The New York Times
Rosie and Skateby Beth Ann Bauman
It's off-season at the Jersey shore, when the boardwalk belongs to the locals. Rosie is 15 and her sister Skate is 16. Their dad, an amiable drunk, is spending a few weeks in jail while their cousin Angie looks after them in their falling-down Victorian on the beach. Skate and her/i>
A wonderful YA debut full of drama for two very different sisters.
It's off-season at the Jersey shore, when the boardwalk belongs to the locals. Rosie is 15 and her sister Skate is 16. Their dad, an amiable drunk, is spending a few weeks in jail while their cousin Angie looks after them in their falling-down Victorian on the beach. Skate and her boyfriend Perry are madly in love, inseparable—until now, when Perry goes off to Rutgers. Rosie is shyer than Skate, but she’s drawn to Nick, a boy in their Alateen group. What happens to Rosie and Skate in a few tumultuous weeks is deftly shaded, complex, and true. Readers will be caught up in each girl’s shifting feelings as the story plays out within the embrace of their warmhearted community.
From the Hardcover edition.
The New York Times
This is a quiet novel, though the lives of Bauman's narrators, two sisters, are anything but. Rosie, 15, and her 16-year-old sister, Skate, are temporary orphans, their alcoholic father having just landed himself in jail for several months after stealing money to buy booze. Rosie attends meetings for children of alcoholics and yearns for her father to shape up, while Skate retreats from the pain of abandonment by jumping from place to place, crashing wherever she can. With dad gone, both girls live rather nomadic lifestyles, taking love wherever they can get it, sometimes through sex—encounters that leave them lost more than anything. Eventually, the girls begin to reestablish roots with each other and those who truly care for them, but the abrupt ending leaves several threads unresolved. The Jersey shore boardwalk setting also feels like a missed opportunity—while the characters quickly become intriguing and three-dimensional, the boardwalk and all it offers are underdeveloped. There are heartening, thoughtful moments along the way, but at times, Bauman's (Beautiful Girls) novel feels more like a series of loosely connected narrative sketches. Ages 12—up. (Sept.)
"The novel expertly captures the ever-hopeful ache of adolescents longing for love, stability, and certainty."
Starred Review, Booklist, October 1, 2009:
"This is a novel as brisk and refreshing as an ocean breeze."
Review, New York Times Books Review, January 17, 2010:
"In capturing the miscues of first love and shifting family dynamics, Rosie and Skate is as sharp as a splinter on the boardwalk."
Read an Excerpt
My dad's a nice drunk. There is such a thing. I know how that sounds, but honestly he's a good person. My sister, Skate, is going to give you a different story, but I want you to hear my side too.
Before our dad went to jail three weeks ago, one of his favorite places was the old faded couch on the sun porch, where he'd lie with sandy feet, clutching his bottle of Old Crow whiskey, gurgling to himself with a dreamy smile. If he saw me standing above him, staring down at him, he'd give me a little finger wave. "Lovely to see ya, Rosie girl." Or sometimes he'd look at me and not see me at all, but he'd smile all the same. You see what I mean? Screwed-up, but nice.
Of course this isn't true of every drunk. This is what I've learned from coming to these meetings for the past three weeks: some drunks have a mean streak. The guy sitting across from me once had his nose broken when his dad blew a fuse. And some drunks are crybabies, I learned from a girl with a nose ring whose mom schleps around the house in a dirty bathrobe, moaning about the past. And some are hopeless, like the dad who gets out of rehab and then starts drinking the very next day. My dad--nice drunk that he is--is also hopeless, Skate says. Last time he went to rehab for six weeks and started drinking again the very same afternoon he came home. And some are sneaky; they go to work, pay the mortgage and gas bills, make spaghetti and meatballs, but they live in a boozy fog, hiding their bottles in the toilet tank, the hamper, the fireplace.
Skate hates these meetings. Drama Queen, she calls them. "Please," she says. "All that yakking. All that whining." That's why she isn't here yet. I'm worried she won't come. I just come. I show up here in the basement of St. Joseph By the Sea and sit on a folding chair and eat Gus's cookies out of a shoe box lined with foil. Skechers, size 12. Gus is in college and runs the meetings. He makes butter cookies in the shapes of moons and stars. His mom gave him the cookie cutters, he told me. The cookies are dented and crumbly but sweet, and we all wind up wearing crumbs down the front of our shirts. So I come here every week and eat cookies and wear crumbs and listen to other kids whose parents are drunks.
Gus drags a chair over to the circle and starts the meeting. But I can barely pay attention to what he's saying. I sip a cup of cherry cola and stare at the door, willing it to swing open and blow in my sister--with her long wild hair and her skateboard under her arm. She's always late, if she comes at all. She thinks our dad is a big loser.
"My dad guzzles vodka down the bay," Nick says. "Drinks it in a teacup. Like he's some regular guy." Nick is a quiet kid from my homeroom, tall and slouchy with hair falling into his face. "The old dude sits there sipping vodka, getting up and down to refill his cup from the bottle he keeps hidden in cattails. Drinks till he passes out. Tips right over into the sand. Happens between nine and nine-thirty every night, like clockwork." Nick looks out at the room with a little frown and hooks his stringy hair behind his ears. He has the daintiest pink ears I've ever seen on a person. "So we head down there. My brothers grab his arms and my sister and I each grab a leg and we hoist him into a wheelbarrow and wheel him home."
"Why do you do that?" Gus asks.
"Why?" Nick says.
"Why?" Gus says calmly. Nothing ever rattles Gus. He has a nice sad smile, like he expects stuff to be totally screwed-up, even though he wishes it weren't. Gus is built like a wrestler--short but muscle-y, and he's got this spiky crew cut he runs his hand over when he's thinking hard.
"But we can't leave him there!" Nick blurts out, his little ears turning pinker.
"Why not?" Gus says.
And while I'm listening and not staring at the door, it opens. And here is Skate, carrying her board. She flashes a smile at the room and drops into the seat next to me. "Hey, Ro," she whispers, reaching for a cookie. She's wearing torn Levi's, fishnets, Keds, and a washed-out black T-shirt decorated with a tiny strawberry. Her long hair is beaded with drops of water.
"Where were you?" I whisper back, reaching for a cookie too.
"Let me get this straight," Nick says. "You think we should leave him there? Lying in the sand? Stupid drunk? For all the neighbors to see?"
"Yes," Gus says.
Nick stares at him. "Are you crazy?"
Gus smiles. "Occasionally. But really, why not leave him there?"
"Well, it's embarrassing!" A few of us nod in agreement.
"But it's your dad's problem, not yours," Gus says.
"But he's my dad, and I don't want the whole frickin' neighborhood to see him passed out on the sand."
"They probably see you loading him into the wheelbarrow."
"Maybe not," Nick mumbles. "Maybe not."
"If it happens almost every night, they probably know," Gus says.
Poor Nick. If I were him I'd probably hoist my dad into a wheelbarrow too. I smile at him, but he's staring at the floor, his stringy hair falling into his face.
Our dad didn't pass out in the yard or at the beach or anything like that, but even so, drinking wrecked him. He went to Walgreens in his raincoat and slippers and shuffled down the aisles, loading the lining of his coat with crazy stuff: a can opener, coconut tanning oil, nail clippers, panty hose, potpourri. Then he stood in line, and when the cashier cracked a roll of quarters against the side of the register, he reached in and grabbed a stack of twenties. "Thank you, my dear," he said. There was no security guard working that day, and when the police caught up to him, he was sitting on the curb a block away, having just trimmed his toenails, rubbing tanning oil onto his face.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Beth Ann Bauman is the author of a short story collection for adults, Beautiful Girls, and a recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. Growing up, she spent summers on the Jersey shore. She now lives in New York City.
From the Hardcover edition.
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This was an amazing story, that I absolutely loved and wish it never ended. It's my new favorite book, and wish Beth Ann Bauman will make more stories like this one. I will be reading her next books shortly, and this is a very intriguing story to read. Amazing work, and you should read this ASAP!!!
Rosie and Skate are sisters. Rosie is a worrier, mostly concerned with holding things together at home and making a good impression. Skate is a free spirit, mostly interested in riding her skateboard down the boardwalk and spending as much time as possible with her boyfriend, Perry. The one thing Rosie and Skate have in common is their alcoholic father. Rosie finds comfort in attending a support group for teens with alcoholic parents. She thinks it would help Skate come to terms with their father's problem, but Skate thinks the meetings are too full of drama. When their father ends up in jail, Rosie visits him regularly, but again Skate doesn't join her. Both girls are in high school but live very different lives. Rosie lives at home with an aunt who has come to stay while Dad is incarcerated. Skate lives with Julia, her boyfriend Perry's mom, or with Frank, her boss at the arcade. Perry is away at college, and their long-distance romance is becoming shaky at best. ROSIE AND SKATE is the story of two sisters finding their way in a not-so-perfect situation. Both care deeply for each other; however, each is dealing with adversity in her own individual style. Despite the sometimes rocky times, the story is filled with concerned and caring people ready to help one another and give each other needed support. Beth Ann Bauman is the author of a collection of short stories for adults, so this is her first foray into the YA arena. Her writing flows smoothly and evenly and was a pleasure to read. The characters jumped off the page for me and seemed realistic and believable. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
What a wonderful Young Adult novel Ms. Bauman has written. Found myself back in my youth through these wonderful characters. Loved the fact that we get the perspective of both Rosie and Skate, the reader sees just how different even sisters can see things. Look forward to more works by this author.
Got to read an advance copy. Sweet book, well written, full of likeable character. One of the best new YA books so far this year.