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Trouble

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Overview

“Henry Smith’s father told him that if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.”

But Trouble comes careening down the road one night in the form of a pickup truck that strikes Henry’s older brother, Franklin. In the truck is Chay Chouan, a young Cambodian from Franklin’s preparatory school, and the accident sparks racial tensions in the school—and in the well-established town where Henry’s family has lived for generations. Caught between anger and grief, Henry sets out ...

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Overview

“Henry Smith’s father told him that if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.”

But Trouble comes careening down the road one night in the form of a pickup truck that strikes Henry’s older brother, Franklin. In the truck is Chay Chouan, a young Cambodian from Franklin’s preparatory school, and the accident sparks racial tensions in the school—and in the well-established town where Henry’s family has lived for generations. Caught between anger and grief, Henry sets out to do the only thing he can think of: climb Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine, which he and Franklin were going to climb together. Along with Black Dog, whom Henry has rescued from drowning, and a friend, Henry leaves without his parents’ knowledge. The journey, both exhilarating and dangerous, turns into an odyssey of discovery about himself, his older sister, Louisa, his ancestry, and why one can never escape from Trouble.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Nothing is at it seems when Trouble arrives in varied and symbolic ways for two families and two communities. Franklin Smith, the arrogant scion of an aristocratic New England family, is accidentally struck while running and subsequently dies. The blame is accepted by a classmate, a Cambodian immigrant from a nearby town. When legal technicalities prevent Chay Chouan from being jailed, the perceived miscarriage of justice reverberates through idyllic Blythbury-by-the-Sea. Franklin's younger brother, Henry, becomes determined to climb Mount Katahdin, a feat that Franklin had coldly suggested might prove Henry had guts. Henry sets out hitchhiking for the mountain with best friend question. Somewhat improbably they are picked up by Chay, who has been expelled by his father and is now driving the truck that killed Franklin. Their symbolic journey predictably includes moments of danger, self-discovery, and reconciliation, fortunately leavened by the humorously ironic Sanborn. Complex structure allows revelations into the character of Chay, child of a violent refugee camp, unwanted product of rape, lover of poetry, and protector of Henry's sister (in a Romeo-and-Juliet twist). Teeming with plot elements, some of which may seem too purposeful, and richly veined with social and psychological crosscurrents, this story may be seen as allegorical in its intent and representation. Nevertheless it contains Schmidt's eloquent language and compelling characters, as well as compassionate examinations of the passage from childhood to adulthood and of the patters of common experience and mark and unite us as humans."—School Library Journal, starred review

"Henry and his family live the charmed existence of the well-bred, well-heeled New England old-money crowd, exemplified by successful, professional parents, a coastal home that has been in the family for hundreds of years, and bright, athletic children attending posh private academies and always rising to the challenges expected of them. That world shatters when Franklin, Henry's elder brother and role model, is hit by a truck belonging to Chay Chouan, the son of a Cambodian refugee, leaving Franklin with only one arm and indeterminate brain activity. Flurries of violence erupt as Franklin's fellow lacrosse players vent their rage on the Cambodian community, and Henry begins to question whether Franklin was such a good role model after all, given as he was to racially motivated bullying even before the accident. Henry decides that he needs to follow through on a plan that Franklin used to taunt him with, climbing a dangerous mountain as a rite of passage into Franklin's kind of macho manhood. Henry's version of the plan, though, leads to forgiveness as he hitches a ride with Chay of all people, and he learns secrets about his brother, his sister, and Chay that lead him to quesion the kind of person he wants to be. Schmidt creates a rich and credible world peopled with fully developed characters who have a lot of complex reasoning to do, reckoning that involves confronting issues of white privilege and responsibility for racial reconciliation and acceptance. In the midst of the drama, a hurricane uncovers a burned-out slave ship that belonged to Henry's ancestor; its presence, along with an encounter with some Vietnam vets, ups the ante on the white guilt message just in case you weren't paying attention, and thus seems a bit gratuitous. Schmidt's prose, however, is flawless, and Henry's odyssey of growth and understanding is pitch-perfect and deeply satisfying."—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

" 'If you build your house far enough from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.' Such is the credo of the fortunate Smith family of Blythbury-by-the-Sea, a (fictional) WASP-y outpost of Boston. But when Trouble arrives, it just keeps on coming. First, oldest son Franklin lies in a coma after being hit by a car; a young Cambodian immigrant is identified as the driver. Daughter Louisa, hugely distraught, retreats to her bedroom, and fourteen-year-old Henry is left on his own. With the newly adopted Black Dog, whom he's rescued from the sea, Henry sets off to climb Maine's Mt. Katahdin (as he and Franklin had planned to do together) and is joined by unexpected companions. Schmidt embarks on a road trip that limns the growing friendship of three unforgettable boys-Henry; his honest, aggravating best friend Sanborn; and the accused Cambodian boy, Chay Chuan. A host of coincidences strains credulity at times, but also allows for an extraordinary breadth, widening themes and resolving plot lines. Like Chaucer's pilgrims, Henry, Chay, and Louisa all have to find their way to grace. The accident that brings trouble to Henry and his family also brings self-realization and the uncomfortable knowledge that both Henry's idolized brother and the vaunted history of the Smith family are not what they seem. Along with the pivotal role played by the enthusiastic Black Dog, rich secondary characters enhance a 1970s-set story that adds much to the discussion of how tragedy and racism affect individuals, families, and whole communities."—The Horn Book

"Tautly constructed, metaphorically rich, emotionally gripping and seductively told,Schmidt's (The Wednesday Wars) novel opens in the 300-year-old ancestral home of Henry Smith, whose father has raised him to believe that 'if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.' With such an opening, it is inevitable that Trouble does find the aristocratic Smiths: Henry's older brother, Franklin, is critically injured by a truck. A Cambodian refugee named Chay, who attends the same school as Franklin, acknowledges responsibility, but over the course of Chay's trial it occurs, to Henry at least, that it was Franklin who sought Trouble: the racism he directed toward Chay specifically and Cambodian immigrants generally has been so widely shared in the community that no one challenged it. Twin sequences of events plunge the Smiths and Chay into further tragedy, also revealing the ravages of Chay's childhood under the Khmer Rouge. At the same time, a storm exposes a charred slave ship long buried on the Smiths' private beach: it emerges that their house has been close to Trouble all along. For all the fine crafting, the novel takes a disturbingly broad-brush approach to racism. Characters are either thuggish or willfully blind or saintly, easily pegged on a moral scale-and therefore untrue to life."—Publishers Weekly

"One of children's literature's prose masters presents a typically deliberate tale of moral awakening. Henry Smith, younger son of a well-to-do Massachusetts family, finds his secure world rocked to its foundations when his jogging brother is critically injured by a pickup truck driven by a young Cambodian immigrant. His family falls apart. Three things keep Henry, too, from crumbling completely: his hatred for the boy who drove the truck, his love for the stray Black Dog he brings home and his determination to climb Maine's Mt. Katahdin, the mountain his brother teased him he'd never summit. The leisurely development of plot and characters allows the latter full emotional complexity and nuances the former with the layers of relationships that, willy-nilly, bind humanity together. One subplot too many-the wreck of a slaver appears on the Smiths' beach-results in a little too much Significant Musing and a wild coincidence that threatens the credibility of the whole. It's a measure of Schmidt's control in other realms that this still stands as a deeply moving and pleasurable read."—Kirkus Reviews

Elizabeth Ward
There is nice writing here. There are also issues aplenty, thoughtfully addressed: character, judgment, prejudice, fortitude. There's humor, too, channeled through Henry's wisecracking—and wise—friend Sanborn…an honorable effort.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Tautly constructed, metaphorically rich, emotionally gripping and seductively told,Schmidt's (The Wednesday Wars) novel opens in the 300-year-old ancestral home of Henry Smith, whose father has raised him to believe that "if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you." With such an opening, it is inevitable that Trouble does find the aristocratic Smiths: Henry's older brother, Franklin, is critically injured by a truck. A Cambodian refugee named Chay, who attends the same school as Franklin, acknowledges responsibility, but over the course of Chay's trial it occurs, to Henry at least, that it was Franklin who sought Trouble: the racism he directed toward Chay specifically and Cambodian immigrants generally has been so widely shared in the community that no one challenged it. Twin sequences of events plunge the Smiths and Chay into further tragedy, also revealing the ravages of Chay's childhood under the Khmer Rouge. At the same time, a storm exposes a charred slave ship long buried on the Smiths' private beach: it emerges that their house has been close to Trouble all along. For all the fine crafting, the novel takes a disturbingly broad-brush approach to racism. Characters are either thuggish or willfully blind or saintly, easily pegged on a moral scale-and therefore untrue to life. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
KLIATT
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.

Henry Smith thought Trouble would never find him and his family, as they snuggled into their New England coastal mansion. Somehow, unexpectedly, Trouble creeps into his life. One minute Henry is enjoying his family and the next minute his family is ripped apart by the devastating news that Henry’s older brother was hit by a car; he dies. The grief is compounded by Henry’s anger at his brother’s last words, an implied challenge when he told Henry that Henry would never make it up Mt. Katahdin, the cliff-like mountain they were to climb together that summer. Frustration fuels Henry to take his dog and his best friend and hitchhike to Maine. The story twists and turns as these three travelers encounter wild adventures on their way to the mountain. A friendship and level of trust flower among unexpected people, and everyone is left wanting to know what really happened on the day that Trouble found Henry’s family. Written by a 2008 Newbery Honor Book author, this story addresses what it means to be human, to struggle with racist feelings towards others and still be able to work towards responsibility and reconciliation. The protagonist is a young teen, but the complex history and rich attention to detail make this book inviting to older readers as well. Reviewer: Ashleigh Larsen
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)

VOYA
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.

Mr. Smith always told his children they could stay out of Trouble (with a capital T) through their actions, which leaves Henry Smith wondering who is to blame when his older brother, Franklin, is hit and killed one night while jogging along the highway. The alleged driver, Chay Chouan, and his family are immigrants from Cambodia, which adds fuel to a fire of sentiment against new arrivals to coastal Massachusetts. Everything is not as it seems, however, and Henry will slowly discover that he and Chay are more profoundly entangled than he could have possibly suspected. As deeper and deeper trouble engulfs the Smiths and Chouans, Henry and Chay become unlikely companions on a quest to climb Mount Katahdin. In the process they will learn the truth about their own and each other's pasts. Schmidt has previously won Newbery and Printz Honor awards for his books, and this novel is of equal literary merit. The plot is engaging and involves issues of adolescence, but it will easily work in the classroom for analyzing literary text. Many social issues currently in play in the United States are central to the story, such as immigration in a faltering economy, making it an excellent springboard for class discussion of current events. Although the worst violence is not graphically described, the tragedy of Franklin's death and the atrocities committed against Chay's family during the war in Cambodia may be a little much for younger teens, making the book most appropriate for readers fourteen and older. Reviewer: James Blasingame
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)

Children's Literature - Naomi Williamson
Trouble begins for Henry Smith even as he remembers his father's words, " If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you." When Henry's brother Franklin is hit by a truck driven by a Cambodian student from their private school, Trouble comes for a visit and does not leave. What appears to be a relatively normal, wealthy, old school family in the small Massachusetts town quickly becomes dysfunctional when Franklin dies as a result of the accident. Henry decides to go ahead with a challenge his brother made to him—to climb Mt. Katahdin. With his best friend and his dog, he sets out hitchhiking to Maine. What transpires only serves to continue the conflict that Henry has felt after Franklin was hit and later died. Henry learns that you have to stand up to Trouble if you want to fight it. An added twist with Henry's sister Louisa only increases the hold Trouble has on the family. Schmidt, winner of a Newbery Honor, has written another story with characters comparable to Lizzie Bright, Turner Buckminster, and Holling Hollingwood in both strength and resiliency. Reviewer: Naomi Williamson
School Library Journal

Gr 7-10- Nothing is as it seems when Trouble arrives in varied and symbolic ways for two families and two communities. Franklin Smith, the arrogant scion of an aristocratic New England family, is accidentally struck while running and subsequently dies. The blame is accepted by a classmate, a Cambodian immigrant from a nearby town. When legal technicalities prevent Chay Chouan from being jailed, the perceived miscarriage of justice reverberates through idyllic Blythbury-by-the-Sea. Franklin's younger brother, Henry, becomes determined to climb Mount Katahdin, a feat that Franklin had coldly suggested might prove that Henry had guts. Henry sets out hitchhiking for the mountain with best friend Sanborn. Somewhat improbably they are picked up by Chay, who has been expelled by his father and is driving the truck that killed Franklin. Their symbolic journey predictably includes moments of danger, self-discovery, and reconciliation, fortunately leavened by the humorously ironic Sanborn. Complex structure allows revelations into the character of Chay, child of a violent refugee camp, unwanted product of rape, lover of poetry, and protector of Henry's sister (in a Romeo-and-Juliet twist). Teeming with plot elements, some of which may seem too purposeful, and richly veined with social and psychological crosscurrents, this story may be seen as allegorical in its intent and representation. Nevertheless it contains Schmidt's eloquent language and compelling characters, as well as compassionate examinations of the passage from childhood to adulthood and of the patterns of common experience that mark and unite us as humans.-Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Old Greenwich, CT

Kirkus Reviews
One of children's literature's prose masters presents a typically deliberate tale of moral awakening. Henry Smith, younger son of a well-to-do Massachusetts family, finds his secure world rocked to its foundations when his jogging brother is critically injured by a pickup truck driven by a young Cambodian immigrant. His family falls apart. Three things keep Henry, too, from crumbling completely: his hatred for the boy who drove the truck, his love for the stray Black Dog he brings home and his determination to climb Maine's Mt. Katahdin, the mountain his brother teased him he'd never summit. The leisurely development of plot and characters allows the latter full emotional complexity and nuances the former with the layers of relationships that, willy-nilly, bind humanity together. One subplot too many-the wreck of a slaver appears on the Smiths' beach-results in a little too much Significant Musing and a wild coincidence that threatens the credibility of the whole. It's a measure of Schmidt's control in other realms that this still stands as a deeply moving and pleasurable read. (Fiction. 12-16)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618927661
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/21/2008
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 281,825
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary D. Schmidt is the bestselling author of Okay For Now , the Newbery Honor and Printz Honor book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy , and the Newbery Honor book The Wednesday Wars. He is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Read an Excerpt

1

Henry Smith’s father told him that if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.
So the Smiths lived where their people had lived for exactly three hundred years, far away from Trouble, in Blythbury-by-the-Sea, where the currents of the Atlantic give up their last southern warmth to the coast of Massachusetts before they head to the cold granite shores of Maine. From the casement windows of his bedroom, Henry could look out over the feathery waves, and on sunny days—and it seemed as if all his life there had been only sunny days—he could open the leaded-glass doors and walk onto a stone balcony and the water would glitter all the way to the horizon. Henry’s first word had been “blue.” The first taste he could remember was saltwater. The first Christmas gift that meant anything to him was a kayak, which he had taken into the water that very morning, so calm had the sea been, because Trouble was so far away.
Henry Smith’s house, begun in 1678 with the coinage of his seventeenth-century merchant ancestors, stood on stone ledges, braced against the storms and squalls and hurricanes and blizzards that blew out of the northeast. Its beams were still as straight as the day they had been hewn, and Henry could run his hands along the great oaks that dwelled beneath the flooring and feel the sharp edges left by the ancient maul strokes. The house had been changed and added to and changed again for a century and a half, so that now, under a roof of dark and heavy slate, three staircases wound to the second and third floors, and a fourth climbed up until it struck a wall whose ancient framing only suggested the doorway that had once been there. The house’s eight fireplaces were each big enough to stand in, and one had a hidey-hole that huddled beside the hearth and was guarded by a secret panel in the wood closet. Henry and his brother, Franklin, and his sister, Louisa, would hide in it during the winter, because it was always warm. The floors of the house were wide pine downstairs, wider oak upstairs, quarried stone in the kitchen and the end-rooms behind it, and Italian ochre tile in the parlors.
The north parlor held lacquered Asian furniture brought back from Hong Kong and Singapore aboard nineteenth-century steamers. The south parlor showed the French Impressionist collection, including two Van Goghs and a small Renoir. The downstairs hall was an armory of Revolutionary War flintlocks that the Blythbury-by-the-Sea Historical Society borrowed for exhibitions on the Fourth of July because they still fired.
The library held two shelves of medieval prayer books whose gold and red ad usums flashed as if they had just been scripted beneath the stern and glowing icons hanging on the dark paneling.
Henry and his father would sometimes read them—“for the use of” this abbey, “for the use of” this monastery, “for the use of” this court—and then look out toward a gold and red sunset. “This house will stand until the Apocalypse,” Henry’s father would say reverently.
Henry believed him.
Blythbury-by-the-Sea had grown up slowly around the Smith house. Now it was the kind of town where no one who lived there, worked there. Weekdays, the dark suits commuted in sleek foreign cars to downtown Boston—Henry’s father drove to a prestigious and well-regarded accountancy firm where he was a partner—and then the suits came back at suppertime, glad to have escaped the noisy crowd of the city. On Sundays, Henry’s family went to St. Anne’s Episcopal Church—where their family had owned a pew since 1680—and in the afternoons, they took long walks beneath the broad maples of Townshend Park, or drove up to New Hampshire to buy maple syrup, or if the weather was warm, they climbed down into Salvage Cove, the long stretch of perfect white sand and huge black boulders below their house. Local guidebooks called it the finest private beach on the North Shore. Looking at the shore from the library windows, Henry agreed.
On Monday mornings, Franklin and Louisa drove early to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Preparatory High School—where no one wore uniforms. Thirty minutes later, Henry’s parents drove him to the John Greenleaf Whittier Academy—where all seventh- and eighth-grade students wore uniforms involving a white shirt, blue blazer, red-and-white tie (the school colors), khaki pants, black socks, black loafers, and—no kidding—red-and-white boxers. Longfellow Prep and Whittier Academy were both old schools, made of burnt brick and filled with kids whose names were so Anglo-Saxon that King Richard the Lion-Hearted would have recognizeed them all. In the fall, they played rugby; in the spring, they rowed crew.
No one was surprised that Henry, who was one of the smaller rugby players, liked spring a whole lot better than fall—especially since he could never hope to match the rrrrrecords that Franklin—Franklin Smith, oh Franklin Smith, the great lord of us all, Franklin Smith—had put up on the wooden Athletic Records panels for his rugby play.
Which Franklin reminded Henry of whenever he chose to notice him.
Blythbury-by-the-Sea was the kind of town where oaks and maples shaded quiet clapboard and brick and stone houses that had seen a whole lot of New England winters and were doing fine, thank you.
Tight and prim, their windows presided over Main Street, whose two narrow lanes meandered into the town center, where tourists up from Boston and New York came to visit boutiques and rare-book shops and antique stores and fancy-jewelry artisans and gourmet delis. Occasionally, one of the town’s two policemen would stroll past the boutiques and delis, sometimes stopping to pick up a bit of litter that someone from out of town had dropped.
Which is about the most they did in a day, because Blythbury-by-the-Sea was a town that Trouble could not find.
This is not to say that Trouble didn’t try.
An autumn ago, Franklin had sprained his ankle so badly in rugby practice that he wasn’t able to play in the Eastern Regionals. The entire student body of Longfellow Prep went into mourning. The sprain was so severe that Franklin couldn’t even drive, so Mrs.
Smith drove him and Louisa to school.
Everyone at Longfellow Prep thought that Mrs. Smith drove because Louisa—who did have her driver’s license, after all—was distraught about Franklin and the Eastern Regionals. But, really, it was because Louisa was a terrible, awful driver who panicked at stop signs, stoplights, and crosswalks. Mr. Smith said that she should never be allowed behind the wheel of the BMW—never mind the Fiat!
There had been four trips to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston over Franklin’s ankle, and the doctors had warned that the sprain meant that he might walk with a pronounced limp for quite some time. Still, Franklin rode the team bus down to Foxboro and crutched his way over to the course to watch Louisa run in her third State cross-country finals—and take first, even though she was still only a junior.
And he drove in the Academy bus to Henry’s rugby Districts in Deerfield, where Franklin was lauded as the star alumnus that he was, and where Whittier was whipped by Kenilworth with a score that Henry tried to forget but that Franklin wouldn’t let him. By Thanksgiving, Franklin had decided to discard his crutches. By Christmas, no one who didn’t know about the sprain would have noticed a limp. By the first January thaw, he was again running five miles a day, and people who lived in the clapboard and brick and stone houses clapped when he went by.
And Longfellow Prep won the Eastern Regionals, after all—which Franklin was mostly happy about.
Trouble.
Two summers ago, Henry had fallen while climbing the black boulders in Salvage Cove, just beneath his family’s house.
It was a long fall, ten or twelve feet.
If he had fallen a bit to the right, he would have landed on sharp stone wedges that would have broken whatever hit them. If he had fallen a bit to the left, he would have landed on sharper mussel beds that would have cut him up.
But he landed right between them, into calm water whose tidal current gently led him back into shore. At dinner that night, Franklin said that he guessed he should teach Henry how to climb. He’d show him how to set his hands and balance his footing. He’d show him how to test rock holds and how to use his fist as an anchor in a fissure. And maybe, if he got good enough, he’d take him up to Katahdin.
Maybe they’d even climb through the Gateway and up to the Knife Edge. “That would be something to see, little brother,” he’d said, and he’d reached over and rumpled Henry’s hair.
Henry almost bowed down and did worship.
And Henry’s father said again, “If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.” That was why Henry wasn’t ready for it on the evening of his fourteenth birthday, while he adjusted the straps of the backpack his parents had given him so he could show Franklin how prepared he was for their hiking trip up Katahdin, because Franklin had finally, finally, finally agreed to take him, even though he told Henry that he’d never make it, that he’d have to quit halfway up the mountain, that they’d have to turn back, that he was only going because their father wanted him to take his little brother—who, Franklin said again, would never make it. On that night, looking out the north parlor window, his parents standing beside him and holding back the curtains, Henry couldn’t understand why the town’s one patrol car was moving slowly down their drive, heading toward their house. It had been a spring colder than usual, and the trees were still unleafed, so they could see the patrol car’s red light revolving and throwing fire onto the mostly bare oaks and maples. They walked out into the dark back gardens, dark because the moon was still not up and the sky was starless.
The red light struck them full, so that when Henry looked up at his parents’ faces, they were covered with blood.
Which is how he saw his brother’s face when they reached the hospital.
The streaks of red were ghastly against his skin, which was stark white. The perfect tan that Franklin always carried had vanished and left behind this shocked pallor. Henry’s mother stood at the foot of the bed, her hands tight on the aluminum rail, her eyes wide and unblinking. His father stood beside her, stiff, straight, his hands up to his face. Neither had taken their coats off.
Neither spoke.
Henry sat down on his brother’s bed. A clear plastic mask covered Franklin’s face, and he breathed into a clear plastic tube that circled around behind him. Both of his eyes were bruised and swollen shut. His right arm lay white and still, tucked tightly beside him outside the sheet. Another clear plastic tube coiled out from the crook of his elbow. Dried blood edged his fingernails. At first, Henry thought that the other arm must lie beneath the sheet. But it wasn’t beneath the sheet.
It just wasn’t there.
A dribble of saliva came from underneath the mask over Franklin’s mouth. Henry reached to wipe it away.
“Don’t touch that,” said his father. His mother began to moan quietly.
Henry sat on his brother’s bed for a long time that night, as his parents came in and went out and came in and went out. There were the doctors to deal with and medical decisions to be made: “A brain scan once he’s stable,” said Dr. Burton. “Relieve some of the pressure, and then assess the damage,” said Dr. Giles. There were the two town policemen, who came to inform the Smiths officially that they had arrested the driver who had slammed into their jogging son. Running, thought Henry. Not jogging.
Running.
There was Father Brewood, who knew enough to say nothing but a prayer. And there was the reporter from the Blythbury-by-the-Sea Chronicle, who sensed that he might have a story with more drama than a rugby score and sneaked into Franklin’s room to get a quick picture of him before the two Blythbury-by-the-Sea policemen manhandled him on to an elevator. Franklin’s eyes opened when the reporter’s camera flash went off. But he didn’t blink. He stared out straight, intent, still. “What is he looking at?” thought Henry. He reached his hand out in front of Franklin’s eyes, but his brother looked right through Henry’s fingers, focusing beyond them.
“Franklin,” said Henry.
His brother’s eyes closed.
Late, late at night, when there was no more to see, Henry’s parents decided to go back to the house. Louisa hadn’t been home when the policemen came; no one had told her yet. They tried to get Henry to come, too. “There’s no more we can do here tonight,” his mother said. Henry ignored her. He had never ignored his mother before.
After a very silent while, his parents left. Henry stayed on Franklin’s bed.
Cold. The low hum of the overhead light, the clattering and clicking of elevator doors. The smell of antiseptic, of clean sheets, of bandages. The slight wrinkle of corruption in the air.
Outside, a nurse patrolling the nearly empty hallways with the steps of someone who knows that all the world is asleep and it shouldn’t be awakened. Henry felt strangely peaceful—and guilty for feeling peaceful. But the lights in the room were dim and his brother was so still. He could hear Franklin’s breathing, timed with the rhythms of the quiet machine behind him. The one window in the room was opaque with the reflection of the light over his brother’s bed. Sometimes Henry crossed the room and leaned his forehead against the cold glass so he could see out. As the night went on, he did this more and more. He needed to remind himself that this one room wasn’t the whole world.
Close to dawn, a nurse came in to change the dressing on the stump. “Do you want to wait outside?” she asked.
Henry shook his head. He wanted to watch. He wanted to see everything.
“I think that you had better wait outside,” said the nurse.
She led him into the hall and then around the corner, and he sat down in a vinyl chair by the nurses’ station. He let his head fall back against the wall.
He closed his eyes.
And he saw himself with his brother, hefting their packs up higher and on their shoulders as they climbed through the Gateway and up, up to the Knife Edge, Franklin turning to him and saying, “I knew you’d make it. I knew it all along,” and Henry nodding, not needing to say anything.

When Henry’s parents came back to the hospital the next morning, they found him asleep in the vinyl chair. One of the nurses had put a striped cotton blanket over him, and he had curled up and fit as much of himself under it as he could.
They woke him, and together they went back to Franklin’s room. Nothing had changed. Franklin still unmoving. Clear plastic mask and tubes. His eyes closed.
His breathing still the same, in time to the rhythms of the quiet machine. The new bandage on the stump of his arm stained at the end. Henry thought he could smell whatever was doing the staining.
Perhaps the only thing that was different was that the sun was up and Henry could see out the window. And his father hadn’t shaved—which was, Henry thought, the first time that had ever happened.
Louisa had not taken the news well, his parents told him. She had been waiting for them when they got home, holding the quick note that Mrs. Smith had left for her in the kitchen. They told her about the accident. They told her that Franklin’s arm was gone. That his brain had swollen and that the doctors were using drugs to relieve the pressure.
That there would be tests as soon as the swelling went down. That everyone had to hope for the very, very best.
Then Louisa had dropped the note to the quarried stone floor and run up to her bedroom.
They had heard her through the night, but she would not open her door to them.
She would not open the door in the morning before they left.
His mother reached out to Henry and drew him to her. He could not remember another time when she had held him so tightly. Or when his father—with his eyes closed and his hands up to his face again—had looked so . . . empty—as if the soul had left his body, and his body understood that it would never come back.
They stood that way, together at the foot of Franklin’s quiet bed. That was how Father Brewood found them. They stayed that way during the psalm he read to them—“In the time of my trouble I sought the Lord: I stretched forth my hands unto him, and ceased not in the night season.” But during his prayer—“Look down upon Franklin Smith, your servant”—Henry’s stomach started to growl. Loudly. Then very loudly. “I’m sorry,” said Henry when Father Brewood had finished.
“No matter what happens, there is always the business of the world to attend to,” said Father Brewood.
Henry went downstairs to the hospital cafeteria to find some breakfast. It was quiet and still there, too, and the mopped floor smelled slightly of disinfectant, as if someone had thrown up and the janitor had made a job of it.
He found a waxed carton of orange juice and a pastry with no filling; they were both as tasteless as Henry expected them to be. He took small bites and ate slowly. He didn’t need to hurry back to the room. Nothing would change, though he wanted more than he could say to have things go back to the way they had been before his birthday. But Henry was wrong. He knew it as soon as the elevator doors opened and he stepped onto his brother’s floor. A white-coated doctor ran past him, and the nurses’ station was empty.
Henry sprinted toward Franklin, and when he turned the corner of the hall, he saw his parents standing outside the room, his mother holding his father, together looking inside. Father Brewood stood beside them, his hands on them both. The running doctor was pushing past them.
The sounds that were coming from the room, the terrible sounds . . .
The smell of the cafeteria disinfectant came back into his throat, and Henry threw up.

The next time that Henry saw Franklin, his brother had a strap drawn tightly across his chest. His right arm was strapped down. The thought came into Henry’s head: They don’t need to strap down his left arm, because it isn’t there anymore. I wonder where it is? He went to sit again on his brother’s bed.
He fingered the taut straps.
Dr. Giles was back in the room. There was a seizure, he said. Significant swelling of the brain still. Whatever damage there had been may now be more extensive. If the scan is positive, then surgery will be recommended to control the swelling. No visitors now.
Stimulation to a minimum. Hope for the best.
Henry couldn’t say whether the rest of that day went quickly or whether it dragged its wearisome self along. The brain scan came back with a report of “indeterminate brain activity.” The decision was made, and Franklin was taken immediately into surgery to relieve the swelling. They waited for about forever. Finally, he came back, the top of his head wrapped in bright white bandages, his eyes closed. All the blood cleaned from his face and fingernails.
“With some patients, the scans are simply impossible to decipher accurately,” said Dr. Giles. “But we’ll be able to tell more in twenty-four hours. We’ll have another scan then.” Sitting on his brother’s bed, fingering again the taut straps.
Eating in the hospital cafeteria. Thick roast beef with thick brown gravy.
Canned corn. Canned carrots, tasting like the canned corn. And all of that seemed to take no time at all, because there was no time at all. There was only Now. In the hospital. Where they all sat in the middle of Trouble.
That night, Henry went home with his parents. He was astonished that the world was pretty much as it had been before he had gone to the hospital. He was astonished that he was sitting in a familiar car, riding along familiar streets, idling into the carriage house, walking through the back door of his home, climbing the stairs, coming into his own room. Is it possible for everything to change, and for nothing to change? He opened his casement window, and the clean salt smell of the sea rose to him. He could hear the waves cresting onto the black boulders along the cove, one after the other. The moon was coming up, throwing a startling silver light along the undersides of the clouds and setting them apart from the darkness.
Henry lay back on his bed and fell into sleep.
And dreamed again of the Gateway. His brother was ahead of him, always ahead of him, hefting his backpack up around his shoulders. He turned back to Henry.
“I knew you’d make it,” he was saying again.
And Henry desperately wanted to say something to him. Something to let him know how wonderful it was to be up on the mountain with him. Something so beautiful that they would both begin to cry.
But when he opened his mouth, all he could say was “Indeterminate brain activity.” And still asleep, Henry did begin to cry, and the waves below him galled themselves on the dark stone ledges beneath the house.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2012

    Trouble

    This book sux dont read it

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Trouble

    This book teaches you to achieve your goals no matter what gets in your waym It also teaches you to forgive your enemies.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    I love this book, it is a very heartwarming book for me, as I lo

    I love this book, it is a very heartwarming book for me, as I lost someone recently. I am making a movie out of this book, and the movie will be posted on youtube. Check it out!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    Love this book. It really shows you to keep going, just when you

    Love this book. It really shows you to keep going, just when you feel like it`s the end of the world. Would totally recommend it.

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

    Posted February 12, 2012

    Secret

    Gripping and very good

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 4, 2011

    Depth with character

    I reviewed this book for my class and we will definately be reading it soon. I found the language to be rich and intriguing. My students will gain a lot of insight from Troible. Great read.

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

    Posted May 17, 2011

    Great

    I love the plot

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted March 4, 2011

    deep

    this book is deep!!! he eliminates so many people so fast! but its a really good book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2010

    Refreshingly original, extremely well written, and relatble to all ages!

    Gary Schmidt's novel Trouble is a profound piece describing the coming of age of main character, Henry Smith. Coming from a privileged background, Henry has grown up under the pretense that Trouble will never come to his home. This impression of safety is shattered when Henry's older brother, the athletic and popular Frederick Smith, is hit by a car and sent into a coma. Chay Chouan, a Cambodian immigrant at Frederick's school, admits to the accident. The event inspires racist tension as the citizens of Blythbury-by-the-Sea demand justice against the refugee teenager. Schmidt's story explores Henry's battle "to find out how to live with trouble." Henry thus vows to climb Mount Katahdin, the mountain his brother mocked he could never handle. With his friend Sanborn in tow, Henry heads to Maine in a journey of unexpected revelations and self discovery. Though the protagonist is junior high aged, all age groups can appreciate the overarching theme of dealing with the unexpected twists and turns that life brings. I loved how the author gradually revealed new angles and aspects of Frederick's accident throughout the story. This excellently crafted story, more serious in nature than Schmidt's other books, calls attention to the importance of avoiding rash judgment. He shows how the actions and behavior of others contain motives that are often misunderstood by onlookers. I praise the well written novel as poignant and thought provoking for everyone whose lives have been thrown into confusion by feelings of grief and self doubt.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A decent book overall

    I looked into this book solely due to a college assignment that required us to read a title by Gary Schmidt. I figured that Trouble looked more interesting than some of his titles so I picked it up with few expectations. I was surprised to find a fairly decent story within, at least keeping my interest throughout the book.
    First off, this book is definitely aimed at a younger audience. Older readers may be offset by the simple writing style that is made to appeal to that younger crowd. The writing style also lacks a bit in a few areas, mainly a diverse, descriptive voice that hooks the older readers. As part of this grouping, I found it a chore to read through some parts of this book, only because the style wasn't mature enough.
    The story itself is quite interesting, although it mainly centers on Henry and his development through the book, it also focuses and relies on racial profiling, showing the problems that occur from such concepts. There's also a fair amount of general drama and death, so some people will be drawn in by those factors.
    As far as the character department goes, Trouble is somewhat lacking. Apart from Henry, our main dude, there are a decent amount of other main supporting characters, such as Chay, Sanborn, and Black Dog (the most boring name ever). These characters, although having fairly interesting back stories, aren't all that interesting themselves. Sanborn is the only character I found myself liking since he provided some form of comic relief between the growing angst. Also, some of the older characters have odd habits, probably because this book is written to be read by a younger audience and this is how they'll probably perceive their seniors.
    Overall, I found Trouble to be an enjoyable experience once I got past the age barrier. I encourage people who want an easier read to go through this book, or to suggest it to their children, probably in the age group of twelve through fourteen. I also would suggest some instructors to consider this book over some 'classics,' mainly because it provides more of a modern look at some problems that persist in our society today, possibly making it easier for children/students to relate to.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Very good book

    This is a very good book!

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  • Posted November 18, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Harmony for TeensReadToo.com

    I don't think that there's any way for me to summarize the complex plot that makes up the novel TROUBLE, but I'm going to try. <BR/><BR/>Henry's father always said that if you stayed far enough away from Trouble, Trouble would never find you. It was what Henry and everyone else in his family believed. Until Trouble came to their lives in the form of Chay, a young Cambodian teen. Henry's older brother, Franklin, had been jogging on the night Chay hit him. Chay said it was an accident but their community thinks otherwise -- because Cambodians don't belong there and are the cause of every disaster. <BR/><BR/>Filled with anger of the accident, Henry, his best friend, and Black Dog set out to do the one thing Henry and Franklin had planned to do - climb Mt. Katahdin. They don't know how they're going to get there, how they're going to survive, or anything about climbing mountains, but they know they're going to do it. <BR/><BR/>As their journey continues, Henry runs into the one he hates most. Chay is also running from Trouble, and the once-enemies become allies. Henry begins to realize that family is not always what it seems -- and sometimes you just can't run from Trouble. <BR/><BR/>All I can say is that this is an amazing book and should be required reading in every classroom. Not only were the characters real and three-dimensional, each with their own quirks and problems, but the plot was also drawn out perfectly, with the right amount of details and action. You could feel yourself being taken into their world and, though this is technically a historical novel, I could barely tell because it seemed so real. <BR/><BR/>While reading this book, you will feel your heart breaking for Chay but you'll also be hoping that everything turns out okay for Henry's family. TROUBLE will take you on a roller coaster of emotions that you will never forget. <BR/><BR/>There's really no way for me to explain how much I loved this book. It's creative and original and just all-around amazing. Whether you're a middle school English teacher or a student, you should definitely pick this up on your next trip to the bookstore. Or heck, order it online today!

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

    Posted September 27, 2008

    Anything but trouble...

    Trouble, by Gary D. Schmidt, was written exceptionally well. You can feel the depression of the characters, and you hope for the characters. The author describes his scenery and thoughts beautifully parts of the book sounding like a stunning poem. Even though the main characters are boys, they are intellectual, and not the stereotypical apes. You can see the reasoning behind their words, and this book pieces together beautifully. The boys are also funny, making you laugh out loud because of their smart remarks. Gary even brings the saying ¿A dog is a man¿s best friend¿ to a whole new meaning. The character¿s lives connect in unexpected ways, but they make sense. The book relies on racism to propel the story forward. While not being offensive, it creates an understanding between the characters. This is a touching book, and by far my favorite.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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