Pay it Forward

( 154 )

Overview

The internationally acclaimed sensation that started a movement of giving.

When his teacher sets a challenge to his class to come up with a plan to change the world for the better, twelve-year-old Trevor McKinney’s idea is simple: Do a good deed for three people and ask each of them to “pay it forward” to three others who need help. At first, the plan goes awry, and Trevor’s project seems valuable only as a lesson on the dark side of human nature. But then something amazing ...

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Pay It Forward: A Novel

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Overview

The internationally acclaimed sensation that started a movement of giving.

When his teacher sets a challenge to his class to come up with a plan to change the world for the better, twelve-year-old Trevor McKinney’s idea is simple: Do a good deed for three people and ask each of them to “pay it forward” to three others who need help. At first, the plan goes awry, and Trevor’s project seems valuable only as a lesson on the dark side of human nature. But then something amazing starts to happen: a vast movement of kindness and goodwill spreading beyond Trevor’s small California town and across the world.

Soon a journalist with a story of his own tracks down the source of the epidemic, and makes Trevor a celebrity. Yet Trevor has problems closer to home: he wants his pretty, hardworking mother to see the softer side of his beloved teacher, Reuben St. Clair, a scarred Vietnam veteran who seems to come alive only when he’s in front of his class.

In the end, Pay It Forward is the story of seemingly ordinary people made extraordinary by the faith of a child—a story so powerful it has inspired people around the world to follow its example in their own lives. Anyone who has ever despaired of one person’s ability to effect change will rejoice in this novel’s triumphant message of hope.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
“Catherine Ryan Hyde accomplishes a very difficult job, with an easy, beneficent wisdom about the ways of the world.”
Los Angeles Times
“The story is a quick read, told with lean sentences and an edge. . . . Hyde pulls off a poignant, gutsy ending without bathos.”
The Denver Post
“The philosophy behind the book is so intriguing, and the optimism so contagious, that the reader is carried along with what turns out to be a book that lingers long after the last page is turned.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“[Hyde's] fable speaks to the hunger so many of us feel for something to believe in that can give us hope. . . . Many of us yearn for magic. Hyde's book delivers an even more profound vision of what it may be: the simple magic of the human heart.”
San Antonio Express-News
“[An] entertaining and inspirational tale.”
San Jose Mercury-News
Pay It Forward—a book poised to become a phenomenon—is a well-designed confection that author Catherine Ryan Hyde has executed with abundant skill. If you ever had a yen for the utopian, you will have a sweet time with this heartfelt fable.”
The South Carolina Herald
“[A] fascinating idea . . . well-written . . . the characters are interesting and complex and flawed and real. . . . Pay It Forward will get you thinking outside of its pages, as few books do.”
The Arizona Daily Star
“[An] affecting tale . . . Hyde’s meticulously wrought, restrained prose imbues Pay It Forward with a transcendent power to move.”
author of The Christmas Box Richard Paul Evans
“A good read and an inspiring novel; fascinating in its implications. Catherine Ryan Hyde joyfully delivered me from ‘if only,’ to ‘what if?’ to ‘why not?’”
Booklist
“Hyde makes the unbelievable seem possible in a beautifully written, heartwarming story of one boy's belief in the goodness of humanity.”
From the Publisher
“Catherine Ryan Hyde accomplishes a very difficult job, with an easy, beneficent wisdom about the ways of the world.”

“The story is a quick read, told with lean sentences and an edge. . . . Hyde pulls off a poignant, gutsy ending without bathos.”

“The philosophy behind the book is so intriguing, and the optimism so contagious, that the reader is carried along with what turns out to be a book that lingers long after the last page is turned.”

“If the success of Harry Potter suggests that many of us yearn for magic, Hyde's book delivers an even more profound vision of what it may be: the simple magic of the human heart. . . . “Parents should read this book with their children. Non-parents should read it with someone they love.”

“[An] entertaining and inspirational tale.”

Pay It Forward—a book poised to become a phenomenon—is a well-designed confection that author Catherine Ryan Hyde has executed with abundant skill. If you ever had a yen for the utopian, you will have a sweet time with this heartfelt fable.”

“[A] fascinating idea . . . well-written . . . the characters are interesting and complex and flawed and real. . . . Pay It Forward will get you thinking outside of its pages, as few books do.”

“[An] affecting tale . . . Hyde’s meticulously wrought, restrained prose imbues Pay It Forward with a transcendent power to move.”

“A good read and an inspiring novel; fascinating in its implications. Catherine Ryan Hyde joyfully delivered me from ‘if only,’ to ‘what if?’ to ‘why not?’”

“Hyde makes the unbelievable seem possible in a beautifully written, heartwarming story of one boy's belief in the goodness of humanity.”

Bookpage
“An extraordinary tale that, like its young protagonist, just might change the world. . . . Pay It Forward is a delightfully uplifting, moving, and inspiring modern fable that has the power to change the world as we know it—which would be a wonderful phenomenon indeed.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An ordinary boy engineers a secular miracle in Hyde's (Funerals for Horses) winning second novel, set in small-town 1990s California. Twelve-year-old Trevor McKinney, the son of Arlene, a single mom working two jobs, and Ricky, a deadbeat absentee dad, does not seem well-positioned to revolutionize the world. But when Trevor's social studies teacher, Reuben St. Clair, gives the class an extra-credit assignment, challenging his students to design a plan to change society, Trevor decides to start a goodwill chain. To begin, he helps out three people, telling each of them that instead of paying him back, they must "pay it forward" by helping three others. At first, nothing seems to work out as planned, not even Trevor's attempt to bring Arlene and Reuben together. Granted, Trevor's mother and his teacher are an unlikely couple: she is a small, white, attractive, determined but insecure recovering alcoholic; he is an educated black man who lost half his face in Vietnam. But eventually romance does blossom, and unbeknownst to Trevor, his other attempts to help do "pay forward," yielding a chain reaction of newsworthy proportions. Reporter Chris Chandler is the first to chase down the story, and Hyde's narrative is punctuated with excerpts from histories Chandler publishes in later years ("Those Who Knew Trevor Speak" and "The Other Faces Behind the Movement"), as well as entries from Trevor's journal. Trevor's ultimate martyrdom, and the extraordinary worldwide success of his project, catapult the drama into the realm of myth, but Hyde's simple prose rarely turns preachy. Her Capraesque theme -- that one person can make a difference -- may be sentimental, but for once, that's a virtue...
KLIATT
Teacher Reuben St. Clair offers an extra credit assignment to his twelve-year-old social studies students: he asks them to think of an idea that would change the world and then put it into action. One student, Trevor McKinney, who has an absent father and an alcoholic mother trying to keep herself straight, decides to help a homeless man; to assist an elderly woman with her garden; and to try to pair up his lonely mother with his teacher. He then asks everyone he helps to "pay it forward" by helping three other people and asking them to help three others. Soon the idea spreads all over the country and an investigative reporter tries to find out where it started. There are three interesting protagonists here: Arlene, the mother overwhelmed by it all; Reuben, the teacher whose scarred face makes him reluctant to accept love; and Trevor, who thinks his idea isn't working! A surprise ending caps off this page turner, the basis for the recent movie of the same title. If only the world could adopt this idea and "pay it forward." KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Pocket Books, 312p, 18cm, $7.99. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Barbara Jo McKee; Libn/Media Dir., Streetsboro H.S., Stow, OH January 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 1)
Library Journal
It started with a school assignment that a 12-year-old boy embraced, and it changed everything. When Reuben St. Clair wrote on the blackboard "Think of an Idea for World Change, and Put It Into Action," Trevor McKinney (who understood the concept of compounding) came up with the idea of Paying Forward. That is, he'll do something really good for three people, who, instead of paying him back, will be asked to pay it forward -- by aiding someone else. (And so on, and so on.) But hard as he tries, Trevor's projects seem to fail: a down-and-out stranger, financed by Trevor's paper route money, buys drink and drugs; widowed Mrs. Greenberg, whose beloved garden Trevor tends, dies; and Trevor's attempts at matchmaking his lonely teacher with his feisty single mother sparks then fizzles. But then, things take a turn for the better: provisions in Mrs. Greenberg's will keep the movement going and saving lives, and then a tenacious reporter tells the story. Even if the seed for this concept came from Lloyd Douglas's Magnificent Obsession, Hyde's (Earthquake Weather) book is still an uplifting, tear-jerking, and inspiring modern fable, with an extremely appealing young protagonist. For all reading audiences.
School Library Journal
YA -- Eighth-grader Trevor is challenged by his social-studies teacher to do something that will change the world. And he does. His rule is to do one very good deed for three different people, telling them that rather than paying him back, they are to "pay it forward" to three others. When the numbers grow exponentially, The Movement starts and the world is changed. Hyde uses a variety of writing styles and techniques to present the story: a first-person account by Chris, the journalist who writes about The Movement; excerpts from his books; transcripts of his interviews; entries from Trevor's diary; and a third-person narration. The central character changes in these chapters as the story moves forward but these shifts are clear enough that most readers should not be confused. A short, unsavory sexual episode results in a violent, sacrificial ending that is softened somewhat through foreshadowing. Since the film version of the book has already been cast, YAs are likely to be asking for it soon.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439170403
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 4/27/2010
  • Edition description: Simon & Schuster
  • Pages: 311
  • Sales rank: 91,387
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the bestselling author of many novels, including Pay It Forward, Where I Belong, and When I Found You. She lives in California with her dog, Ella. Visit her at CRyanHyde.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Pay It Forward


January 1992

The woman smiled so politely that he felt offended.

“Let me tell Principal Morgan that you’re here, Mr. St. Clair. She’ll want to talk with you.” She walked two steps, turned back. “She likes to talk to everyone, I mean. Any new teacher.”

“Of course.”

He should have been used to this by now.

More than three minutes later she emerged from the principal’s office, smiling too widely. Too openly. People always display far too much acceptance, he’d noticed, when they are having trouble mustering any for real.

“Go right on in, Mr. St. Clair. She’ll see you.”

“Thank you.”

The principal appeared to be about ten years older than he, with a great deal of dark hair, worn up, a Caucasian and attractive. And attractive women always made him hurt, literally, a long pain that started high up in his solar plexus and radiated downward through his gut. As if he had just asked this attractive woman to the theater, only to be told, You must be joking.

“We are so pleased to meet you face-to-face, Mr. St. Clair.” Then she flushed, as if the mention of the word “face” had been an unforgivable faux pas.

“Please call me Reuben.”

“Reuben, yes. And I’m Anne.”

She met him with a steady, head-on gaze, and at no time appeared startled. So she had been verbally prepared by her assistant. And somehow the only thing worse than an unprepared reaction was the obviously rehearsed absence of one.

He hated these moments so.

He was, by his own admission, a man who should stay in one place. But the same factors that made it hard to start over made it hard to stay.

She motioned toward a chair and he sat. Crossed his legs. The crease of his slacks was neatly, carefully pressed. He’d chosen his tie the previous night, to go well with the suit. He was a demon about grooming, although he knew no one would ever really see. He appreciated these habits in himself, even if, or because, no one else did.

“I’m not quite what you were expecting, am I, Anne?”

The use of her first name brought it back, but more acutely. It was very hard to talk to an attractive woman.

“In what respect?”

“Please don’t do this. You must appreciate how many times I’ve replayed this same scene. I can’t bear to talk around an obvious issue.”

She tried to establish eye contact, as one normally would when addressing a coworker in conversation, but she could not make it stick. “I understand,” she said.

I doubt it, he said, but not out loud.

“It is human nature,” he said out loud, “to form a picture of someone in your mind. You read a résumé and an application, and you see I’m forty-four, a black male, a war veteran with a good educational background. And you think you see me. And because you are not prejudiced, you hire this black man to move to your town, teach at your school. But now I arrive to test the limits of your open mind. It’s easy not to be prejudiced against a black man, because we have all seen hundreds of those.”

“If you think your position is in any jeopardy, Reuben, you’re worrying for nothing.”

“Do you really have this little talk with everyone?”

“Of course I do.”

“Before they even address their first class?”

Pause. “Not necessarily. I just thought we might discuss the subject of…initial adjustment.”

“You worry that my appearance will alarm the students.”

“What has your experience been with that in the past?”

“The students are always easy, Anne. This is the difficult moment. Always.”

“I understand.”

“With all respect, I’m not sure you do,” he said. Out loud.

 

AT HIS FORMER SCHOOL, in Cincinnati, Reuben had a friend named Louis Tartaglia. Lou had a special way of addressing an unfamiliar class. He would enter, on that first morning, with a yardstick in his hand. Walk right into the flap and fray. They like to test a teacher, you see, at first. This yardstick was Lou’s own, bought and carried in with him. A rather thin, cheap one. He always bought the same brand at the same store. Then he would ask for silence, which he never received on the first request. After counting to three, he would bring this yardstick up over his head and smack it down on the desktop in such a way that it would break in two. The free half would fly up into the air behind him, hit the blackboard, and clatter to the floor. Then, in the audible silence to follow, he would say, simply, “Thank you.” And would have no trouble with the class after that.

Reuben warned him that someday a piece would fly in the wrong direction and hit a student, causing a world of problems, but it had always worked as planned, so far as he knew.

“It boils down to unpredictability,” Lou explained. “Once they see you as unpredictable, you hold the cards.”

Then he asked what Reuben did to quiet an unfamiliar and unruly class, and Reuben replied that he had never experienced the problem; he had never been greeted by anything but stony silence and was never assumed to be predictable.

“Oh. Right,” Lou said, as if he should have known better. And he should have.

 

REUBEN STOOD BEFORE THEM, for the first time, both grateful for and resentful of their silence. Outside the windows on his right was California, a place he’d never been before. The trees were different; the sky did not say winter as it had when he’d started the long drive from Cincinnati. He wouldn’t say from home, because it was not his home, not really. And neither was this. And he’d grown tired of feeling like a stranger.

He performed a quick head count, seats per row, number of rows. “Since I can see you’re all here,” he said, “we will dispense with the roll call.”

It seemed to break a spell, that he spoke, and the students shifted a bit, made eye contact with one another. Whispered across aisles. Neither better nor worse than usual. To encourage this normality, he turned away to write his name on the board. Mr. St. Clair. Also wrote it out underneath, Saint Clair, as an aid to pronunciation. Then paused before turning back, so they would have time to finish reading his name.

In his mind, his plan, he thought he’d start right off with the assignment. But it caved from under him, like skidding down the side of a sand dune. He was not Lou, and sometimes people needed to know him first. Sometimes he was startling enough on his own, before his ideas even showed themselves.

“Maybe we should spend this first day,” he said, “just talking. Since you don’t know me at all. We can start by talking about appearances. How we feel about people because of how they look. There are no rules. You can say anything you want.”

Apparently they did not believe him yet, because they said the same things they might have with their parents looking on. To his disappointment.

Then, in what he supposed was an attempt at humor, a boy in the back row asked if he was a pirate.

“No,” he said. “I’m not. I’m a teacher.”

“I thought only pirates wore eye patches.”

“People who have lost eyes wear eye patches. Whether they are pirates or not is beside the point.”

 

THE CLASS FILED OUT, to his relief, and he looked up to see a boy standing in front of his desk. A thin white boy, but very dark-haired, possibly part Hispanic, who said, “Hi.”

“Hello.”

“What happened to your face?”

Reuben smiled, which was rare for him, being self-conscious about the lopsided effect. He pulled a chair around so the boy could sit facing him and motioned for him to sit, which he did without hesitation. “What’s your name?”

“Trevor.”

“Trevor what?”

“McKinney. Did I hurt your feelings?”

“No, Trevor. You didn’t.”

“My mom says I shouldn’t ask people things like that, because it might hurt their feelings. She says you should act like you didn’t notice.”

“Well, what your mom doesn’t know, Trevor, because she’s never been in my shoes, is that if you act like you didn’t notice, I still know that you did. And then it feels strange that we can’t talk about it when we’re both thinking about it. Know what I mean?”

“I think so. So, what happened?”

“I was injured in a war.”

“In Vietnam?”

“That’s right.”

“My daddy was in Vietnam. He says it’s a hellhole.”

“I would tend to agree. Even though I was only there for seven weeks.”

“My daddy was there two years.”

“Was he injured?”

“Maybe a little. I think he has a sore knee.”

“I was supposed to stay two years, but I got hurt so badly that I had to come home. So, in a way I was lucky that I didn’t have to stay, and in a way your daddy was lucky because he didn’t get hurt that badly. If you know what I mean.” The boy didn’t look too sure that he did. “Maybe someday I’ll meet your dad. Maybe on parents’ night.”

“I don’t think so. We don’t know where he is. What’s under the eye patch?”

“Nothing.”

“How can it be nothing?”

“It’s like nothing was ever there. Do you want to see?”

“You bet.”

Reuben took off the patch.

No one seemed to know quite what he meant by “nothing,” until they saw it. No one seemed prepared for the shock of “nothing” where there would be an eye on everyone else they had ever met. The boy’s head rocked back a little, then he nodded. Kids were easier. Reuben replaced the patch.

“Sorry about your face. But you know, it’s only just that one side. The other side looks real good.”

“Thank you, Trevor. I think you are the first person to offer me that compliment.”

“Well, see ya.”

“Good-bye, Trevor.”

Reuben moved to the window and looked out over the front lawn. Watched students clump and talk and run on the grass, until Trevor appeared, trotting down the front steps.

It was ingrained in Reuben to defend this moment, and he could not have returned to his desk if he’d tried. This he could not release. He needed to know if Trevor would run up to the other boys to flaunt his new knowledge. To collect on any bets or tell any tales, which Reuben would not hear, only imagine from his second-floor perch, his face flushing under the imagined words. But Trevor trotted past the boys without so much as a glance, stopping to speak to no one.

It was almost time for Reuben’s second class to arrive. So he had to get started, preparing himself to do it all over again.

From The Other Faces Behind the Movement
by Chris Chandler

There is nothing monstrous or grotesque about my face. I get to state this with a certain objectivity, being perhaps the only one capable of such. I am the only one used to seeing it, because I am the only one who dares, with the help of a shaving mirror, to openly stare.

I have undergone eleven operations, all in all, to repair what was, at one time, unsightly damage. The area that was my left eye, and the lost bone and muscle under cheek and brow, have been neatly covered with skin removed from my thigh. I have endured numerous skin grafts and plastic surgery. Only a few of these were necessary for health or function. Most were intended to make me an easier individual to meet. The final result is a smooth, complete absence of an eye, as if one had never existed; a great loss of muscle and mass in cheek and neck; and obvious nerve damage to the left corner of my mouth. It is dead, so to speak, and droops. But after many years of remedial diction therapy, my speech is fairly easily understood.

So, in a sense it is not what people see in my face that disturbs them, but rather what they expect to see and do not.

I also have minimal use of my left arm, which is foreshortened and thin from resulting atrophy. My guess is that people rarely notice this until I’ve been around awhile, because my face tends to steal the show.

I have worked in schools, lounged in staff rooms, where a Band-Aid draws comment and requires explanation. Richie, what did you do to your hand? A cast on an extremity becomes a story told for six weeks, multiplied by the number of employees. Well, I was on a ladder, see, preparing to clean my storm drains….

So, it seems odd to me that no one will ask. If they suddenly did and I were forced to repeat the story, I might decide I had liked things better before. But it’s not so much that they don’t ask, but why they don’t ask, as if I am an unspeakable tragedy, as new and shocking to myself as to them.

Occasionally my left arm will draw comment, always the same one. “How lucky that it was your left.” But even this supposed consolation is misguided, because I am left-handed, by nature if not by practice.

Until I was shipped home from overseas, I had a fiancée. I still have pictures of us together. We were a handsome couple—ask anyone. To someone who wasn’t there, it might seem as if my fiancée must have been a coldhearted woman. Surely she could have married me just the same. I wish Eleanor had been a coldhearted woman, or even that I could pretend such to be the case, but unfortunately I was there. The real truth is hard to re-create. The real truth is that we both agreed so staunchly not to see it or care about it that it was all we could see, nor had we time left over to care about anything else.

Eleanor was a strong woman, which no doubt contributed to our defeat.

She is married now and lives with her husband in Detroit. She is a plastic surgeon. I haven’t entirely decided how much significance to attribute to these facts.

Any of them.

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First Chapter

Chapter Five<<B>Jerry

He was just getting set to bunk down for the night, and there she was. Like the damn police. Or the landlord of a building whose cellar he might try to use for shelter. Like she'd made up her mind. He was a bug and she didn't want her damn place infested.

He'd just gotten done on the truck. Taking the engine loose. Not from its mounts, but unhooking all the smog and the wiring. All of which there was way too much of. Not like the old days. The way they made them anymore, like a piece of crap.

And he'd gone into the garage. Rolled out an old Oriental rug in a corner. Against a wall. Barely got his eyes closed.

She came in, flipped on the lights. Made him blink.

"It's only me, ma'am. Jerry. Just takin' a quick break. Just a nap. Then I'll get some more work done on your truck."

"I know you been living here, in my garage."

"No, ma'am. Just a quick nap."

"Then where are you staying?"

"Down at the shop where I work. They let me sleep on the couch in the waiting room."

"Get up. I'll drive you down there."

Damn. There were two bad things about the way she treated him. One was, she was so damn pretty. Didn't look old enough to have a kid Trevor's age. Late twenties from the look. And real small and cute, built like a little doll. Until she opened her mouth. Personality like an amazon, someone ten times her size. But she was so damn pretty. If they were in a bar together and he had enough money on him to buy them both a drink...if things weren't like this, like they really were right now...it wasn't so out of the question. The other bad thing about her treating him like vermin was that he couldn't really hold it against her. Couldn't argue against it, because how? With what?

Getting into her car, her in the driver's seat, the dome light on as he got in beside her, he saw her face clear. Looking at her, he thought, You and me, we're not so very different, and maybe you know it. But he knew better than to say it out loud.

They drove in silence down the Camino, the main street of town. A ghost town at this hour. The street was long and deserted, with traffic lights changing color for no reason he could see.

"Damn good car you got here." Old green Dodge Dart. Serve you forever if you took care of it. Hell, even if you didn't.

"That supposed to be some kind of sarcastic?"

"No, ma'am. I mean it for a fact. That slant six engine, best they ever made. Couldn't kill it if you tried."

"You might want to, though. Sometimes."

What you got out of her was always harder, colder than what you were set to expect. Pretty lady, though. Cute.

"I know you don't like me."

"It's not that."

"What, then?"

"Look. Jerry." Standing at a red light, idling. Even though there was no one around. No one to go on the green while they waited. "I'm trying to raise that boy on my own. No help from nobody. I can't watch him all the time."

"I don't mean no harm to your son."

"You don't mean none." Light turned, squeal of her tires. Just hit the gas too sudden.

She pulled up in front of the Quicky Lube & Tune.

It was cold out there. He didn't want to get out. Kind of thought he wouldn't have to. Anymore. No more sleeping out in the cold. He didn't really have the key to the shop. Would never in a million years have told his bosses he needed that couch to sleep on.

"Thanks for the ride, ma'am."

"I don't have anything against you personally. I don't."

"Right. Whatever."

He stepped out of the warm car. Into the wind. A minute later she was behind him.

"Look, Jerry. In a different world, who knows? We could have been friends even. It's just that -- "

He spun around. She had to look at his face. Only for a second, then at his shoes. If only she wouldn't have looked at his shoes. He hadn't had enough money to replace the old sneakers. Saw a great pair of lace-up work boots but couldn't afford them. But tomorrow. Tomorrow would be payday. No, today. It was after 3 A.M. Later today, work boots.

"Pleased to hear you say that, ma'am. The way you been acting, I'da thought only one of us is people."

"I never meant that."

"Never meant it."

She turned to go back to the car. He turned to watch her go. So they both saw it. Like a long streak, starting at the top of the sky. Drifting down, but fast. Lighting up the night like lightning. A ball of fire with a tail.

"Holy cow," she said. "Did you see that? What was that, a comet?"

"Meteor maybe, I don't know. When I was a kid, we used to call that a falling star. I used to think if you saw one, you'd get your wish. You know, like all your dreams'd come true?"

She turned back to look at him. All softness in her face. Maybe it had never occurred to her that bums used to be kids. Or wanted their dreams to come true, like everybody.

She said, "Don't you hate moments like this?"

"What moments is those, ma'am?"

"When you get that feeling like we're all just the same?"

"No, ma'am. I like 'em."

"Well, good luck."

"Ma'am?"

"What?"

"I get my first paycheck today. And I'll go get a cheap room. Be out of your hair. Your boy won't be sorry he made the effort. I don't think you will either. I'll do just what I'm supposed to do. Pass it along, you know."

She stood there a long time, like she was trying to decide whether to say something or not. And she said it. "Will you explain to me about that? How that Paying Forward thing goes?"

He kind of blinked. "Didn't he tell you?"

"I didn't exactly ask."


From Those Who Knew Trevor Speak

So, I explained Paying Forward to her. I got me a stick. Sketched it out in the dirt. In the dark. We both had to squint to see. It was cold, but she had a choice. Could have been home in a warm house. That made a difference. How do I know why?

I drew them three circles. And explained them. Like the kid explained them to me. "See, this one, that's me," I said. "These other two, I don't know. Two other somebodies, I guess. That he's gonna help. See, the trick is, it's something big. A big help. Like you wouldn't do for just anybody. Maybe your mother or your sister. But not nobody else. He does that for me. I got to do it for three others. Other two, they got to do for three others. Those nine others, they got to do it for three others. Each. That makes twenty-seven."

Now, I ain't so good with math. But that kid, he worked it out. It gets real big real fast. Like you can't believe how fast. Up in the thousands in no time.

So I'm on my knees there. Drawing all these circles in the dirt. Counting by threes. Running out of dirt. You can't believe how fast. And you know, it happened again. And we both saw it. A big comet, or whatever. Did I mention about that first comet we saw? I guess I did. So we see another comet. Falling star. Falling, shooting, I don't know. But I ain't never seen two all in one night. It was kind of spooky.

We're looking at these circles, thinking this whole thing could be great. Except it won't be. Because, well, we all know it won't. Because people, they are no good. They won't really pay it forward. They will take your help, but that's all.

I know we were both thinking that. And then the sky lit up again. That big comet. The second one, I mean. I ain't sayin' there was a third. Maybe I made it sound that way. But two, anyway. That's a lot. Spooky.

You know, it's a big world out there. Bigger than we think.

Then she starts to tell me it's hard for her to talk to that kid. I couldn't believe it. Telling me. Me. She says he's just like his father that way. She hates to question him. Can't get mad at him. Don't want to seem like she don't trust him. So things just go by. She just lets 'em go by. She told me all this. It's like we were...I don't know...communicating. For the first time. About all kinds of stuff. It was so amazing. I told her I was gonna do big things. Maybe not big to somebody else. But from where I was. Get me an apartment. Drive a Dodge Dart. She said I could have hers. Dirt cheap. I told her again how it was payday. Payday. The day everything changes.

After a while it was all the same stuff we was saying. Over and over. But I liked it anyway. After a while she went home. But after that, the night was, like...different. Like...not so...you know...cold. Or something.


At nine-thirty he got his paycheck. Didn't have to stay and work that day or the next. So he took it to the bank.

Way over $100, cash in his hand.

Time to buy work boots.

He stood at the bus stop a while. Too long. But it was a nice day. He could walk down to the Kmart. Walking with all that money, that big lump in his pocket. And he'd earned it, too. A whole new day. Comets in the night, who knows?

Then he walked by Stanley's, that little bar he used to like. Thought a beer would go nice. Good day, pocket full of money. If you can't take a minute to celebrate over a beer, then why? Then what was it all for?

And he was right. It went down real nice.

Saw two of the guys, too. That he knew when he was mostly on his feet. And now he was on them again. And they never had to know otherwise. They wanted to know where he'd been. San Francisco, he said, because he'd always wanted to go there.

Bought them each a beer so they would know he could. So they would see that roll come out of his pocket, unfold real nice. Bought himself another so they would see he was in no hurry. No place he really had to be.

Yes sir. New day for sure.

They played a game of pool or two, for money. Then one of them phoned up Tito, a guy they used to know. Told him Jerry was loaded. Come on down.

He did, with some product.

Said to Jerry, "I know you looking to buy. Don't tell me you don't got a taste for the stuff."

"Not no more," Jerry said.

"Oh, come on."

So they played a few more games of pool. The other three went into the bathroom to fix. That didn't seem fair. They could and he couldn't, how is that fair?

I mean, what is the point, really? Why have a whole new world all caught up in rules? Where you can't even feel good. Have what you like. So he had another beer, and Tito came back out. And Jerry said maybe just a dime bag. Not enough to get in trouble on. Not so much that he couldn't afford the boots.

It was his day off. After all. Had to borrow a rig off Tito, didn't even have his own. Didn't know how much he missed that little sting, that needle sting, till he felt it again.

Then it was closing time. How could that be? It was just yesterday morning a minute ago. What day was it now?

Then it was a whole day later in a Denny's, drinking coffee. Hungry now, with stubble on his face. Sick. Feeling bad.

Breakfast, that would have gone good. But he couldn't have any. Because that cup of coffee had tapped him out.

Dug deep in his pockets twice, but it was no use. That money was all used up.

Copyright © 1999 by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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Introduction

Prologue<<I>October 2002
Maybe someday I'll have kids of my own. I hope so. If I do, they'll probably ask what part I played in the movement that changed the world. And because I'm not the person I once was, I'll tell them the truth. My part was nothing. I did nothing. I was just the guy in the corner taking notes.

My name is Chris Chandler and I'm an investigative reporter. Or at least I was. Until I found out that actions have consequences, and not everything is under my control. Until I found out that I couldn't change the world at all, but a seemingly ordi-nary twelve-year-old boy could change the world completely -- for the better, and forever -- working with nothing but his own altruism, one good idea, and a couple of years. And a big sacrifice.

And a splash of publicity. That's where I came in.

I can tell you how it all started.

It started with a teacher who moved to Atascadero, California, to teach social studies to junior high school students. A teacher nobody knew very well, because they couldn't get past his face. Because it was hard to look at his face.

It started with a boy who didn't seem all that remarkable on the outside, but who could see past his teacher's face.

It started with an assignment that this teacher had given out a hundred times before, with no startling results. But that assignment in the hands of that boy caused a seed to be planted, and after that nothing in the world would ever be the same. Nor would anybody want it to be.

And I can tell you what it became. In fact, I'll tell you a story that will help you understand how big it grew.

About a week ago my car stalled in a busy intersection, and it wouldn't start again no matter how many times I tried. It was rush hour, and I thought I was in a hurry. I thought I had something important to do, and it couldn't wait. So I was standing in the middle of the intersection looking under the hood, which was a misguided effort because I can't fix cars. What did I think I would see?

I'd been expecting this. It was an old car. It was as good as gone.

A man came up behind me, a stranger.

"Let's get it off to the side of the road," he said. "Here. I'll help you push." When we got it -- and ourselves -- to safety he handed me the keys to his car. A nice silver Acura, barely two years old. "You can have mine," he said. "We'll trade."

He didn't give me the car as a loan. He gave it to me as a gift. He took my address, so he could send me the title. And he did send the title; it just arrived today.

"A great deal of generosity has come into my life lately," the note said, "so I felt I could take your old car and use it as a trade-in. I can well afford something new, so why not give as good as I've received?"

That's what kind of world it's become. No, actually it's more. It's become even more. It's not just the kind of world in which a total stranger will give me his car as a gift. It's the kind of world in which the day I received that gift was not dramatically different from all other days. Such generosity has become the way of things. It's become commonplace.

So this much I understand well enough to relate: it started as an extra credit assignment for a social studies class and turned into a world where no one goes hungry, no one is cold, no one is without a job or a ride or a loan.

And yet at first people needed to know more. Somehow it was not enough that a boy barely in his teens was able to change the world. Somehow it had to be known why the world could change at just that moment, why it could not have changed a moment sooner, what Trevor brought to that moment, and why it was the very thing that moment required.

And that, unfortunately, is the part I can't explain.

I was there. Every step of the way I was there. But I was a different person then. I was looking in all the wrong places. I thought it was just a story, and the story was all that mattered. I cared about Trevor, but by the time I cared about him enough it was too late. I thought I cared about my work, but I didn't know what my work could really mean until it was over. I wanted to make lots of money. I did make lots of money. I gave it all away.

I don't know who I was then, but I know who I am now.

Trevor changed me, too.

I thought Reuben would have the answers. Reuben St. Clair, the teacher who started it all. He was closer to Trevor than anybody except maybe Trevor's mother, Arlene. And Reuben was looking in all the right places, I think. And I believe he was paying attention.

So, after the fact, when it was my job to write books about the movement, I asked Reuben two important questions.

"What was it about Trevor that made him different?" I asked.

Reuben thought carefully and then said, "The thing about Trevor was that he was just like everybody else, except for the part of him that wasn't."

I didn't even ask what part that was. I'm learning.

Then I asked, "When you first handed out that now-famous assignment, did you think that one of your students would actually change the world?"

And Reuben replied, "No, I thought they all would. But perhaps in smaller ways."

I'm becoming someone who asks fewer questions. Not everything can be dissected and understood. Not everything has a simple answer. That's why I'm not a reporter anymore. When you lose interest in questions, you're out of a job. That's okay. I wasn't as good at it as I should have been. I didn't bring anything special to the game.

People gradually stopped needing to know why. We adjust quickly to change, even as we rant and rail and swear we never will. And everybody likes a change if it's a change for the better. And no one likes to dwell on the past if the past is ugly and everything is finally going well.

The most important thing I can add from my own observations is this: knowing it started from unremarkable circumstances should be a comfort to us all. Because it proves that you don't need much to change the entire world for the better. You can start with the most ordinary ingredients. You can start with the world you've got.

Copyright © 1999 by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 154 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(81)

4 Star

(41)

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(25)

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(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 154 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2012

    The review below me is 100% true.

    .

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 26, 2011

    So Good

    Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde, was one of the best books that I have ever read! The funniest thing about it was that I probably would have never read if I didn't have to for my literature class. I would read this book again and again. When Trevor McKinney comes up with an idea to change the world, no one believes in him. That all changes when his idea starts to work. I was on the edge of my seat after every chapter. I even got teary-eyed at the end. I have cried during only a few books (this, where the red fern grows, charlotte's web, etc.). I know that when a book makes me laugh out loud or cry, the author has done a great job at touching your heart. This book is good for anyone of any age. It was absolutely fantastic!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book!

    This is one of the best books I have ever read. The story was so touching that by the end of the book I in tears. I just wish the movie did it justice.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2013

    This book was amazing.

    I read everything about the foundation Pay it Forward and started an anti-bully program at my school. I got this as a gift and I couldn't put it down. It was awesome to hear the story behind the amazing idea of paying it forward. Its worth the read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2002

    Far From Pre-fabricated

    After reading the book Pay it Forward, I can honestly say that it¿s one of the best books I¿ve read in a long time. The structure is very original and unique which is hard to find in books these days. You get to see the prospective from each individual character and the narrator, which gives you every side of the story and not just one from a single character or just the narorater. There are so many things going on at once so you are always interested to find out what¿s next and are longing to read. Plus there is so much action and excitement, and the wordage is very down to earth, so it¿s not like you¿re reading something pre fabricated or old school. I think it¿s so interesting that you get to know every character individually. The book lets you know there personality, the way they act, the kind of people they are, and why they are like they are. It¿s more than just characters in a book, you feel like you know them and can see relate them to people in you¿re life. Also, the problems in the book are very real. The stuff in the book is stuff that goes on everyday in everyone¿s life so you can really relate to the book. Plus, the book doesn¿t go off too far and seem impossible. If you think about the stuff that goes on in the book, it seems like a long shot, changing the world and all, but if you think about the idea of paying it forward, it dose seem possible. So in conclusion, if you are someone that likes things you can relate to your like and is a little structured out of the ordinary, you should defiantly read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013

    READ THIS POST

    Good book but at the end a guy KILLS Trever with a knife and it's very sad. The movie is worse though. On the one i wachted "Breif Violence" is when Trevor dies. Concluision:good idea bad storyline

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2013

    Cryied

    I cried when i watched the movie havent read the book yet:'(

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 18, 2012

    Has to be one the best books I've ever read. It was so beautiful

    Has to be one the best books I've ever read. It was so beautifully written and kept you interested until the end. I recommend this book to all ages.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 1, 2011

    awesome

    loved the movie. bet the book is great 2.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2011

    ...

    i saw the movie and it was rele good the book probably is too

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    Not as good as the movie

    Honestly I like the movie better. They both have the same concept of Paying it Forward but the book was slow and some of the characters didn't need to be in the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 12, 2010

    Inspring and thought provoking

    This book is an absolute must read! It gives you hope that there actually is good in the world and people, no matter what their character, do have an innate need to do good for others. What an amazing world this would be if everyone did "Pay it Forward" even once.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Relative to everyday life

    I liked this book the most because of the realistic descriptions of emotions within the characters. Even though I did not share most of the experiences that the characters had, I related to the human side of things. Besides the inspiration this book provides, it shows you that there is always something to keep looking ahead for.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2008

    great

    This is a touching tale of how one boy with one idea changed the world. Between all the character's point of views, it at times can become confusing, but its all neccesary. It was a great book, if a sad one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2008

    review

    I'm rating the plot off of the movie, and if this book is anything like the movie you will love it and possibly cry. I know the plot has to be similar, and that alone is a 5.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2007

    Wow, the only word even close

    In the begining of the book it gets kind of confusing but as the people in the story connect so do you. I read this book without seeing the movie and I believe it was the best way because you are un prepared for the shock at the end. This is a very sad and depressing book but it also makes you believe you have a voice and there can be some good in the world!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2007

    A reviewer

    I loved this book and movie so much! It made so many kids in my class cry last year '7th grade'. Its such a great story. I totally recommend that you SEE the movie and READ the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2007

    great but sad

    ive read the book and have seen the movie! Great read but every time i do see the movie or read the book again i continue to cry!! Sad but great!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2006

    Origin of the idea...

    This book is a fast read and quite inspiring. It might interest readers to know that paying it forward was actually first introduced by Robert A. Heinlein in his book 'Between Planets' in 1951. Later, the concept was popularized by the legendary head coach of The Ohio State University football team, Woody Hayes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2006

    Pay It Forward Review

    This is a great book that I read and I really enjoyed it. I have seen the movie before and it was superb, so I decided to read the book. Even though my teachers have always told me that a book is different than a movie, I thought it might still have an extraordinary point like the movie does. The book has a similar plot to the movie but I like how the author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, wrote with more detail, making it easier to have a clear picture in the back of your mind. I also like how this is something that we could actually put into action. This world, that we are living in, has become so conceited and careless that it would be helpful and overwhelming if we started to ¿Pay It Forward¿. It is a great idea and it made me think of how I could do something to change the world or at least lend a hand to others. Actually it made me want to start Trevor¿s idea because it was such an excellent idea. That goes to show people that youth can be caring and have effective ideas if grown-ups will just listen. At the very beginning of the book it took some time before it captured my attention because it took awhile to get to the point, but when it did I could not stop reading. It is almost written like a movie in the sense of how the chapters tell about a certain person and what was going on in that person¿s life, just like scenes in a movie. Overall this is a great book and I would say if you`re a person who is sensitive, and cares about others, than you will like this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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