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Queen of Everything

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Overview

People ask me all the time what having Vince MacKenzie for a father was like. What they mean is, was he always crazy?
High school junior Jordan MacKenzie's life was pretty typical: fractured family, new boyfriend, dead-end job. She'd been living with her father (the predictable optometrist) since her mother (the hippie holdover) had been too embarrassing to be around. Jordan felt like she finally had as normal a life as she could. But then came...

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The Queen of Everything

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Overview

People ask me all the time what having Vince MacKenzie for a father was like. What they mean is, was he always crazy?
High school junior Jordan MacKenzie's life was pretty typical: fractured family, new boyfriend, dead-end job. She'd been living with her father (the predictable optometrist) since her mother (the hippie holdover) had been too embarrassing to be around. Jordan felt like she finally had as normal a life as she could. But then came Gayle D'Angelo.
Jordan knew her father was dating Gayle, and that Gayle was married. Jordan knew it was wrong, and that her father was becoming someone she didn't recognize anymore, but what could she do about it? And how could she — how could anyone — have possibly guessed that this illicit love affair would implode in such a violent and disturbing way?

In the San Juan Islands in Washington State, high school junior Jordan MacKenzie learns about different kinds of love as her divorced father's troubling affair with a married woman ends in tragedy, and she tries to fit into her hippie mother's new family while halfheartedly dating the popular boy at school.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The normally stable father of high school junior Jordan becomes involved with a married woman, then kills someone. Told as a flashback through Jordan's first-person narrative (although Jordan does not reveal at the beginning who dies), the novel takes place during the summer on a fictional island in western Washington. Debut YA novelist Caletti peoples Jordan's world with fascinating characters, including a hippie mother who runs a bed and breakfast with her kinetic artist husband, and her best friend, status-focused Melissa, who works with Jordan at a weight loss center run by an eccentric Christian couple. Jordan herself can be funny, making light of her situation with caustic remarks ("He was an optometrist for God's sake" she says when people ask her what her murderous father was like), and also vulnerable ("That's not what people want to hear-that my father was just a normal guy whom I loved, love, with all my heart") as she leads readers carefully towards her eventual realization of her own identity. She also weaves in pieces of advice she's picked up from Big Mama, a wise, warm-hearted fishery worker who often incorporates salmon into her lessons. Two subplots involving Jordan's romantic interests create unnecessary distractions, but captivating details make this scandalous story seem all too real, and Jordan's magnetic voice marks Caletti as a writer to watch. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)
VOYA
Narrator Jordan manages to capture both the ennui and the angst of adolescence in this novel. Throughout, she maintains a distance from the story while relating tragic, emotional events. Jordan's father is in jail for the murder of his lover's wife-a fact that the reader will discover within the first few pages. As Jordan tells the story of her summer, it evolves into more than just a narration of the fateful event. It is a tale of a mother and daughter so alike and so different that they cannot get along, of a relationship that exists because it is easier than saying no, and of loving someone of whom your friends will not approve. Perhaps that is why the reader struggles to be fully captured by the story-there is too much of Jordan's life crowding the plot line. The narrative distance might work for some readers as a commentary on Jordan's summer experiences or as the ultimate teenage boredom. Each plot element certainly holds popular appeal. Nonetheless, the book slows down in the middle, forcing the reader to soldier on until end, despite a death, a murder, and running away. This book is a quiet one, approaching events with a cool remove that leaves the reader on the outside looking in. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster, 384p,
— Mary Ann Harlan
Children's Literature
For realistic fiction fans, seventeen-year old Jordan Mackenzie offers an honest, poignant portrayal of life taking unexpected twists. Like many teenagers, Jordan craves stability and normalcy. She finds this in her father, a down-to-earth optometrist, who can be counted on to be home for dinner. However, life changes when rich, sophisticated Beverly D'Angelo steps onto the scene. At first Jordan does not believe her father capable of an illicit affair, but as the relationship unfolds, Jordan realizes he might be capable of even worse. Reeling with this knowledge, Jordan must readjust her vision of the world. The first person voice and simple sentence structure give the book a fast-paced feel, but never compromise detail and depth of character. Written with adult language and straightforward sexual scenes, the book is intended for mature audiences. 2002, Simon Pulse,
— Michelle Taylor
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-From the beginning of this absorbing novel, readers know that Jordan's father will kill the husband of the woman with whom he's having an affair. The tone of the story, however, is unexpectedly light as Caletti introduces the teen's free-spirited mother, ultra-religious boss, colorful neighbors, and optometrist father. Caught up in her own romantic dilemma-choosing between a cruel but good-looking classmate and the quirky, caring brother of her best friend-Jordan is slow to realize that her father is having an affair with glamorous Gayle D'Angelo. In the last 100 pages, she must come to terms with what her father has done and find a way to rebuild her own life. Most of the novel, however, deals with her day-to-day life, friendships, and family relationships. Caletti lovingly describes the setting, a small town on the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, and Jordan's several adult mentors are well developed as characters. Her own poor choices at times run parallel to her father's, as she dates and has a disastrous sexual encounter with a boy she knows is bad news before finally wising up. Through it all, she manages to observe the people around her with love and amusement. Teens will gain insight into how obsessive love can drive even ordinary-seeming individuals to commit terrible acts.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Alternating between pithy humor and ominous foreboding, high-school junior Jordan MacKenzie’s voice describes her life, family, and friends in this gothic with an edge. The edge is from her own witty commentary on life on Parrish Island, an imaginary community located off the coast of Washington State in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The bringing together of sadness and foreboding with humor is reminiscent of Elvin in Chris Lynch’s Slot Machine (1995) although Jordan appears to be less intentionally working at being funny. It is simply her take on life: her values, her awareness of pretensions, oddities, and incongruencies. The characters leap to life (including the dogs), as Jordan details the daily events that inexorably lead first to tragic events, and ultimately to a rescue of a sort. Threading throughout is the awareness that horror is ahead. When it does arrive, it doesn’t quite seem as ghastly as expected. Most of the plot is driven by actions of the adults in the story, but when Jordan chooses to act, she’s obviously learned a trick or two about manipulation and getting what you want. She’s chosen to live with her father as the more normal one of her parents, but he becomes obsessed with a married woman and Jordan’s life spirals out of control. While not the focus, her own first miserable experiences with sex and the death of a grandparent are encompassed in this somewhat long, but nonetheless fast-paced debut. Humor gets little respect, but Caletti expertly succeeds in capturing the way a smart teen can grasp and skewer her world and what passes for everyday normal in a wry tone that never fails to recognize the seriousness of the situation. Cosmic comedy. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
"Captivating details make this scandalous story seem all too real."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Debut YA novelist Caletti peoples Jordan's world with fascinating characters...Jordan's magnetic voice marks Caletti as a writer to watch."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

"The book unfolds the drama slowly and suspensefully, creating an everyday teen world that's perceptive, funny, and nuanced in its own right..."

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

"Gothic with an edge...The characters leap to life...Caletti expertly succeeds in capturing the way a smart teen can grasp and skewer her world..."

Kirkus Reviews

"Entertaining, atmospheric...Jordan's authentic teenage voice...will hold readers, as will the emotional issues...."

Booklist

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Jordan, a typical high school junior, was living with her divorced, controlled, and predictable father, a respected optometrist. Through first-person, flashback narration, Jordan relates how her life took a totally unexpected turn of events. Listeners will know early on that her father is in serious trouble as she begins to tell her story. The depth of his problems is slowly revealed alongside a sub plot of Jordan taking unusual and questionable risks with the town bad boy. Jordan's unremarkable life starts to spiral out of control when her father becomes involved with a manipulative married woman and then kills someone. Throughout Deb Caletti's story (Simon Pulse, 2002), Kate Rudd paces her narration to match the unfolding of the stark and troubling reality in which Jordan finds herself. While not fully voiced, Rudd does use clearly distinguishable vocal patterns and tones for all of the main characters, allowing the full impact of their behavior to be felt by listeners. Jordan's confusion and disbelief at how far her father has fallen is so convincing that listeners will be struck by the enormity of what her father has done. For Caletti fans.—Stephanie A. Squicciarini, Fairport Public Library, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743436847
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • Publication date: 10/15/2002
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 384
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 780L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 1.10 (h) x 6.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti’s first novel for teens was The Queen of Everything, was nominated for YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults, and was chosen for PSLA's Top Forty of 2003 and the International Reading Association's Young Adult Choices for 2004. Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, a National Book Award finalist, was Deb's second book for teens. Deb lives with her family part-time on acreage in Issaquah, a Seattle suburb, and part-time in the city on a houseboat. She steals her best lines from her mother, her kids, and the dog, who doesn't seem to mind. You can visit her at www.debcaletti.com.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

People ask me all the time what having Vince MacKenzie for a father was like. What they mean is: Was he always crazy? Did he walk around the kitchen with an ice pick in the pocket of his flannel bathrobe every morning as he poured himself a cup of coffee?

Some ask flat out, as if it's their right to know. Others circle it, talk about the weather first, thinking they're being so sneaky when really they're as obvious as a dog circling a tree.

When they ask I always say the same thing. I say, "He was an optometrist for God's sake. You know, the guy who sits you in the big chair and says, 'Better here, or here?' The ones with the little pocket-size flashlights?" And that's all I say. I try to keep it all in the tone of voice. I don't even add a, If you must know, you insensitive jackass. Well I did say that once. I don't count it though, because it was to an old man who probably had bad hearing.

What I won't do is tell anyone what he was really like.

I won't say that when I think of him now, I see him outside, at places he can no longer go. I see him mowing the front lawn, wearing his University of Washington Huskies cap, holding his hand to his ear to let me know he can't hear what I'm saying over the mower's engine. I see him dumping the basket of clippings into the garbage can, small bits of grass clinging to his sweatshirt. I see him watering the rhododendrons, his thumb held over the end of the hose to make the spray less harsh.

And I see him — us — in our house. The house we used to live in. I see him with his tie loosened after work, pouring himself a glass of milk and asking how my history test went. I remember sitting next to my father at the kitchen table, him trying to explain my math homework but making it more confusing. And me, saying, Oh, I see! when I didn't, because I didn't want to hurt his feelings.

I won't tell anyone his faults either. That he swore when he fixed things and flirted too much with waitresses and swaggered around more than he deserved to when he was wearing a new shirt. Good or bad, I keep those things to myself. I don't want those parts of him, the real him, to turn into something cheap and meaningless. It would make me the kid with no friends, giving out candy on the playground. People would grab up those bits of him like greedy children with a roll of Lifesavers. They'd peel off a piece of him, roll him around in their mouths for a few seconds, and then swallow and forget about him.

Besides, that's not what people want to hear anyway — that my father was just a normal guy whom I loved, love, with all my heart. It makes them nervous. Because if he was normal, if he wore Old Spice and liked nacho cheese Doritos, then why not their own fathers? Or themselves? Deep Inner Evil — we like that. It's easier to accept than what Big Mama says, which is that wanting things for the wrong reasons can turn anyone's life into a marshmallow on a stick over a hot fire: impossibly messy and eventually consumed, one way or another. People want to think that I lay in bed awake at night, my heart pounding in fear of him. They don't want to know that I slept just fine, dreaming I'd forgotten my locker combination just like them.

Or that I went to live with Dad because he was the regular one; that it was my mom who I was convinced was nuts. Claire was the one I never wanted my friends to see. She had this shaggy hair under her arms that always made me think of a clump of alfalfa sprouts in a pita pocket. And you never knew when she might suddenly flop out a boob to nurse Max, which she did once during a parent-teacher conference to the shock of my new math teacher, Mr. Fillbrook. By the look on his face I'm positive Mrs. Fillbrook always got dressed in the dark. Or else she did that trick when you slip your bra through your sleeve every night when she put on her nightgown. All Claire had to say about the whole thing was, "If he was titillated, pardon the pun, that's his problem."

God.

When I lived with my mom, it was her house that embarrassed me, never Dad's. Mom had turned our old house into a bed and breakfast, which is one way to make a living on Parrish Island if you don't want to rent kayaks or work the oyster beds. At Mom's house you never knew who was coming or going. And Nathan's metal sculptures were spread all over the yard, spinning like mad in the wind and hanging from the trees like giant Christmas ornaments. Nathan is my mother's husband; he's ten years younger than she is. He's also an "artist." His work is "kinetic art for the outdoors." That's how I thought of their life. Like it all belonged in quotation marks.

When I moved in with my dad, that's when my life got normal. I moved into a regular neighborhood with a regular house. I transferred from that goofy alternative school I hated, where we made quilts and "worked at our own pace" and where the teachers all wore sandals no matter what the weather, to Parrish High where you had to sit in your seat and learn English and the kids weren't weird. I met Melissa Beene, who lived down the block and whose parents had a big black Weber barbecue and electric garage-door openers. Everyone in my dad's neighborhood mowed their lawn and thought breakfast was the most important meal of the day and got upset if their kids missed their curfews.

Anyway, evil. If anyone was truly evil in all this, it was Gayle D'Angelo. She put that gun in his hands. I don't like to think about her. I hate thinking about her. But Mom and Nathan and everyone else keep telling me that it's healthy to get the feelings out. Big Mama says that even salmon carry their life stories on their scales, the way a tree does with its rings. And my old English teacher, Ms. Cassaday, claims writing this out will be good therapy. "What is therapy after all," she says, "but telling your tale to someone who won't get up in the middle?" So okay, fine. Just so I don't suddenly fall apart one day when I'm thirty-five in an aisle of the grocery store or something. Carried out kicking and screaming while the ladies squeezing lemons pretend they don't notice a thing.

I will think about her. And it will be all right. Because, true, the story starts there, with Gayle D'Angelo. But it does not end there.

I first met Gayle D'Angelo at the True You Health Center. My best friend, Melissa Beene, got me the job at True You. We worked after school, the occasional evening, and more hours in the summer. True You is in a strip mall, in the new part of town that the original Parrish Islanders hate. If you took one of those snoots who say they watch only PBS and dangled a game show in front of their eyes, that's the kind of reaction I'm talking about. I used to think the whole argument was stupid. My mother would go on and on about the yuppies coming from Seattle and Microsoftland with their plastic money, building plastic things, intent on destroying the spirit of the islands. The San Juans had always been an escape from all that, she'd moan.

"And what's with these minivans?" she said once. "I feel like I'm in some sci-fi movie. Revenge of the Pod People. Invading the world in Dodge Caravans. You watch, those people are going to wreck everything. I bet even the whales will get wind of what's happening and stop coming around."

"That's what the farmers said when you hippies started moving out here, Claire," I said. Parrish, and the other large islands of the San Juans, used to be mostly orchards. There were still stretches of sprawling farmland and spots of gnarled apple trees where the deer met up with their friends for garden parties. "And what the Indians said about the farmers."

My mother glared at me. "Jordan," she said.

"I'm sorry," I said. I used to say this a lot, especially when I wasn't in the least. "I just never got that, the way people yelled about trees being cut down as they sat in their own cozy home in front of a blazing fire."

"This is not about selfishness," she snapped. "It's exactly the opposite. It's about having something pure and true, and trying to protect its essence." This is the way my mother talked. She was getting worked up, flushing the shade of a ripe peach. "What's happening is a crime. An abomination. A bête noire."

"What's that, a perfume?" I said.

She sighed.

"Sounds like a perfume. 'Purchase a three-ounce bottle of Bête Noire and receive a one-ounce line minimizer and cosmetic tote as our gift to you.'" I chuckled. I was happy with my misbehavior.

My mother stopped glaring. Now she only tilted her head and looked at me oddly, as if I were, say, the produce guy from Albertson's suddenly in her home. It was a look that said, I know I know you from somewhere, but for the life of me, I can't figure out who you are.

She gathered up her long hair into a ponytail, held it in her fist, and set it loose again. Finally she said, "I should send you to your room for the rest of your life."

"Too late," I had said.

I used to think a lot of stupid things. About Parrish Island, about my parents. But Big Mama says thinking we're ever done being stupid is the dumbest thought of all. Being occasionally stupid is just part of the human job description, she says. Big Mama's voice is like molasses pouring from a bottle. When she calls, I press that phone so hard to my ear, it's as if I'm getting her strength right through the wires. And right when that strength seems to be running out, there she is again, filling me back up.

You can imagine how my working at True You got under my mother's skin. I didn't always purposefully try to get under her skin. I didn't. It's just that sometimes things can be too real. Too intensely real. Too honest and bare. Like the way you feel looking into the eyes of someone who loves you, or someone in pain. Or the way you feel when you hear beautiful music. It can be like looking into the sun. You've just got to close your eyes. Even go inside for a while. Or keep it all at arm's length with words like crazy, covering it with a smooth layer of embarrassment. My mother and Nathan were like that. Parrish Island was like that.

As I said, Melissa got me the job at True You, and at the moment Gayle D'Angelo came in, Melissa was in the large weigh-in room with Laylani Waddell. Laylani and her husband, Buddy, owned True You. Anyone who names their kid Laylani is looking for trouble, if you ask me. You had to be careful with Laylani. She and Buddy were Christians with a capital C, the type who think they've got God's secret phone number. If you let so much as a shit slip, Laylani would start hiding these little religious bookmarks with prayers and sunsets on them in your lunch bag and in your coat pockets. She wouldn't say a word about them, either. I think she really believed we might be so stumped as to who put them there, we'd start suspecting God himself.

I could hear Laylani's voice coming through the weigh-in room door. Her voice sounds the way a maraschino cherry might sound if it could speak. The door was propped open with a small block of wood, the way Laylani demanded. Large people overheated easily, she always said. She worried about this a lot. I think she had a secret fear one of the fat people might have a heart attack on the premises and sue her and Buddy for the house and the RV with the built-in shower. Melissa liked to get revenge for the bookmarks by hiding this block of wood, which would send Laylani scurrying around in a tizzy, sprayed hair releasing in bunches as she searched for it underneath the furniture. Like a madwoman she'd try other propping devices in the door, like the stapler, which would only slide free and shoot across the floor.

When Laylani's inspiring pre-dinner lesson was over, Melissa and I would do weight and measurement. In the meantime I was copying an article, "Recipe for Success," that would be placed in new "team member" folders. This is what people who joined True You were called, the idea being that they were one enthusiastic group fighting a tough but conquerable opponent — fat — with the help of Coach Laylani. I sat on the edge of the reception desk and read the article as the copy machine flashed and made its kershunk-kershunk-kershunk sounds. "It's your total diet over several weeks rather than what you eat in a given meal or even an entire day that determines whether you're eating healthfully and weight consciously," I read aloud.

"No kidding," I said to the paper.

And then there she was in front of me. I'd been so busy being amused by the article's obviousness that I hadn't heard the swish of the door, or her heels, quiet on the carpet Buddy Waddell had installed himself.

"Ah, it's so nice and cool in here," she said.

Which was funny, because my very first thought looking at her was, I bet this woman never even sweats. She was lovely, really. The kind of woman you save that word for, lovely. Dark hair swept up in a clip, two perfect tendrils coaxed down. Short, sleeveless black dress. This great shade of nail polish. Expensive earrings, expensive smile. Warm though. It didn't occur to me then that some people could make a smile warm with the same deliberate efficiency other folks use to put wool socks on cold feet. I was not all that well acquainted with manufactured smiles. I hadn't yet bought a car, met a preacher's wife, or been to a PTA meeting. According to my mother, there are more fake smiles at a PTA meeting than in a false-teeth factory.

The woman in front of me fanned the air with a slender hand. A drift of perfume was set free and roamed around the room as if it owned the place.

"They'll be done in there in a few minutes," I said. "If you want, you can sit down." I gestured to the chairs in the waiting area, done in soothing shades of rose and tan.

"Oh, you think..." She laughed. "Aren't you sweet. I'm not here to pick anyone up. I'm here for myself." She leaned in as if to tell a secret. "We all need a little help now and then, don't we?" She took a pinch of her side.

This disappointed me. Obviously, there was nothing there to pinch. She probably lived on cups of coffee, doing leg lifts as she poured it. That's what her body looked like. She radiated charm and money and capability; I didn't want her to be a self-pincher of nonexistent body fat. This was the kind of woman I wanted to be someday, who would have considered alfalfa-sprout hair under her arms to be repellent as venereal disease. She would even use words like repellent. Unlike my mother, she would not be the type who would pop out her emotions for everyone to see, spraying everyone in the vicinity in the process, same as Grandpa Eugene with his dentures.

"Oh," I said. "Well, in that case I'll have to make you an appointment with our health consultant, Laylani Waddell." I handed her one of Laylani's business cards that sat in a Lucite holder on the reception desk. Laylani loved for us to pass them out. Her name gloated in the corner of those little white cards with the pink stripe across the top. HEALTH CONSULTANT, they read. OWNER. Yep, she was a valid member of the human race. I opened the wide, loose appointment book. "It'll take about an hour."

"Maybe you can just tell me a little about your place here," she said. "Since I'm not even sure what it is you do."

I was actually relieved. Maybe the woman thought we were a gym. I hoped so. I didn't want her to be one of those diet bimbos we saw so many of, who knew the fat grams in a pretzel stick, and who only wanted to hear how little they needed what they came for. Diet bimbos pissed me off. I couldn't imagine what they did to the truly overweight. On behalf of the real sufferers, I always tried to do what I could during a diet bimbo's Game Plan Consultation. I'd find slices of fat they never knew existed and measure them for long periods of time with my tape. I'd shake my head when I wrote things on the clipboard and mutter "Whew" a lot. I'd be extra cheerful and say things like, Now, we shouldn't think Fritos are the fifth food group!

I didn't think I could be mean to this woman. "I have a brochure," I said.

"As long as it covers price. My husband tends to be tight fisted, bless his heart." People tended to say this, I noticed, whenever blessing seemed the last thing on their minds. "The first time he ever went to Costco, I swear he got a hard-on."

It's not too often that someone says hard-on when you've just met, I thought, but okay, fine. Besides, her voice had an ever-so-slight Southern lilt, harsh twangs polished smooth; it was the kind of accent that can make even a word like hard-on sound harmless and sweet as a mint julep drunk from a porch swing.

"Oh, boy," I said. I mean, what do you say?

"Tell me, do we know each other?" she asked, leaning in to examine me with one eye narrowed. "I never forget a lovely face."

I actually blushed. "I'm not sure," I said. Lovely. It was the word I had thought so perfect for her. I wondered if it could actually be true. Me, with my curly brown hair (chestnut, my mother called it), and legs that seemed too long. My mother said I was beautiful, Melissa said she wished she looked like me, but compliments from your mother and your best friend don't count. I'm embarrassed to admit what pleasure that lovely gave me.

"You must know my sons," she said. "Markus and Remington D'Angelo? Parrish High? They were new last year."

I did know her sons. At the name Markus an image swam up. Tall blond boy, quiet. Hands stuck into the pockets of a swim team jacket. But more than that, I knew her house. It was the recently built one behind our neighborhood in the Crow Valley. Nothing you could overlook. A huge new faux Tudor with its own airstrip. It dwarfed the quaint house of Little Cranberry Farm on the adjacent property. It was the kind of house that made my mother scream.

"Oh, right," I said.

"I thought you must know them. I'm Gayle." She extended her cool fingers, and I took them for a moment. I hoped she didn't notice the shade of pink on my own nails, which suddenly seemed silly and girlish and was peeling besides. "And you are...?"

"Jordan MacKenzie," I said.

"MacKenzie?" She pointed one ear at me as if offering it a second chance to get it right. "You don't happen to belong to Dr. Vince MacKenzie, do you?"

Normally I would have said that I don't belong to anyone, but she was so nice that I only nodded and smiled. At this, she grasped my hand and hushed her voice. "I can't believe meeting you like this. I think your father is just wonderful."

It was the way a middle-aged woman would react if she'd just met the daughter of, say, Elvis. I wondered what my father had done to deserve it. Believe me, if you heard my father sing, you'd know no one was going to throw their underwear at him, even those waist-high control-top ones that women my mother's age wear. And I didn't think that a free glaucoma check or sunglasses frames at cost would cause someone's voice to get all breathy like that.

"Thank you," I said, which I was embarrassed for later. It's not as though I could take credit for my choice of the guy.

"You have his eyes," she said. She studied me. "Beautiful deep brown. You must have to fight off the boys with a stick! My goodness, I would kill for that figure of yours. I bet you are your daddy's little girl."

That thought made we want to gag. "I wouldn't say that," I said.

"No? Still, you must be close. The father-daughter bond and all."

"I saw it in a movie once," I said. I don't know why I said that except that maybe I was trying to let her know the daddy's girl crap had no place in my life. After I said it though, I felt my conscience jab me at this small betrayal of my father. I mean, we were close in our own way. But if we're being honest here, getting truly close to fathers is like trying to dig out a really old tree stump. You get exhausted with the effort and don't actually get very far.

Not only was my conscience being Goody Two-Shoes, but I also started feeling a little embarrassed about what I'd said. It seemed kind of personal for a first conversation, even with the hard-on ice already broken. But Gayle D'Angelo only laughed. I could hear the rustling of bodies in the weigh-in room, papers shuffling, the sudden burst of mixed conversations. Laylani was finished. "Our health consultant should be right out," I said.

"That's all right," Gayle D'Angelo said. "I'm only here for the information." She waved the brochure in the air.

Melissa popped her head out of the weigh-in room door. "Show time," she said. She looked at Mrs. D'Angelo, caught my eye, and raised one eyebrow, a trick I always wished I could do.

"Nice to meet you," I said to Gayle D'Angelo.

And it was. Afterward I carried around a strange thrill. The kind you get when something seems possible that didn't before, or after you've been truly seen. I wondered if she was the "influential person" my horoscope that day said I'd be meeting. I didn't consider, until much later, that maybe what I felt were really the hypervibrations that come with warning; the way your heart pounds when you are playing hide-and-seek and sense someone is about to spring out at you. Even salmon, Big Mama says, can sometimes get caught after their instincts have confused them.

Melissa and I usually walked home together after work. Whiffs of Gayle D'Angelo's perfume had lounged around True You's waiting room the rest of the day, and now it was following along behind us. Though it was early evening, and only the very beginning of June, it was hot out, unusually so for Parrish at that time of year. Normally that kind of weather starts mid-August and ends two weeks later. But, hey, if you can guess the weather in the Northwest, we'll probably crown you ruler of the land.

Outside, the air was stifling; it felt like trying to breathe through a knitted scarf. "Wanna get doughnuts?" Melissa said in the parking lot, as True You's door shut behind us.

"Maple bar sugar hit," I said.

"Let me see if I've got money," she said. She swung her backpack off her shoulder and rooted around inside.

"How can we even think fried food after Laylani's lecture?" I mock-scolded.

"Yeah, they usually make me too sick to eat," Melissa said to the inside of her backpack. Two cars started up in the parking lot, one belonging to one of our team members, another to a customer of the dry cleaner next door, a garment sheathed in thin plastic hanging from her back window. The door to True You opened again, and a girl just a little older than I stepped outside. She squinted and blinked, as if the world was more bright and shocking than she could stand. She had stayed behind for a one-on-one with Laylani, something Laylani required when she felt on the verge of losing a customer. The girl looked down, avoiding our eyes when she passed us, and her huge frame, draped with a floral cotton dress, moved with great effort through the parking lot and toward the sidewalk.

Melissa held up her wallet. "We're covered," she said. She followed my gaze. "Aren't you just entirely sick of fatties?"

Her voice was loud. Too loud. I could see the girl flinch, her shoulders lifting ever so slightly. And then her purse slid from her arm, dropped to the sidewalk, and spilled. She stopped, stooped down, and balanced on the ball of one foot to gather her things. Sweat was beginning to darken the armpits of her dress. For a second, so quick I couldn't even be sure it happened, she looked up at me and we caught eyes.

And then I did a horrible thing. A cruel thing. I turned away from those thick fingers picking up loose coins and a half-empty pack of gum and a small bottle of hand lotion, and I laughed. Loudly. To show Melissa how much I agreed.

"Entirely sick," I said.

And then Melissa and I walked away. To buy doughnuts to eat before dinner. Me trying to forget what I had just done, trying to forget the coin rolling away on its edge and escaping those fat fingers.

"We'd better be quick," I said. "You know how pissed Dad gets if I'm not there for dinner."

We hurried past Randall and Stein Booksellers, the shop my father's longtime girlfriend owned, waited for a break in traffic, and jogged across the street to Boss Donuts. The doughnut guy was Mel Thurber. His name should have been Mole Thurber, with his bald head, and eyes that were always squinting, as if they still hadn't adjusted to life aboveground. I got a squeamish feeling when I thought of him touching my food, even when he used a square of tissue paper. I was always glad to get out of there, to escape the smell of hot grease and the container of pink lemonade that looked as though it had been there forever, little skin flecks of lemon pulp clinging to the glass sides.

"I can't see how he can stand to drink coffee in this heat," Melissa said. She was referring to Officer Ricky Beaker, whom we called the Tiny Policeman, due to the fact that he was barely five feet tall and had a voice that resembled one of the Lollipop Twins of Munchkin Land. How he had managed to dodge the height requirement for police officers, no one could ever figure out. The Tiny Policeman could usually be found sitting in the corner of Boss Donuts, nursing a cup of coffee as if it were a whiskey in a cowboy-movie saloon instead of a Styrofoam cup on a sticky table set under fluorescent lights. His eyes glanced suspiciously about, as they always did. He was waiting for the bad guys in black to ride up on their horses and step through the swinging doors. You could tell that he desperately wanted some real bad guys around. There wasn't much crime on Parrish. The most serious crime fighting the Tiny Policeman did was taking down the license plates of the high-school boys who shouted, "You should've eaten your vegetables!" at him from their car windows.

Outside, Melissa held out the waxed bag to me. I took out a maple bar and we ate as we walked. When we reached the entrance to our neighborhood, I looked down the street. "Dad's not home yet if you want to come over," I said.

In our driveway, I had seen only my father's red Triumph, an old one covered by a tarp, which he called his midlife-crisis car. I guess he felt the crisis was over; he never drove that Triumph as long as I could remember, though he started it on occasion to make sure it still ran. The Ford Taurus that he actually drove, and that he washed and vacuumed once a week and wouldn't let you eat in, was not there yet.

"Oh, God, don't look," Melissa said. She grabbed my arm to hurry me along, clasped the collar of her shirt, and raised it to cover half her face. I was sure this strategy had never succeeded in hiding anyone.

"What's he doing?"

"Don't ask," Melissa said. "Probably seeing if the trees are talking to him."

Melissa's older brother, Jackson Beene, lay under the big tree in their front yard, staring up at the branches, hands forming a pillow behind his head. Ever since Jackson got lost in the woods on a hike on Mount Conviction three summers ago, he "hasn't been quite right," as Mrs. Beene put it. He had gone backpacking with a friend, who during the hike fell down a ravine and broke his leg. Jackson tried to get help. The friend was found that night by the searchers, but Jackson had gotten lost and was missing for five days. On the sixth, he appeared at a ranger station. Melissa said he'd lost something like twenty-five pounds and couldn't eat at first without throwing up. What saved him, Jackson had said, was the sound of bagpipes, which he followed to safety. He was sure he had been rescued by a spirit; after that, he mailed away for instructional tapes and took up playing the bagpipes himself. He would play them in the front yard or over at Point Perpetua park or across from the ferry terminal on a busy weekend. The Beenes tried to be supportive (if you looked up Larry and Diane Beene in the dictionary, you'd see that word), but you could tell this embarrassed them as much as it did Melissa.

I sometimes saw Jackson playing his bagpipes at the old oil tank, which sits on its side on a mound of grass at the crossroads of Horseshoe Highway and Deception Loop; a place you must pass to get anywhere on Parrish. Usually the oil tank is a patchwork of messages: HAPPY 40TH WAYNE with a couple of black balloons stuck on, and DISCOUNT CHAKRA READINGS THIS WEEK AT THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, along with some old stuff painted on, like CLASS OF '79 ROCKS! I would pass on my bike, hearing the music get louder as I got closer, and when I saw Jackson standing on the oil tank with his tasseled instrument, I was glad he wasn't my brother. Strangely though, I was also just plain glad. That music — it was both mysterious and sad at the same time. It could make you feel things you couldn't quite explain.

Melissa and I sat on the step of our front porch and finished our doughnuts. We licked our fingers, then washed the stickiness off under the garden hose. Dad finally arrived home, looking happy. He teased Melissa and me about something I don't remember and carried in a fat bag of groceries with a bunch of celery sticking out the top.

That was the day I met Gayle D'Angelo.

It's funny, but when I think about that day, I don't think much about Gayle D'Angelo herself, or the fact that when I came back out from the weigh-in room, the brochure I had given her was left behind on the counter. No, what I think about is that fat girl. She never came back to True You. I never even saw her again, although I thought I did once, leaving Bonnie Randall's bookstore.

But she's what I think about. The way our eyes met. The way, right then, she seemed more real than me. I think about the way my own laugh had made my insides twist, made the pink polish on my fingers seem hateful, fingers that had so recently touched her skin.

Fingers that had only moments before slipped a tape measure around her fleshy arm.

Copyright © 2002 by Deb Caletti

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Queen of Everything

    I really did love this book. So, to clarify, I would rate it 4.5 stars if I could.

    It's about Jordan, an average teenager with divorced parents. She lives with her father, a predictable optometrist because her mother is too eccentric for her tastes. Her summer after her junior year was off to a normal start- a best friend, dumb job, and a new love interest- but then came Gayle D'Angelo. Gayle D'Angelo is her father's new girlfriend.....who happens to be married. But Jordan's father no longer listens to reason as he becomes more and more obsessed with Gayle. Jordan's normal summer ends up having an explosive ending.

    I loved the writing. Seriously, it was great. Deb Caletti's writing is so detailed and intricate, she brings tiny details to mind that only contribute to overall story and character development.

    The plot was slowish, but you know from page one that something horribly violent will happen. First off, because the narrator tell you, and also because its terribly hinted at and you would have to be stupid not to get it. Still, there was something tense about this book. While it wasn't thrilling, it was gripping. I think the best part of the book was easily the writing.

    The main characters, especially Jordan, were well-drawn. It was like they were real people. The minor characters also had the same flair, but had less screen time. The thing about such interesting characters, is that you actually want to see them. But in the story, they just popped in and out, quick as a flash. Like Big Mama. I wanted to see more of her. And Jackson. I would have loved to see that budding romance.

    Jordan was a real teenager. She wasn't some saint girl. She wasn't a rebel without a cause. She took notice of the world, and messed up a lot, and was likable. One of her mistakes was Kale. I hated Kale. He is the King of Douches. I wanted to crawl into the book and pop him one. I just didn't understand why Jordan still kept going out with him even though she clearly couldn't tolerate him. It just made me frustrated. I guess that makes the mark of a real character, though.

    Overall, I really liked this book. Everytime I read a Deb Caletti book, they just keep getting better and better.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted May 16, 2008

    A book you can't put down.

    I loved this book. This is a book you truely can't put down once you start. The way Deb Caletti makes her character Jordan, you can really feel your-self as her. I can see things through Jordan's eyes. Which is a great way to read a book, is to feel your self as the character your self.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2006

    This Book Rocked!

    This is an amazing book. It is so exciting and wonderful. Ms. Caletti has an amazing way of putting Jordan's thoughts into perspective. Amazing and I would reccomend it to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 5, 2008

    A reviewer

    I read the back of Wild Roses by Deb Calletti and wanted to read it but someone had had it out at my school library already so I decided to read Queen of Everything by her because it looked interesting too. I enjoyed the book a lot. It wasn't what I was expecting at all but in a good way. Overal it was a good book.

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

    Posted June 14, 2008

    wowza

    i have two words for this book and those are- amazingly written!!!!!:'

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

    Posted January 26, 2008

    A reviewer

    This book is incredibly boring. Which is extremely surprising since it has such a dark plotline. The author tries to be all clever with her overload of details and bizarre analogies, but it ends up just sounding idiotic and awkward in your head. It just tries too hard to be funny and smart when the author doesn't appear to really have control of the writing enough to make much of it truly coherent. I also thought that the narrarator, Jordan, was extremely annoying. To have to be in her head while getting the story was...painful to say the least. Please, save yourself the trouble and pick a different book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2006

    Awesome

    This book was awesome. Its a little slow a first but at the same time it sucks you in and gets u into the book. The author set the story up so you would think you knew what was going on but at the same time you had no clue. Its was beautifully writen, and an awesome read!!!

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

    Posted June 15, 2006

    AMAZING!

    This book was really amazing. It has its slow points of course but really if everyone put down a book when it got a little boring than noone would be reading anything, right? Right.. well this book really got you into the characters minds. As Jordan struggles with the fact that her father is slipping away and she has to go through all of those embarrassing things that teens go through. This is a must read, i promise you it's carefully constructed and this book does have it's 'slow' points but in the end it all fits in and has an amazing ending.

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

    Posted January 1, 2006

    The Queen is a Must Read!!!!!!

    This book is 1 of my favortes you never lose intrest because somthing is always going on and to every event comes a twist. the main charcter (jorden) is a normal teenager until her father meets Gale D' Angelo.Her father is crazy for her so much that he loses his mind (not literly).Jordens life is changed forever.All in All her life is a liveing hell but wait till the end youll be surprised

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

    Posted December 18, 2005

    Must Read

    This book was deep & a little hard to follow I dont suggest anyone under 13 to read this book tere are some curses & kis under 13 wouldnt understand sme things in this book.it was a book i never could putdown there was somthing going on at all times.All inAll it was a wonderful book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2005

    The QUEEN!

    People who thought this was slow should go back to graphic novels and Gossip Girl!!! This was an amazing book, and Deb Caletti showed every character as true people. I felt like I was living it and they were people I knew. It also made me think about what she was going through and many things afterward instead of just putting it down and moving on. It stayed with me, and I loved Jackson!!! Read it, you won't regret it, even if it is not a thin book about girls and guys on the beach.

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

    Posted July 21, 2005

    THIS BOOK SUCKED!!!!!!

    This book is the most boaring and pointless story ever!!! Nothing happens....u can seriouly cut out 100 pgs and not miss one thing!! It was a huge waste of time to even open it. The story goes no where and u wait and wait for something to happen and it never does. I couldn't even finish it. This author should consider some new and improved material. FAST. I am warning u.....this book is awful!!!!

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

    Posted May 20, 2005

    The Queen of Everything is a must read!

    This book is one of the best books I have ever read! You can really relate to the characters in the story and the author makes you feel like your living the life of the main character. Jordan who just happens to be the main character dislikes her mother and stepdad(she thinks they are weird), she is in love with her best friends known to be crazy brother, oh yeah and she lives with her dad who she thought was normal, but it turns out he is having an affair with a married lady and will go to all costs to get her... This book is so suspensful and leads the life of an everyday teenager. She encounters many problems and has to learn to face them. I could really relate to her. Other than the dad having an affair with the married lady part I mean. It's an absolute must read. The author(Deb Caletti) really leaves you wanting to read more with each chapter that you read. I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone!

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

    Posted July 9, 2005

    BORRING

    i have only read upto chapter 4 but it is soo borring i cant read any more of it b/c its so borring! i dont recomend this book to anyone!!!

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

    Posted February 23, 2005

    DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME READING THIS

    This book is not good at all it doesn't really have a plot and it is really hard to follow and it never really did cacth my attention I think the book is not explianed at all and is not worth the read of 345 pages or so! Jordan the Main Characther is kind of weird with her thinking

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2005

    It was okay

    I sometimes didn't understand the way Jordan thought in the book. But it was okay. It's one of those books you have to be in the mood to read. I've started reading it like 3 times and stopped reading it b/c I thought it was boring but I finally finished it. But overall the book was okay.

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

    Posted December 12, 2004

    I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!

    this book is SO AWESOME! it's so true! i fell JUST like Jordan does in the book!!! i've read it about 20 times and i just got it 4 months ago! go get it! it's AWESOME!

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

    Posted July 28, 2004

    Awesome

    This was an awesome book. It tells about how life really is and how it wont always go your way if you're a teenager. This is a great book to read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2004

    Ashley Cleveland,Ohio AJC986@aol.com

    Good book,it was just my speed(fast paced)So detailed,I love the lil relationship with Jordan and Jackson.

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

    Posted July 17, 2004

    Okay

    This book was okay. The story was definatly different from other light-hearted books I've read. Although the character was sometimes unbelievably stupid in the choices she made, she was mostly pretty likable. This is not a fast, summer, feel-good book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews

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