Not Like You

Not Like You

4.0 8
by Deborah Davis

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"Starting a new chapter" is how Kayla's mother, Marilyn, has always referred to their abrupt moves—five in the past two years. But what 15-year-old Kayla hates even more than moving is Marilyn's drinking. It once landed Kayla in foster care, and she'll do anything to keep that from happening again, even if it means making sacrifices in her own life


"Starting a new chapter" is how Kayla's mother, Marilyn, has always referred to their abrupt moves—five in the past two years. But what 15-year-old Kayla hates even more than moving is Marilyn's drinking. It once landed Kayla in foster care, and she'll do anything to keep that from happening again, even if it means making sacrifices in her own life to keep her mother from falling apart.

Now Marilyn has moved them to New Mexico and promised, yet again, to quit booze for good. Kayla knows better than to believe her, but something about this move does feel different. Kayla is putting down roots, earning money as a dog walker, and spending time with Remy, a 24-year-old musician. And after years of taking care of her mother, Kayla is starting to think of herself and who she wants to be. She knows for sure who she doesn't want to be. But is she willing to do whatever it takes to create a different life for herself—even if it means leaving her mother behind?

Sharply honest and beautifully written, this powerful novel is about loving someone else enough to stay with her through anything—and loving yourself enough to let her go.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Meredith Davidson
Captive in a world of meaningless sexual encounters, an alcoholic mother, no friends, and a complete lack of stability, fifteen-year-old Kayla is living a life on the fast track to being completely in shambles. For her entire life, Kayla has played the adult for her mother in her two-person family, and Kayla has begun to resent it. After a spontaneous move across the country, Kayla's mother quits drinking and Kayla begins a successful dog-walking business that lands her in a spiraling romance the likes of which she has never experienced. Life is looking up until Kayla's own rash decisions sabotage the emotional stability she has worked so hard to create. Kayla's passion and talent for poetry symbolize her life's progression and realization of her faults. Her struggle to finish a poem she begins at the beginning of the novel relates well to Kayla's inability to accept her own and her mother's vices and move forward. This adolescent tale of anguish, love, and self-discovery progresses a narrative not necessarily common to adolescent literature. With a parent figure who is so distinctly childish, the "adult" Kayla is left to rebel against is herself, ultimately triggering her own self-conceptual development. The parallel lives of Kayla and her mother eventually converge in a resonant conclusion in which each atones for their own life decisions, and Kayla is able to continue the writing of her poetry. Kayla's yearnings and aches are wholly palpable in a novel that begs the question: how do we embrace our faults and failures and from them truly start anew? Reviewer: Meredith Davidson
Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
Her mother's broken promises to quit drinking leave Kayla to grow up fast. Kayla and her mother Marilyn have never settled in one place for very long and once again they are moving, this time to New Mexico where Marilyn's mother Esther is located. Unfortunately, when they arrive at the nursing home, Kayla and Marilyn are informed that Esther passed away a few days ago. Mother and daughter stay in New Mexico with hopes for another fresh start. Marilyn looks for a job through New Horizons and Kayla sets up her own business of walking and training dogs. Old problems do not disappear, as Kayla sees her mother continuously taunted by drinking, and Kayla must use her dog walking income to help pay for rent and groceries. Twenty-four-year-old Remy enters the picture and Kayla finds comfort in his company; their friendship grows. However, Remy is a musician and he leaves with the band for Colorado. Tired of her mother's drinking, Kayla decides to start her own new chapter and finds a way to Colorado to follow Remy. Yet, she discovers that life is not as simple as running away from problems, and growing up fast does not provide easy solutions.
School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up
Kayla's mother has made the 15 years of her daughter's life unpredictable, from moving for "fresh starts" to drunken binges, no money, loser boyfriends, and a year in foster care. Kayla is tired of being the adult and of letting a guy use her for sex just to feel loved. When Marilyn moves them to New Mexico and seems genuinely to want to stay sober, Kay is skeptical, but she begins to make a life for herself by walking dogs and making friends, especially with a 24-year-old musician. Thoughtful, touching, and honest, this story hits all the right notes. Kayla is a character full of flaws and hopes. Despite having grown up fast, she is still a teenager: moody and angry because of a mother who chooses alcohol over her daughter. Marilyn is fully dimensional, with her own failures, small triumphs, and desperation. Their relationship is truthfully portrayed with its complications of love, hate, and disappointment. Kayla's realization that she is repeating her mother's mistakes is as much an epiphany for readers as it is for her. Davis uses the desert setting as another way for readers to gain insight into the characters. When Kayla begins to understand her mother and love herself, instead of a stark landscape she sees nuanced color and calming beauty. Similar to Sarah Dessen's This Lullaby (2002) and The Truth about Forever (2004, both Viking), this novel is full of loneliness and yearning. It's a book to learn from and remember.
—Anne RouyerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

From the Publisher
"Thoughtful, touching, and honest, this story hits all the right notes ... a book to learn from and remember." School Library Journal, Starred

"A strongly written portrait of a sympathetic young woman who isn't quite as matured by her life as she thinks." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Written in Kayla's believable voice, Davis' moving, gritty novel builds to a hopeful, realistic close." Booklist, ALA

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.04(w) x 4.94(h) x 0.69(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

On a warm May night, Hal and I lay in each other’s arms on the mattress that filled the back of his van, waiting for the train. I liked this part—the closeness, the warmth of his skin. It felt promising, and it matched his other promises: we’d sail his aunt’s boat on Lake Tawakoni, cruise back roads on his cousin’s motorcycle, drive to a bar in Fort Worth with great bands and a bouncer who couldn’t calculate ages.
“Everyone goes,” he’d told me. “You haven’t lived till you’ve been there.” Hal was a senior, two years ahead of me. That was cool—at least, the girls in my sophomore class would have thought so. They didn’t know about Hal and me, though. Nobody did. Not yet. That was about to change.
Hal had parked in the dry riverbed, just yards beneath the train trestle.
Thin rays of moonlight shot through the front passenger window. There were no windows in the back, so it was kind of dark, which suited me just fine. I didn’t much like being seen, especially with Hal cracking jokes about how we got undressed way too early and would have to time it closer tomorrow night. Hal was giving a party in two nights to celebrate school being over. I knew because I overheard his friends talking about it. This was our third time under the trestle, and still he hadn’t mentioned the party to me. Surely, he’d invite me tonight.
Flicking a condom with his fingers, he checked his watch again and grinned.
“Ten thirty-three. One minute to go.” Right on schedule, the train whistle blew, Hal’s signal to roll on top of me. The train that crossed the trestle at 10:34 took about two and a half minutes to pass. Hal’s challenge was to start and finish within that amount of time.
Overhead, the train thundered past, and Hal squeezed his eyes shut. Closing my own, I tried to block out the grunting boy on top of me by imagining my favorite dog: black and white with a feathery tail. A black muzzle and paws.
No pure bred—not for me. My dog was one hundred percent, brilliant mongrel. Part Labrador, part terrier, part shepherd, part whatever. A magical mix and the friendliest, best-behaved mutt you’d ever want to share a walk or a swim or a bed with. All of which I did.
He ran next to me, panting. While the van rocked and the train roared, I chased the dog until my heart pounded and my legs burned. We galloped to our house and lay together in the porch hammock and swung and swung and swung.
My favorite dog, loyal, gentle, always thrilled to see me.
The last train cars rumbled by, and the dog vanished. Hal groaned, slumped against me, and quickly rolled away. In the dim light his face gleamed. “I made it,” he panted. “A perfect night.” I waited for him to say more. The party was only two nights away.
He glanced at his watch again. “If we hustle,” he said, “I can even get you home on time.” I pulled on my clothes. He said, “Hey, your T-shirt’s on backward,” and he smiled at me. I turned the shirt around.
Two nights till the party. He seemed to like me. There was still time.

I opened the door to the apartment and froze. The place had been ransacked.
Cabinets and drawers stood open.
Clothes, magazines, pots, and dishes were strewn everywhere.
Before I could call out for my mother, a stack of empty boxes and a full bottle of her favorite whiskey caught my eye.
Oh, my god, no. Not again.
There’d been no burglary. Mom was packing. I heard her in the bedroom. She’d have beer in there. She’d warm up on that and switch to the whiskey. A binge and a move—my mother’s answer to debts and dumb boyfriends and a lack of employment. All of which she had.
Mom’s footsteps crisscrossed her room, but she wouldn’t be on her feet long. Not with a full bottle of Wild Turkey in the apartment and all our stuff to pack. By the end of the night, she’d be on her ass. And in the morning, worse.
Damn, just when I had a chance here. Hal wanted to see me again. He said so right before he dropped me off.
He didn’t mention the party, but there was still plenty of time. Two more days.
Nearly forty-eight hours. This guy was so promising. Not like the others.
When I stepped into her bedroom, she was throwing shirts and dresses from the closet onto the bed. Carefully folded clothes lay neatly in a couple of old suitcases and boxes and in stacks on her bed. “Are we going somewhere?” I asked, scanning the room for beer bottles. I didn’t see even one.
She spun around. “You’re home early.” Her clear eyes and steady voice startled me. “No,” I said, “I’m right on time. As usual.” She noted the clock. “Good. We’ve got a lot to do. Start in the kitchen, okay?” I dropped to the floor to grab a belt from under her bed, checking to see if she’d hidden any bottles there.
Nothing. Nor did I smell any booze on her when I leaned over to hand her the belt. I crossed back to her doorway and leaned against it. “We can’t leave, Mom.” She scooped pantyhose and lingerie into her arms and dropped them into a suitcase. “Why not?” “Because . . .” She’d freak if I told her about Hal. I’d said I was going out with some girls. “We’re just getting settled.” I picked up a magazine and pretended to study the cover.
She looked around the room. One of the two windows was boarded up, had been that way since we moved in a few months earlier. “You want to settle here?” My mind groped for an answer. “I could probably fix that window.” She folded her arms. “Kayla, I hate this place. So did you, until about a week ago.” My face grew warm. I’d started seeing Hal about a week before. Now I knew for sure Mom wasn’t drinking. She was never this rational once she started guzzling. “I’ve got . . . friends here,” I said. Maybe not now, I thought, but two more days and I will.
She squinted at me. “You hardly mention them, you don’t bring them around.” My eyes shot back to the boarded-up window. “I could, I guess.” She shook her head. “Too late.
We’re out of here in the morning.” "To where?” “I’ll explain tomorrow.” She emptied a drawer onto her bed. “It’s a long story, and we’ve got way too much to do.” “You won’t even tell me where we’re going?” “Tomorrow. We’ve got a long drive.
Start in the kitchen, would you?” I threw several empty liquor store cartons into my room and slammed the door. It didn’t take long to pack my stuff. I was reading through my poetry notebook when Mom knocked. “Let’s finish in the morning,” she said. “I’m gonna hit the sack.” I cracked open the door. Trying to keep my voice even, I asked, “Where the hell are we going?” She smiled. “It’s a surprise.” I shut the door in her face. I’d heard that before, and I knew what it meant. It was her way of saying she didn’t know.
I should have seen this coming. Our moves were predictable; each one—four in just the past two years—followed a week or two of blowout booze fests. Mom’s one-night binges weren’t too bad because she could pick herself up in the morning and muddle on. It was the three-, four-, six-day benders that worried me. I hadn’t exactly seen her drinking or puking lately because of my evenings with Hal and my early-morning dog-walking jobs, but she’d stayed out late almost every night for over a week.
That and the quart of whiskey on our kitchen table were a sure sign that within twenty-four hours we’d be on the road, searching for a new place to call “home.” Mom was dead sober when I went to sleep that night, but I knew her clear-headedness wouldn’t last long.

Our apartment was so quiet the next morning, I felt sure she must have put a big dent in that bottle of Wild Turkey.
Now she’d be passed out—or glued to her mattress by a hangover. I dragged myself out of bed, hoping she had changed her mind about leaving, or—if she’d finished the bottle—that the whiskey had changed it for her. If getting drunk stopped her, at least I wouldn’t have to break my back hauling everything down our three flights of stairs while she lay on the sofa, babying her aching head. How she always convinced me she could drive hundreds of miles but not help load the car first was a mystery.
I padded around in my T-shirt, looking for her. The whiskey sat untouched in the kitchen, and there was no sign of Mom or most of our stuff—just a calendar on the wall, a couple of boxes, and some trash. Mom’s room was completely cleaned out. I almost wondered if she’d conned someone into carrying everything to the car and taken off without me, but then the door flew open. My thin, wiry mother strode in, red-cheeked and smiling. There was no way, from the perky look of her, she could have been drinking the night before.
“Good,” she said. “You’re awake.
Get some pants on and help me with the last boxes. My arms must be six inches longer by now.” I stared at her. She’d actually worked up a sweat, and it wasn’t from a romp in her bedroom or a night in some dive bar.
“Pants,” she said, flicking her fingers toward my bare legs. She snatched a camisole the color of blood and an exercise video—both gifts from the guy she’d been seeing—off the floor, along with blank forms from the Dallas MLK unemployment office, and chucked everything into a large trash bag.
I stepped into my jeans. “What about Rocky?” That was my nickname for her latest bed thug, a wannabe boxer.
“I’m done with him. All he wants to do is have sex.” That was a new reason to break it off. I didn’t point out that she had seemed more than enthusiastic about having it with him.
“You and I are off to a whole new start,” she said, sounding mighty pleased.
It was a relief to see her sober, but her cheerfulness was grit under my skin. Crossing into the kitchen, I yanked our calendar marked with appointments off the wall. The thumbtack holding it flew across the room and got lost in the scattered garbage. I dropped the calendar into the trash bag.
“Maybe we should keep that,” Mom said.
“Why? We’re off to a whole new start.” She grinned. “You feel it, too?” I turned away so she couldn’t see me roll my eyes.

Most of what we owned fit into our rusty Escort wagon, the boxes and bags and loose clothes reaching to the roof. She insisted we lug the tattered couch down to the street, where we’d found it. The other crappy furniture was the landlord’s, so we left it where it was.
One box of books remained on the sidewalk. Our last books. The collection got smaller each time we moved.
“What about these?” I asked.
“Pitch ’em,” Mom said, carrying bags of trash to the Dumpster. “There’s no more room.” I shuffled through the box and pulled out two books of poetry, three on dog care and training, and a beat-up copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I hesitated over the second half of The Joy of Cooking, which I’d found near the Dumpster. Neither of us had ever cracked it open. Still, I crammed it and the other books I’d selected into the car.
When Mom returned, she told me to lock up and leave the keys in the landlord’s mailbox.
“What about the rent we owe?” “Covered,” she said, smiling. “The landlord’s got our damage deposit and last month’s rent.” She pulled a wad of bills from her shorts pocket. “Your eighty-six dollars. I didn’t need it.” I’d earned that money walking three spoiled Chihuahuas, and I’d given it to her for the phone bill. She saw that I was puzzled. “I worked extra hours this week and last,” she said. I stared at the money as she climbed into the car. I thought she’d been out with Rocky all those evenings.
“Hurry up,” Mom said, already seated behind the wheel. I ran upstairs.
From the doorway, I surveyed our trashed apartment. I picked through the rubble, checking inside drawers and under furniture. The Wild Turkey stood unopened on the kitchen table. For two years, I’d lived with a shadow over my head, the possibility that she would drink herself into oblivion again and I’d be sent back into foster care. It was always there, the hushed murmur of wrenching, impending doom, even when my mother was holding it together. Hearing her quick, light footsteps on the stairs, I grabbed the whiskey and shoved the bottle under the kitchen sink.
Mom appeared, breathless. “Forgot one thing,” she said, then disappeared into the bathroom and returned with a pink bathrobe that had hung behind the door, unnoticed during our packing.
I leaned against the sink, my legs rubbery. When she left, I turned off the lights, locked the apartment, and hurried down the steps after her. One of my boots made a tapping sound. I looked at the heel. The thumbtack from the calendar was stuck in it.

Copyright © 2007 by Deborah Davis.
Reprinted by permission of Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin Company.

Meet the Author

Deborah Davis is the author of The Secret of the Seal (Crown) and My Brother Has AIDS (a Jean Karl Book, Atheneum) and the editor of You Look Too Young to Be a Mom: Teen Mothers Speak Out on Love, Learning, and Success (Perigee, Penguin). She lives in Berkeley, California, with her family. For more information visit

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Not Like You 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Fifteen-year-old Kayla Hanes is tired of moving on a moments notice to God knows where. She's tired of having a pretend dog as her only friend. She's tired of watching her mom drink herself into a stupor. She's tired of working to pay their bills. She's tired of hoping that maybe this time her mom will be able to quit drinking for good. Essentially, Kayla is the adult in the relationship, and it's beginning to take its toll. As bad as it gets though, it's still better than having to go back into foster care.

Marilyn, Kayla's mom, swears that this time it will be different, she's turning over a new leaf - but that's what she always says. Why should this time be any different? When they get to their new home in a small town in New Mexico, Kayla's small inkling of hope disappears. Their house is a trailer, on a dirty lot, with a creepy landlord.

Kayla starts up a dog walking/training business, meets a boy (who's much too old), and even makes a few friends. Maybe this time will be different. But when Marilyn starts to drink again, and uses Kayla's hard-earned money, and everything starts to fall apart once again, this time it just might be too much.

This is a great story about how much any one person can take, and the different lengths to which they can go to escape. How much is too much? How far is too far to push someone? Where is the line between tough love and abandonment? You want Kayla to get out. You want her to punish her mom. But you end up hurting for Marilyn as much as you do for Kayla.

Maybe, the harder you try to get away from something, the closer you actually come to it. Heart wrenching and hopeful, that's what this book is, and that's what life is.
KLBCHOICES More than 1 year ago
Kayla has never met her father, Desmond, and she lives with her alcoholic mother, Marilyn. They've resided in many different places and now Kayla has to leave her boyfriend because her mom is ready to pick up and move again. Marilyn had her reasons for leaving Dallas and heading for New Mexico, but things didn't turn out the way she planned. Still, she decided to stick around a while, so she and Kayla made a little run down trailer their home. So-called relationships with certain guys helped Kayla to distance herself from the world she lived in and alcohol was her mother's escape. Once Marilyn settled in New Mexico, though, she did her best to make choices that would help her become a better person, took steps to improve her life, but Kayla wouldn't give her mother a chance. This girl was so hurt by what had happened in the past and the fear of it happening again made her suspicious of her mother's every move. Kayla did have to do things her mother should have been responsible for and that wasn't right. And, yes, Marilyn did slip as far as the drinking was concerned, but Kayla was too hard on her mother. She could have been more supportive, but she chose to hold her mother's mistakes against her and give her a hard time every chance she got. I understood Kayla's fears but I didn't like how disrespectful she was. Marilyn, a woman with her own issues, was trying to be a good mother (maybe she would have known how if her own mother would have treated her right) and it was obvious she loved her daughter. Kayla and Marilyn both made mistakes - like people do - and they both learned from their bad choices. This was a good story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Sophiathereader More than 1 year ago
I got this book 'Not Like You' by Deborah Davis on Friday night. I haven't had much time to sit down and read it in one or two readings, but I just finished it today (Tuesday). It was a great book and the characters were just SOO real. Kayla is truely a strong person and like I wrote it was just a fanatastic read! My only regrets is that it's over and there is no second book....I wish there was....I would totally buy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Its great can relate to any teenage girls life