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Since his dad died, Eddie's mom has spent all her time getting high on OxyContin, leaving Eddie to take care of himself. When Eddie's mom goes into rehab and his aunt and uncle take him away to Boston, everything changes. His new school, which he attends with his cousin Alex, is experimental: there's a CEO instead of a principal, classes are held in an office building, and the students, all sporting business-casual looks, are the only urban kids Eddie has ever seen outside of a rap video. As for Alex, it's bad ...
Since his dad died, Eddie's mom has spent all her time getting high on OxyContin, leaving Eddie to take care of himself. When Eddie's mom goes into rehab and his aunt and uncle take him away to Boston, everything changes. His new school, which he attends with his cousin Alex, is experimental: there's a CEO instead of a principal, classes are held in an office building, and the students, all sporting business-casual looks, are the only urban kids Eddie has ever seen outside of a rap video. As for Alex, it's bad enough that he has to share his bedroom with Eddie, but his parents are on his case about including his quiet cousin in his social life as well. Alex wants to do the right thing, but between talking to girls, playing video games, thinking about girls, laughing with his friends, and looking at girls, when is he supposed to find time to help Eddie and "work up to his potential" in school?
Two boys find that they have a lot to learn from each other in this touching, funny novel about finding your place and looking out for your friends.
Gr 7 Up
Since his father's death two years earlier, Eddie has been a virtual orphan, throwing himself into school and housework and trying desperately to cover up his mother's drug addiction and alcoholism. When his mom is finally forced into rehab, Eddie is whisked off to Boston to live with his "hippy-dippy" Aunt Lily, her husband, and their son. He joins his cousin, Alex, at his experimental, inner-city high school, The Center for Urban Education, or CUE. The institution is designed like a business and students are expected to dress and act accordingly. In sharp contrast to Eddie's sprawling, mostly white, suburban high school, academic achievement is valued and expected of the mostly black students. Alex is gregarious and fun-loving-and a chronic underachiever. Eddie is introverted, hardworking, and has no experience being a teenager. Over the course of a few months, the boys begin to open up and, to their surprise, become close friends. Just as Eddie is beginning to feel comfortable in his new life, he learns that his mother is ready to leave rehab and start over with him. Halpin does an excellent job of baring Eddie's emotions and his inner conflict about his mom. The ebb and flow of the relationship between the two boys is also well done and believable. Many teens will identify with Eddie, crying and cheering for him by turns. This well-crafted story is on par with Margaret Peterson Haddix's Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey (S & S, 1996).
—Anthony C. DoyleCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Eddie shifted from one foot to the other on his front porch, trying to keep warm, while his aunt Lily clutched her coffee cup. "Thanks for coming to get me," he said to her.
Aunt Lily's face got all twisted like she was about to cry. This made Eddie feel awkward. She looked like she was fighting to keep the tears in. Eddie hoped she won. "I'm just sorry it took ... it took something like this ..."
"Don't feel bad," Eddie said. Because, he thought, it's all my fault anyway. He tried to push that thought way down deep inside him, but it kept creeping back up. "I'll just get my stuff," he said.
"Do you want me to help you with that, Eddie?"
No, Eddie thought, nobody comes in the house. That had been the rule pretty much since Dad died, and even though Mom was locked up somewhere and the house was going to have lots of people coming through it pretty soon, it seemed kind of weird to break the rule in his last moments in the house. "I ... Thanks, Aunt Lily. I, uh, I guess I want to do it by myself."
"I understand. I'll wait here," Aunt Lily said. She sat down on the step, took the lid off her coffee, and blew some steam away.
Inside, Eddie was confronted by a mess of stuff on the floor—magazines, soda cans, beer cans, wine bottles, liquor bottles, pizza boxes. Tomorrow was supposed to be his big cleanup day. Oh well. He walked past the kitchen and saw the dishes he hadn't done and never would.
He walked into his room. His clean laundry was folded on his bed. He was glad he'd done it yesterday, because now he had clean clothes. It would have been even more embarrassing to show up with a bag full of dirty clothes. He wondered if he had enough clothes for how long he'd be living in Boston without Mom. Six weeks? Six months? Forever? How long till Mom got clean, till she wanted him again, till she wanted him more than the drugs, till she had enough money to get someplace to live?
He remembered the last time it felt like Mom cared more about him than getting high. It was a long time ago. After Dad died, but still a long time ago. Ever since Dad died of cancer, leaving them his life insurance policy and a nearly full bottle of OxyContin they gave him for his pain, Mom had been getting high, and after a while it fell to Eddie to keep the house together. He had to do his own laundry, steal Mom's ATM card so that he could buy food from the Stop & Shop, and then cook and clean. Eventually, it was like he was basically alone here. Or, anyway, that was what he told himself. It got to the point where he worked out this whole fantasy about how he was an orphan but nobody knew it, and he was living on his own and taking care of himself at age fifteen, and he started hating to even see Mom, because it was a lot easier to imagine she was dead than it was to deal with her alive. Fortunately, she was almost always asleep when Eddie left for school, and she was out for the evening by the time Eddie got home from band practice, newspaper, yearbook, or any of the other activities he signed up for to keep him away from the house five days a week. So the fantasy was working great, but at some point Mom totally stopped even trying to pay bills, and Eddie was so busy with everything else that he didn't know it. All he did with the mail that piled up was to put it on Dad's desk. He guessed he probably should have stolen the checkbook and paid the bills. And then maybe everything would still be fine instead of Mom being in rehab, Eddie heading for Boston, and God knows who moving into this house.
Eddie looked around his room at his trophies from camp in sixth grade, at his PlayStation 2, his TV, his poster of Tom Brady. He remembered how much fun he'd had winning the relay race at camp, how happy he was that summer. He remembered the day Dad brought the PS2 home and they'd played Madden till midnight. He remembered when the Pats won their first Super Bowl, and how he and Dad went all the way in to Boston on the commuter rail just to see the Pats go by and wave, and to see the trophy, and how it was freezing cold but everything in the world felt perfect that day. He reached for his soccer championship trophy to begin packing it and everything else, but once the trophy was in his hand, he found he didn't want to pack it. Instead, he carefully and methodically broke it. Then he took the PS2, placed it on the floor, and destroyed it with a quick stomp. He liked the crunchy sound of the plastic breaking. He carefully took down the Tom Brady poster and tore it neatly and precisely in half, and then tore the pieces in half, and repeated this again and again until Tom Brady was practically confetti. He attacked the rest of his possessions with the same calm and precision, and twenty minutes later, a duffel bag full of clothes sat on his bed next to his desk, and every other single thing in the room was broken.
Eddie surveyed what used to be his room and felt like he'd just woken up. He looked around at the wreckage, at everything he had destroyed. Good, he thought. Now it matches the rest of my life.
He pulled a snotty tissue out of his pocket and blew his nose, and wiped his eyes on the sleeves of his Red Sox shirt.
He put his coat on, grabbed the duffel bag, and joined his aunt on the porch.
Aunt Lily smiled at him. "Ready?" she asked.
Eddie didn't know if he was ready or not, but he nodded anyway He tried to think good things. It was a new year—well, a new calendar year, even if it was halfway through the school year—and he was going to a new school, and maybe everything would be different and better. He held on to that thought for about ten seconds before he started feeling sad again.
It seemed like a long drive to Boston. They rode in silence for a while, and then Eddie looked over and saw Aunt Lily's face twisting up again. Oh boy, he thought, here it comes. "Eddie," Aunt Lily said, "I'm just really sorry that it got to this point, that we weren't around to help out sooner. I just ... I mean, Jesus, I knew it was bad, but I swear to God, Eddie, if I'd had any idea, I would have ... I ... We let you down, Eddie. I'm sorry about that."
Eddie remembered Mom screaming, "Mind your own goddamn business!" into the phone the last time Aunt Lily had called. He didn't blame his aunt—what was she supposed to do, anyway? And besides, it was Eddie's problem. "Don't worry about it. It's not your fault."
Aunt Lily gave him a watery gaze. "You're sweet, Eddie, you really are. And I just want you to know that we're going to do everything we can for you. I mean, Brian's already been on the phone lining up somebody you can talk to about this, you know, so you don't have to carry it all by yourself."
Oh great, Eddie thought. Just what I need. His stomach tightened. Don't you get it? he wanted to yell. Not talking about it was the only thing that made me able to deal with it. Talking about it would be a big waste. All he wanted was to be a normal kid, or as normal a kid as he could possibly be, anyway, and normal kids didn't talk about stuff. Normal kids just got up and went to school and did what they had to do, and they didn't have to worry about the laundry or grocery shopping. That's all he wanted. What good was talking about it going to do?CHAPTER 2
It was casual Friday. Alex got off the Silver Line bus, adjusted his backpack, reached inside his coat to straighten the tie he'd forgotten he wasn't wearing, checked his ID badge, and walked into the Parley Funds Tower.
Alex entered the cue only elevator. He waited for the doors to begin shutting, then slapped the inside of the closing doors and watched them pop back open. As the doors closed again, he could hear the grumpy old security guard yelling, "Don't play with the elevator! I will get your principal down here ..." and Alex smiled to himself.
Alone in the elevator, he pressed 2, and in three seconds the doors opened again. Alex approached the double glass doors that were the entryway of his school. They said center for urban education in white stick-on letters. If you looked closely, you could still see the outline of parley funds, which they had scraped off the door three years ago.
Alex swiped his ID badge through the card reader, heard the click as the door unlocked, and yanked the door open. He headed down the carpeted hallway toward Human Resources, which was what normal, non-corny schools called the Office. He and his parents had a meeting with Mr. Paulson, the chief executive officer (or principal) before school this morning, but Alex had talked Dad into letting him stop for coffee. Because he wanted some coffee to start the day, because the barista at the Melville's next door to school was incredibly hot, and especially because he didn't want anybody in his advisory—or anybody else, for that matter—to see him walk into school with Mom and Dad.
In Human Resources, Mr. Paulson, the principal (even after a year and a half here, Alex couldn't bring himself to call him the CEO), was sitting behind his desk and saying something to Alex's dad. Paulson was a tall guy in his forties with salt-and-pepper hair who wore a gray or dark blue suit with a red or yellow tie even on casual Friday. Today it was dark blue suit, red tie. "Alex! It's a beautiful day for learning here in the Hub of the Universe, and welcome to the best school in the world," Paulson said. "Your father and I were just discussing whether your grades this quarter are going to improve."
Paulson was so corny.
Alex knew this meeting wasn't really about him, so he didn't take the bait and just said, "Good morning, Mr. Paulson! It's a fine day in the Athens of America." Mom rolled her eyes, and Dad was fighting really hard not to smile.
"Certainly is, my young friend, it certainly is," Mr. Paulson replied.
Alex sat down, and Mr. Paulson said, "Alex, before we began addressing the subject of your grades, we were going over preparations for your cousin Edward's arrival here at the Center for Urban Education.
"Now, as I have told you and your parents, the founders held to the belief that no student could possibly transfer into this school, especially sophomore year, and be successful, because our standards and expectations are, as you know, quite a bit more stringent than the average school's. But given the special circumstances, I believe this is a case that merits an exception to the policy. However, to ensure that Edward will achieve his full potential, we are, with your parents' permission, going to place him with you in advisory 212 so that you can guide him through the orientation process."
Great, Alex thought. Advisory was the funnest part of the day, and now they had to ruin it. Paulson went on about communicating clear expectations for academics and behavior, Mom and Dad went on about easing the transition and about how Eddie'd been through such a tough time, and all Alex could think was that advisory was going to start to suck. He figured he'd better enjoy it today.
Finally the adults shut up and told him he was free to go. He found the heavy wooden door of Room 212 shut, and this immediately cheered Alex up. Whenever the advisory door was shut, it was a sign that something interesting was going on, even now, fifteen minutes before anybody even had to be at school.
Sure enough, when Alex opened the door he saw Kelvin seated in a chair with his hair half braided and half sticking straight up. He looked sort of like he'd gotten an electric shock just on the left side of his head.
Gisela was standing over him, laughing, while Kelvin was pleading, "Come on, Gisela, man, you gotta finish it! I'll get sent home, and my dad ain't having that!"
Gisela said, "Guess you shoulda thought of that before you started talkin' trash about Cape Verdeans!"
"I wasn't talking trash!" Kelvin had a mischievous grin on his face. "I'm just sayin', you can't talk about 'as a young black woman' when you're some kind of half-Spanish Puerto Rican wannabe."
Gisela looked around the room. "And this fool expects me to finish braiding his hair. Talking 'bout I'm half-Spanish. Cape Verde is in Africa, Kelvin. Africa. Don't hate just because your crispy black ass never been out of Mattapan."
"Fine, fine." Kelvin looked around. "Aisha! Strong black woman. You can finish braiding my hair."
Aisha didn't even have to say "Boy, you must be crazy," because the look on her face said it all.
Savon looked up from his book and called out, "It's eight-fifteen. You better get somebody to clean up them naps before eight-thirty. You know Paulson's gonna stick his head in here all 'My young friend, this simply does not constitute a professional appearance. Let's call your father.'"
"Shut up, Savon, man! Tanya, Tanya, you want to braid my hair, right?"
"I braid hair for a job, Kelvin. You want to pay me what I earn in the shop?"
Everybody, even Kenisha and Hanh, who were always studying, was watching and laughing, and Alex quickly forgot about Eddie. Even Savon, who studied less than Kenisha and Hanh but still more than anybody else, and enough that he was always Alex's first choice when he needed to copy homework or cheat on a quiz, had actually closed his book so he could concentrate on dissing Kelvin properly.
"Shoot, you think Kelvin's got any money? You must be crazy! You seen his house? It's that thing out back, with the big plastic lid to keep the rats out? Big ol' blue truck comes to empty it out every Wednesday!"
The whole advisory laughed.
"Yeah, that's right, Savon, I got no money. That's why your mom hired my dad to sue King Kong for child support!" Kelvin responded.
This led to a round of "Ohhhhhhs!" from everybody, and Alex, plopping into the chair next to Savon, said, "I think Kelvin just called you a monkey!"
Savon just smiled, waved his hand, opened his math book up, and said, "This monkey got a four-point-oh GPA, so I guess Kelvin's dumber than a monkey."
"Aggh! Come on, Gisela, man, please, I'm sorry, just finish it!" Kelvin begged.
"Not until you say, 'Cape Verde is in Africa, which is something my ignorant ghetto ass should know.'"
"Ahhh! Fine! Capeverdeisinafricawhichissomethingmyignorantghettoassshouldknow. Okay? Please, Gisela!"
"All right, then," Gisela said, and started working on the unbraided side of Kelvin's head.
Gisela braided, making sure to pull Kelvin's hair really tight so he was wincing in pain the whole time, while Alex and Aisha made fun of Kelvin, and Savon looked up from his book every couple of minutes to dis him again.
Just after Gisela finished, their advisor, Mr. Harrison, walked in. Harrison was a short, red-haired white guy with more freckles than anyone Alex had ever seen. "Good morning, everybody! It's eight-thirty, official start of the work day here at the Center for Urban Education, and I'm happy to see so many of you here. Remember, pizza at the end of the quarter if we have the fewest tardies in the school. Right now we're tied with the 256 advisory."
None of them said anything or looked up from their books. "Yes, I'm fine," Mr. Harrison said. "Thanks very much! What a pleasure it is to work with such a polite group of young people!"
"Come on, Harry," Alex said. "You want us to all say, 'Good morning, Mr. Harrison,' like we're in kindergarten or something?"
"I'd settle for any kind of greeting," Harrison said, "and don't call me Harry. I hate that."
This got Kelvin, who was probably close to a foot taller than Harrison, to pipe up with "What up, shortstop?"
The part of Harrison's face that was not covered in freckles turned bright red. "Well, it's something, anyway, but I don't think I'm going to thank you, Kelvin."
"Annnnyway, listen up, folks, important announcements from the CEO." Harrison looked over the piece of paper in his hand, "Okay, blah blah blah, no ... okay, told you that yesterday ... okay, T passes are available in Human Resources, please stop by today and pick them up. That's all I got. What about you? Anybody have anything important they'd like to mention?"
Alex figured he'd better get this over with. He knew this was pointless, but he should probably say it anyway. "Yeah," Alex said, "uh, I just wanted to remind everybody that my cousin is starting here on Monday. Please give him a break and don't clown him too much."
"Oh, snap," Kelvin said, "another little Alex! He's gonna have a hard time!"
"Nah, nah, guys, really," Alex said. "He's had a hard time already."
"Yeah, but, you know," Kelvin said, "if he's gonna hang in 212, he's gonna have to be able to take it and dish it out. See, that's Gisela's problem. Dishes it out, can't take it."
Excerpted from How Ya Like Me Now by Brendan Halpin. Copyright © 2007 Brendan Halpin. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.
Posted November 1, 2008
HOW YA LIKE ME NOW by Brendan Halpin is the story of opposites. One boy - his father dead and his mother entering rehab to kick her OxyContin habit. Another boy - two caring parents and anything he needs and wants. <BR/><BR/>Eddie and Alex are cousins. They haven't seen each other much over the years, but that's all about to change. <BR/><BR/>Eddie's lost his dad unexpectedly, and he has found himself taking over for his mother more and more lately. She found that using his dad's leftover prescriptions helped dull her pain. Eddie hasn't had time to socialize. His focus is on keeping their home together and not falling behind in school. Unfortunately, her life spiraling out of control has left Eddie with the options of foster care or moving to live with relatives he barely knows. <BR/><BR/>Alex hears his cousin will soon be sharing his room. Used to being the only child in a pretty comfortable home environment makes Alex doubtful that the experience will be a pleasant one. Sharing is not something he is very accustomed to, including girls. Alex is gifted in the area of women. They gravitate toward him, so he's always with someone and is filled with quirky advice about how to make the right move to attract the right girl. <BR/><BR/>His relocation takes Eddie not only into a new home, but also into a new school setting. The school is a special private school with a focus on professionalism in every aspect of the students' lives. Although it is not what he is used to, Eddie finds that with the help and friendship of Alex, he becomes quite comfortable. In fact so comfortable, that when there is news his mother is recovering and wants to get in touch with him, Eddie battles mixed feelings about returning to his former life. <BR/><BR/>Told from alternating points of view, HOW YA LIKE ME NOW relates the inner feelings of both boys. The reader learns the inner workings of these two opposite characters. There are both serious moments and lighthearted comic relief. Most readers will choose a favorite character and cheer him on until the end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 16, 2008
I picked up this book last second at the library, and after I brought it home and had more time to study it, I thought: 'Ugh, this is going to be stupid.' But, as I read more and got more and more involved in the story, I enjoyed it! Both of the boy main charectors were hilarious and lovable (even when they were being incredibly oblivious) and you root for them throughout the book. The ending is cute and happy. There's not a real 'lesson' to this book, just a fun read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 14, 2008
Alex is going through a tough time with his father dead and his mother getting high on Oxy Cottin.his mom goes to rehab, alex moves to boston with his Aunt and Uncle. he goes to school with his cousin Eddie. It isn't really a school it's like a bussiness buliding with students. everyone wears the same cloths. but the kids are funny and out-going. Eddie tries to keep his cousin on the right track by playing video games, talking to girls going outside, and everything else to keep his mind healthy. This book is not for everyone you would have to had some kind of struggle to relate to this book or you will get lost and not understand it. this was an o.k book I wouldn't read it again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 22, 2007
HOW YA LIKE ME NOW by Brendan Halpin is the story of opposites. One boy - his father dead and his mother entering rehab to kick her OxyContin habit. Another boy - two caring parents and anything he needs and wants. Eddie and Alex are cousins. They haven't seen each other much over the years, but that's all about to change. Eddie's lost his dad unexpectedly, and he has found himself taking over for his mother more and more lately. She found that using his dad's leftover prescriptions helped dull her pain. Eddie hasn¿t had time to socialize. His focus is on keeping their home together and not falling behind in school. Unfortunately, her life spiraling out of control has left Eddie with the options of foster care or moving to live with relatives he barely knows. Alex hears his cousin will soon be sharing his room. Used to being the only child in a pretty comfortable home environment makes Alex doubtful that the experience will be a pleasant one. Sharing is not something he is very accustomed to, including girls. Alex is gifted in the area of women. They gravitate toward him, so he¿s always with someone and is filled with quirky advice about how to make the right move to attract the right girl. His relocation takes Eddie not only into a new home, but also into a new school setting. The school is a special private school with a focus on professionalism in every aspect of the students' lives. Although it is not what he is used to, Eddie finds that with the help and friendship of Alex, he becomes quite comfortable. In fact so comfortable, that when there is news his mother is recovering and wants to get in touch with him, Eddie battles mixed feelings about returning to his former life. Told from alternating points of view, HOW YA LIKE ME NOW relates the inner feelings of both boys. The reader learns the inner workings of these two opposite characters. There are both serious moments and lighthearted comic relief. Most readers will choose a favorite character and cheer him on until the end. **Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka 'Readingjunky'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 26, 2010
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