Year My Parents Ruined My Life

Year My Parents Ruined My Life

4.3 29
by Martha Freeman

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Kate Sommers is stunned when her parents announce that their family is moving from sunny California to Belletoona, Pennsylvania. Kate can't bear leaving her friends, her cool surfer boyfriend, and the beach. But maybe, just maybe, Belletoona won't be so bad.

Forget it. All it ever does is snow in Belletoona -- and Kate's already in trouble with the principal… See more details below


Kate Sommers is stunned when her parents announce that their family is moving from sunny California to Belletoona, Pennsylvania. Kate can't bear leaving her friends, her cool surfer boyfriend, and the beach. But maybe, just maybe, Belletoona won't be so bad.

Forget it. All it ever does is snow in Belletoona -- and Kate's already in trouble with the principal and half her class. What's worse is her younger sister, who acts like Miss Perfect. Kate's had it. Nothing will stop her from going back to California where she belongs.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Away from her native California, 12-year-old Kate Sommers comes up against some unnerving twists of fate. "The author plants enough surprises to keep readers alert and satisfied," said PW. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 5-7--Sixth-grader Kate Sommers is convinced that moving from Isla Nada, CA, to Belletoona, PA, is ruining her life. From the moment the family arrives at their new home, the weather turns cold and snowy. At school Kate encounters Tiffany and her friends, who sneak cigarettes in the girls' room and go out of their way to taunt her. Lonely and unhappy, Kate writes to her best friend about returning to California to live with Molly's family. After Kate is unfairly accused by the principal of smoking, she takes her baby-sitting money and runs away to California, believing that Molly's parents have said she could stay with them. Her trip reveals the shallowness of Molly's friendship, and Kate discovers that what matters is her family and not her former way of life. The author captures the dilemma faced by young people when they must leave behind people and places they know and love. The main character is likable and her interactions with the people around her keep the story moving. Her father's enthusiasm about returning to his boyhood home provides a sometimes amusing contrast to the frustration felt by the rest of the family. Kate's letters to Molly, filled with reactions and thoughts about her "exile," are especially effective and help to create a well-told story.--Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA
Kirkus Reviews
An eye-catching title guarantees that readers will gravitate to this novel, which takes on the time-honored topic of moving—this time, from sunny California to dismal, snowy Belletoona, just outside Pittsburgh.

Kate, 12, believes that her parents have ruined her life because of the move; until then, she's had a perfect life with her surfer boyfriend, Josh, and her best friend, Molly. Kate's family experiences disaster after disaster: Her mother's thin, California body begins to take on the "chubbette" style of "all the women back there"; they are being frivolously sued by the racist school principal over a car crash; and Kate's classmates are under the impression that she's related to Tom Cruise (the mix-up and its predictable outcome are both obvious to readers). In most ways, Kate's dilemma is too familiar, while the travails of the adult characters (her mother's long, mysterious phone calls, her father's faulty product line) hint at a more complicated, fresher plot than is ever realized. The story becomes exciting when, after trouble in school, Kate runs away to California, only to find Molly and Josh are more interested in each other than in her. Moments of offbeat humor carry the plot over its bumps, but they don't make Kate's problems feel more than mildly irritating.

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Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 8.42(h) x 0.80(d)
700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 11 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Martha Freeman is the author of Stink Bomb Mom, a comic novel for children. She wrote and edited hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines before tiring of real life and returning to fiction. A native Californian, she now lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three children.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Saturday, October 4, Belletoona, Pennsylvania: Cloudy with a chance of showers.

Kate Sommers had been kidnapped.

Yesterday she was hustled onto a plane against her will and flown practically across the entire country. She was forced to stay the night in an ugly motel and eat greasy scrambled eggs for breakfast. Now she was strapped into the backseat of a big car driven by a paunchy man in a dark suit.

And where were her parents? Her parents, who were supposed to love her and protect her?

That was the worst part.

It was her parents who had kidnapped her.

"Snow? Oh sure, we get some. Wish it was more," Mr. Douglas, the man in the dark suit was saying to Kate's dad. "I love the white stuff. Can't get enough."

As he spoke, Mr. Douglas pulled his car into the driveway of another house that looked like a two-story shoe box. He was a real estate agent. This was the sixth house they had seen that morning, and Kate didn't need to leave the backseat to know what this one looked like inside: flowered wallpaper, brick fireplace, family room in the basement.

"Come on, girls," said Kate's dad. "This could be the one!"

Kate buttoned the collar of her jacket and stayed put. Danielle, her six-year-old sister, flung herself out of the car, shouting, "I want to see my room! I want to see my room!"

The little kiss-up, Kate thought.

Mr. Douglas opened the front door, and Kate's dad and sister disappeared inside. Mom, still in the driveway, signaled for Kate to roll down the window. "Sitting this one out?" sheasked.

"I will never look at another house as -- "Kate began.

"Okay, okay." Mom had been listening to Kate gripe all morning. "Let me tell you something, honey. I'm a California girl, same as you. Until we pulled out the map, I thought Pennsylvania was someplace around Maine. I've got a job I like, then there's my mother, my friends..." Her voice trailed off. "But this is important to your dad," she finally said, "and it's only fair that we --"

"Angela!" Dad's head popped out of an upstairs window. "Come on in, sweetheart! You've got to see this fantastic laundry room!"

Mom looked at the sky as if silently counting to ten. Then she squared her shoulders and looked back at Kate. "I am going to make the best of things," she said. "And so are you. Now, excuse me while I look at a fantastic laundry room."

Kate shook her head. What had gotten into her parents? Why were they determined to ruin her life? Sure, she knew her dad was always talking about his happy childhood in the East. She knew his company had closed its lawn mower factory in southern California and offered him a better job managing a snow shovel factory here. Still, who in their right mind would trade a sunny beach for this cold, gray, rain-soaked place?

Back at the motel that afternoon, Danielle read a magazine she had found on the TV set, Pennsylvania Today. Dad and Mom shuffled photos of the houses they'd looked at. Kate was channel surfing and stopped at a local weather report.  Yesterday had been a perfect beach day at home in Isla Nada -- before she was kidnapped.

"...unseasonably cold the rest of the week," said the weatherman. He was wearing a red-and-green-plaid jacket, like he was ready for Christmas. "The long-range weather models show a pattern that could give us snow by Thanksgiving." Kate didn't see why he sounded so cheerful about it.

Kate's dad pointed to one of the photos. "I think we have a winner," he said. "Do you agree, Angela?"

"It's a darling house, Coldwell. But are you sure about that furnace? I thought those old furnaces --"

"Same as we had when I was a boy. Never gave us a moment's trouble," Dad said.

"Well, if you're sure..." Kate's mom didn't sound a bit sure, and Kate could almost see her thinking: Make the best of things. "If you're sure, then so am I," Mom said firmly. "Let's make an offer."

Kate had no intention of moving to Belletoona, Pennsylvania. She didn't know how she was going to get out of it, but if she and her best friend, Molly, put their heads together, they'd come up with some kind of scheme. They always did, right?

While Dad was talking to Mr. Douglas on the phone, Kate picked up a picture of the house. This one was different from the others -- old, made of stone, small bedrooms. The dining room had this disgusting pink polka-dot wallpaper. There was no family room in the basement either, just the furnace that worried her mom, and a lot of cobwebby pipes.

"This one's yours." Mom pointed to an upstairs window.

"The guest room, you mean," said Kate.

Mom's look was like a yellow caution light. "Kate, I've been as patient as I know how to be," she said. "But this little game has got to end."

Danielle looked up from her magazine when she sensed Kate might be in trouble. "Did you know Pennsylvania produces more chocolate than any other state?" she asked. "I want to move to Belletoona, Mother. I'm going to make new friends and go to a brand-new school."

Kate wondered how bad the punishment was for strangling a total pest. "Aren't we the little angel?" she snarled.

"Kate Sommers," said Mom, and now the light flashed red. "That is enough. I know it's hard to move at your age. But the family is moving. End of discussion."

Mom was being totally unreasonable. No point arguing now. So Kate fumed while Mom explained things for the zillionth time: This had been a scouting mission so that the girls could see the town. The family would fly back to California tomorrow, and in two weeks -- only two weeks -- Dad would start work here in Pennsylvania.

"You and I and Danielle will stay longer in California to pack up and say good-bye," Mom went on. "If the house sells, we'll be back here before Christmas."

Kate wouldn't help it. "What have I done to deserve this?" she wailed. "It's so unfair!"

Mom didn't say anything for a minute, just looked out the window at the rain. When she spoke, she seemed to be talking to herself. "Don't think of it as unfair. Think of it as character-building."

My character's built already, Kate thought. In Isla Nada, California, I'm president of the sixth-grade class, girlfriend of an awesomely gorgeous thirteen-year-old surfer, best friend of Molly Blossom, the class secretary.

In Belletoona, Pennsylvania, who am I? Nobody.

Kate was a planner. She already had the rest of her sixth-grade year figured out: Josh was going to take her to the Valentine's dance, just like she planned. She was going to play volleyball for the Isla Nada Stingrays this spring, just like she planned. And she was going to learn to skate vert next summer, just like she planned.

If her family really moved, she would miss them -- even the total pest. But for Kate Sommers, life anyplace other than Isla Nada, California, was unthinkable.

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