notice: He was sweating now. Pedaling out to the house in 90-degree heat hadn't made him lose his cool, but standing there talking to Mr. Marquis had given him rings of sweat on his T-shirt, rivers of sweat down the back of his neck. I'd never seen him sweat so much in my entire life.

Later I would wonder which had made him sweat more -- talking to Mr. Marquis or being scared of Mr. Marquis talking to me?

Copyright © 2004 by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Excerpted from The House on the Gulf by Margaret Peterson Haddix Copyright © 2004 by Margaret Peterson Haddix. 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

Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle-grade novels, including the Shadow Children series and The Missing series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at www.haddixbooks.com.

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House on the Gulf 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 103 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really great book: not kiddy, but not too grown- upy either! The plot takes many interesting and surprising twists! This is defanitely one of those books i read because it was by one of my favorite authors, and yet i loved it. You will, too! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book sounds like it would be for grown ups and kids would get bored with it but truthfully its not. Its all about how a girl named britt who is trying to figure out why her brither is acting so suspicius when he is house sitting the marquises house when supposidly the family is aloud to stay there while bran is house sitting. It is a really good book by margret peterson haddix and not only will kids love it but adults will too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a pretty good book. I would recomend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bran was always so good, so why was he acting so strange and sneaky now?" This thought runs through Britt's mind in The House on the Gulf by Margaret Petterson Haddix. Britt wants to know Bran's secret, and she needed to know. Will she ever find out? In the sunny state of Florida, on a hot and blazing day, Britt finds out that she gets to 'house sit' an old couple's house for the summer, with her brother and mom, and now is bouncing with excitement. It's the prefect opportunity for her mother to get a scholarship to college, while her brother Bran works full time. The house belongs to the Marquises, but Bran is acting weird about the move. But strangely enough he seems perfectly happy to work in the summer but he won't even let his family touch the thermostat, and he insists Britt stays at home for the summer without meeting any neighbors. He suddenly doesn't trust Britt with anything in the house, and won't even let her sit out on the front porch. She decides to watch Bran closely, and soon finds out that the house that they're living in doesn't belong to the Marquises. This book is full of suspense. From the first page of the book, Haddix leaves you waiting for the exciting conclusion. I enjoyed this book, although it was a little slow at first. Haddix uses a great technique of leaving cliff hangers from the first page. The suspense slowly grows, and it soon becomes a page turner. It is suspenseful at first, but then the "rising action" gets a little repetitive. But once you get to the climax you can't put it down. I would recommend it to preteens no younger than nine years old, and I would give it a four star rating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book is really good! Read it!!!!!! i dont care if you get it right now, or ask for it for your birthday, or put it on your list of things to do before you turn thirty, JUST READ THE DARN THING!!! :)
Juliana Freisen More than 1 year ago
An amazing book that i couldn't stop reading until i was finished. It had mystery, suspense and a lot of surprises along the way! I would definitly read it again and i probably end up reading it again sometime soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The House on the Gulf kept me on the edge of my seat. I really enjoyed how Haddix kept all the information from you up to the end without making the book boring, while doings so. I figured that there was something off about the house Marquise's house and why Bran was acting so strangely, but till the end, I had to keep guessing. Britt and Bran's characters were easy to relate to. They had those curious and attitude-full personalities that also kept it interesting. From Britt was always trying to figure out what was off about Bran, and Bran keeping his secrets hidden in a closet, you really want to know what will happen next. It probably would've been better for Bran and the rest of the family if he would have at least told Britt his secret, yet it would've taken away from the plot. Though his plan was wrong, in more than just the moral way, you have to give him credit for trying to make amends for his mother. -A.G.F.
adnerb More than 1 year ago
the house on the gulf was an amazing story of a young 16 year old boy bran and this mother and this little 12 year old sister brittany. disowned by their grandparents and anbanded by their father they barley made ends meet. but when bran finds a job "house sitting" he finds the opportinuty to get his mother back into a single moms college to get a scholorship. Brittany intianally finds something suspicious about her brothers actions, and slowly finds out that he had found their "grandparents" and how he never got a job taking care of the house not only does he find the truth about the conquenses of lying, but how wrong he was about trying to get revenve on the wrong people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a spine-chilling page turner that is impossible to put down!
ron raymo More than 1 year ago
One of the best books ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good book. Confused me about who was telling the story in the beggining because it kept switching off but the story got better and i totally got it in the end .not the best haddix book but it is still a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book i hav ever read i give it ten stars it is worth ur money any girls that like thriller books will love it im 11 and any girl my age will love it i love all margret petterson haddix books but this is the best one yet. You will love it. I promise.
Katherine Siddall More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. Great plot and good story. Reccomned for somebody who just wants a good book.
Kelli Carr More than 1 year ago
Cassie Marek More than 1 year ago
It was so good totally rad. Way, to awesome to describe!!!!!! I would go to bed on spring break at 10:00p.m. ish. And would'nt really go to bed intill 11:30p.m. or 12:00a.m. It was so good it was so had to put the book down!!!!!!
Taylor Bevis More than 1 year ago
this is a good book with an unexpected ending enjoy!!! *da talster*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NOOK-GIRLZ More than 1 year ago
Bella Calabrese More than 1 year ago
It was an awesome book to read and it had a lot of action. I didn't know what was going to happen next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This amazing book sure did keep me reading. You don't expect what comes next and it makes the book even more intriguing. The characters are like real people and you get to know them better, as the story progresses. It makes me wish these people were real!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It has so many twist and turns . And the power you feel from Brit and Bran . Also how much they want grandparents and to keep their mom in collge .
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. I wanted to keep on reading and never stop it sucked me in.It was thrilling with lots of suprises.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is spectacular. It's exciting and very suspenseful! Brandon, a 16-year-old gets a job house-sitting for an elderly couple in Florida. Brittany, his sister, and his mother can't wait to move in, but once they get stationed in that house, Brittany can tell something is wrong.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i totally didn't know the secret, i mean i was thinking the whole other way! it was suspenseful and mysterious at the same time. u would love it. i finished it in 2 days, magical!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book a lot of twists and turns.