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Since Chris is leaving, Robin agrees to join her aunt and cousins on a cross-country road trip, in spite of her reservations -- she and her younger cousins have never really gotten along,...
Since Chris is leaving, Robin agrees to join her aunt and cousins on a cross-country road trip, in spite of her reservations -- she and her younger cousins have never really gotten along, and since their father's death they've become even more problematic than before.
Soon the four of them are zigzagging through the West on an eye-opening journey. They explore parts of the country Robin never dreamed existed -- and she discovers inner resources she never imagined she had.
A high-school junior makes a trip with her aunt and two cousins, discovering places she did not know existed and strengths she did not know she had.
"17 Things We're Loving Right Now"
— Seventeen magazine
"A moving, realistic exploration of first love, class issues, girls' self-confidence, and the process of healing."
The party was to celebrate my boyfriend Chris's high school graduation, no occasion for rejoicing as far as I was concerned. As usual, the Melvilles had gone overboard for their one and only son, putting up a big white tent in their overly landscaped backyard and having the food catered by Biscuit, the hot new restaurant in Iowa City.
I'd already been forced to talk to the high school principal, two Spanish teachers, and Chris's next-door neighbors; my smile was sagging like Custer's mustache. All anybody could come up with to say to me was, "Just think, Robin, next year you'll be graduating!" Whoopee. Sure couldn't wait for my big fabulous future to start.
I found Chris scarfing down shrimp at the buffet table. "Having fun?" he asked between mouthfuls.
"Fun might be too much to aim for," I said, hooking my thumb in the armhole of my dress to try and stretch it a little. It really was too tight this year. "You think we can leave soon?"
"I don't know." He grimaced. "It's my party. I can't just..."
"I know, but it's been going on all afternoon already. I thought we could...you know...have our own celebration." I tried to look innocent and loving, rather than the way I actually felt — bored and bummed.
Chris slipped an arm around my waist and kissed my hair just above my ear. "I can't wait," he said. "You know, you look gorgeous in that dress."
I gave him a skeptical look. "This dress is a hundred years old."
"It is not, and anyway, I like it on you. Don't you believe me?"
Big sighs from both of us.
We'd argued about this more than once — that when Chris compliments me I disagree with him or say it's not true. He says I don't value myself enough, but I think I'm just being realistic. I look okay, but my hair's too thin, and my boobs aren't very big, and I never have anything to wear he hasn't seen a million times already. Chris always says my eyes are beautiful, but eyes are a pretty small percentage of a person. No, the only thing special about me is Chris.
A beefy hand on the end of a long arm divided the air space between us.
"Christopher! The young man with the big future!" I looked up at the tall, bald-headed guy connected to the arm and recognized Dr. Ransom, fellow surgeon and friend of Chris's dad. Chris's mother is a doctor, too, a pediatrician here in town. The party was lousy with medical types; I'd already been introduced to two cardiologists, a neurologist, and an obstetrician. My mother is a nurse, so I've heard enough about doctors over the years that I'm not that impressed by a string of letters tacked on behind a name.
Where was Franny, anyway? There weren't many high school kids there because most of Chris's friends were seniors, and their parents were throwing parties for them, too. Franny was a junior, like me. The only reason she'd agreed to come was because she'd never been inside the Melvilles' house and she wanted to "check it out." I just hoped she wouldn't get caught by one of the good doctors nosing through their closets or taking inventory in the kitchen cabinets.
Dr. Ransom was practically shouting at Chris. "Best years of your life, son! You're going to have a wonderful time at Georgetown. When I was at Hopkins — stop me if I've told you this already..."
Blah, blah, blah. The guy loved bouncing his big voice off Chris, but Chris didn't mind. He'd have a conversation with a rock if you painted a face on it. I gave Chris a smile and pulled away. Georgetown University, a thousand miles from Iowa, was not my favorite topic of conversation.
I was headed across the lawn to see if Franny was inside when I was intercepted by Dr. Melville. The female one.
"Robin, dear, could you do me a huge favor?" She tipped her head over toward one shoulder to show me how sorry she was about asking someone who wouldn't dare refuse her.
"Sure, Dr. Melville. What do you need?"
"The caterers have left to do another party. They'll be back to clean up, of course, but meanwhile they've left several platters in my kitchen, which are too large for me to manage in these heels. I hate to ask you, but..."
But there was no one else she'd dare ask. She was probably thinking I looked like I ought to be working for the caterer anyway.
"No problem," I told her.
The Melvilles' house is large by any standards, but in Thunder Lake, Iowa, it's a mansion. In order to get to the kitchen you have to walk across a big screened sunporch filled with wicker chairs and flowery cushions. Then the kitchen opens up in front of you, an enormous black-and-white room in which everything sparkles, from the faucet handles to the china cat food bowls. In our house the faucets are lucky to have handles, and the cats live in the barn where they nosh on filet of mousie.
The hors d'oeuvre platters were lined up on the island between the kitchen and the family room, and there, sitting on a stool, picking at olives, was Franny.
"There you are," I said. "You deserted me."
"I think you're confusing me with your boyfriend." She swallowed a hunk of cheese and reached for more. "Besides, it's hotter than hell out there."
"No kidding. And I have to take these trays out. The caterer left."
Franny's jaw fell. "Jesus, why don't they get the Prince to do it?"
"He's busy fending off jerks. Help me, okay?"
She sighed. "Okay, but I'm not putting my shoes back on. Let's leave one tray inside, so we can come back in and have our own party."
We each took two trays, wobbled down the steps and across the grass to the tent. Chris was still on the other side of the table laughing at some old guy's jokes.
"Thank you, girls," Dr. Melville said as she swept by the table on her way to greet more guests.
Franny gave a low bow. "Your wish is our command."
I elbowed her. "Careful, she has no sense of humor."
"Really? Can't she buy one? A sense of humor is more useful than most of those other senses if you're going to get through life in one piece."
Franny is an expert on getting through life in one piece. The year I met her, the year we started middle school, Franny's life was in half a dozen large chunks. Her parents had just begun the most publicly bitter divorce Thunder Lake had ever seen. They blamed each other for their own problems, and for "ruining the kid." By the time I met her, they were both demanding their right to the money, the house, the cars, and Franny.
It got so bad they'd each show up after school and stand in front of the building literally pulling her back and forth between them. A few times Liz, her mom, was pretty drunk. Several times the principal tried to stop their arguments, and once the police were called.
Franny was just about nuts from the whole thing. Her grade school friends were scared of the whole situation and totally deserted her. She'd show up in class wearing big black boots and short shorts, with black eyeliner circles drawn around her eyes so she always looked surprised. The first time I saw her, she had a shaved head. To me she seemed like the most interesting person in the whole school. Her life was high drama while mine was still a Nickelodeon cartoon. Within weeks we were inseparable.
Franny's stories were riveting. When she told me her mother had had a boyfriend before she divorced her father, I was horrified.
"What did he do when he found out?" I asked her.
"Got drunk, as usual."
"But, I mean, did he scream or hit her or anything?"
"No, he usually hits me. He's afraid of Liz so he just smacks me instead."
"Franny, that's awful! You can't live with him anymore!"
Whenever I said things like that, Franny would smile at me, as if she was really sorry to have to tell me what a crappy world it was. "It just seems awful to you because your mom is so normal. I'm used to having crazy parents."
But I refused to agree. "It is awful, Franny. You're just used to it so you don't see how bad it is."
I couldn't imagine living with a man who got drunk and hit me when he was mad at my mother. In fact, I could barely imagine living with any man. My dad had left us right after my first birthday; I saw him only a few times a year.
When I was younger I'd get so excited waiting for him to come over to take me out for lunch, I'd sometimes get sick to my stomach and Mom would have to call him and put it off for another time. Just having him standing in our living room made me nervous. It made the whole house feel different, as if Mom and I were cats and here this dog — a totally different species — had walked into our house, and even though he seemed friendly, I didn't really know any other dogs. How were you supposed to act around a dog? I didn't even speak dog.
By the time the day was over and he dropped me off at home again, I'd just be getting used to him. I'd be starting to purr a little bit. Just in time to start missing him and his big barky voice.
Franny had been living with her mom in one of those developments where all the houses look the same. Her dad had gotten an apartment in Iowa City, where he worked, and he wanted her to live there with him instead, which would have meant changing schools. While they argued about it, they kept dragging her back and forth between Thunder Lake and Iowa City, until finally they started battling it out in court.
Franny got furious with both of them. "If I'm already ruined, why do they even want me? I'm not going to live with either one of them! I'm running away to Chicago."
I felt bad for her, having to put up such a brave front. But the day she showed me the bus ticket, I got scared. "You can't go there alone! Where will you live?"
"I'll get by," Franny said, lighting up a cigarette and trying to look tough without inhaling.
"I'll go with you," I announced, hoping it wouldn't come to that.
But she refused my company anyway. "Your mother would miss you too much. And you'd miss her." Which was true.
"But you can't leave, Franny!" I begged. "You're my best friend!" We cried a little over how much we'd miss each other. I hated to see Franny cry; once she started, she often couldn't stop, and I knew she wasn't crying over me. She'd cry until the eyeliner ran down her cheeks and smudged my bedspread.
So I came up with a plan. Franny would run away to my house. Mom and I lived in a small apartment in town then, but Mom's bedroom was downstairs and mine was upstairs with its own bathroom. We figured whenever Mom came upstairs Franny would just climb in the bathtub and pull the curtain. We had such elaborate plans; we thought we were geniuses.
It worked for two days. By then the police had been called in and Franny's parents had plastered the whole town with posters that had her picture under the headline: MISSING! I suppose, under the circumstances, my mother thought it was peculiar that I ate a hearty dinner and then asked for an extra pork chop and baked potato to take upstairs for a "snack." She followed me up and there stood Franny trying on my sweaters.
When Mom told her she had to call her parents immediately, Franny popped her gum and shrugged. "I was getting bored up here, anyway." I already knew she only lied like that when she felt really hopeless. I hugged her even though I knew she wouldn't hug me back in front of my mother.
While Franny was on the phone, I told Mom some of the details of Franny's home life. "How can she go back there? We have to help her!" I begged.
So Mom made us cocoa and explained to Franny that she was welcome in our house anytime. "Anytime," she repeated. "And if you ever need help, you call me right away."
Franny didn't say anything, but she listened. Before long our house was as much her home as mine. It turned out that neither of her parents wanted her with the other parent, but they didn't particularly want her themselves either. Sometimes she'd call late at night because Bill had come by to declare his rights again, or Liz was passed out under the kitchen table, or she was alone and scared. No matter what time it was, we'd drive over and rescue her. That's what Franny always called it: a rescue mission.
She's been living with her mother for the past two years now and things aren't as bad as they were. I can't remember the last time we did a rescue mission. But Franny's not the same kid anymore who cried all over my bedspread. Sometimes she seems about twenty years older than me and done with crying for good. She definitely has a sense of humor about her life, though, even if not everybody gets the joke.
After restocking the buffet table we went back inside the Melvilles' house; Franny headed straight for the refrigerator. "What do they have to drink?"
"There's soda outside."
"I'm not going back out there again. Ooh, lemonade — that's good." She brought out a large blue-and-white pitcher.
"Be careful with that. Dr. Melville loves that thing — it was her mother's."
"Didn't I tell you? I'm old enough to pour my own juice now."
"Do you think you should drink that? I mean, it wasn't put out for the guests."
"It's only lemonade. I don't think they'll miss it."
She stuck the pitcher back in the fridge, picked up the remaining tray of food, and walked toward the family room. "Let's sit down where it's comfortable."
"No! You can't take food in there!" I said. "Dr. Melville doesn't let anybody eat on that carpet. And besides, they just recovered the couch."
"Oh, for crapsake!" Franny turned around, slapped the tray down on the counter and sank onto a stool. "This place is a torture chamber. You can't touch the china, you can't eat the food, and you can't sit on the furniture. Are you allowed to pee in the toilets or does Dr. Melville have rules about that, too?"
"I'm sorry. I just don't want her to get mad at me, that's all."
"Why? You think all of a sudden, after two years, she's going to change her mind and decide she's so crazy about you that the Prince can stay here and go to the University of Iowa so you won't be separated? Yeah, that'll happen." She stuffed an artichoke heart in her mouth.
"I can't afford to antagonize her, that's all. And stop calling Chris, the Prince."
She shook her head. "Is he really worth all this gloom and doom? You've never even gone out with anybody else."
"You wouldn't understand, Franny." She hates when I say that, because she's never had a boyfriend. But it's true.
She built up a little temper over it. "Oh, get over yourself, Cinderella! He's just a guy."
"No, he isn't..."
"Yes, he is! There's nothing so damn special about — "
"Yes, there is!" I shouted at her. "He is special!" And then the bawling started. Didn't even see it coming this time. I guess Franny didn't either.
"Oh, Jesus. Come on, Robin. Don't start this again. Please!"
"Okay, he's special already. Really special. Stop crying!"
It had all been so easy with Chris, right from the beginning. He was the perfect boy and he chose me. I knew I didn't deserve him, but I had him anyway. Except now he was leaving and I couldn't stand it. I couldn't imagine what my life would be like without him.
When I heard the footsteps coming up the porch stairs I tried to sniff the tears back, breathe deeply, look normal. But it was obvious what had been going on — my face was blotchy and slick with moisture, and Franny was handing me a tissue. Chris stopped abruptly just inside the kitchen door and his smile faded.
"Oh, Robin," he said. "Not again."
Copyright © 2003 by Ellen Wittlinger
Posted October 14, 2008
Zig Zag by Ellen Wittlinger was an amazing book that kept me on my toes throughout the story. I extremely enjoyed this book for many reasons. One reason is that the plot line was incredible. It wasnt always realistic, however, it was very entertaining and fun to read. Another thing I liked about it was that the characters were relatable and deep. By deep I mean that they always appeared a certain way, however as the story continued, they changed and you found out why they were they way they were. Lastly, I enjoyed how the characters changed as the story went on. As they learned lessons and matured, they changed as people, normally for the better, and discovered things about themselves.<BR/><BR/> The plot line was also phenomenal. The book started out with the main character, Robin, finding out that her boyfriend whom is going away to college in the fall, is going away the Europe throughout their 'final summer together. Heart-broken and feeling sorry for herself, Robin decides to go on a roadtrip with her bratty cousins and her helpless aunt. At first, she hated the trip and only went on it to make her summer seem anything but miserable to her boyfriend Chris. However, as the trip continues, Robin changes as a person and learns that she doesn't need to lean on Chris to make herself feel good. She goes through an emotional rollercoaster while on the roadtrip, but in the end, she discovers things about herself that without this trip, would have never learned. <BR/><BR/> I enjoy most realistic fiction, however I think most people who love a good heartwrenching, funny book will enjoy this novel. Zig Zag is a book that makes the reader think about himself/herself in a different way.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 19, 2008
Posted December 19, 2007
I liked this novel, but I would not say loved. I did enjoy some of the humor, and felt bad for Robin having to deal with her cousins. I really like to travel, so that kept me interested, but it was nothing special for me. However, I never expected what happened with Dory when they were in New Mexico.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 28, 2008
Robin's boyfriend Chris gets enrolled by his parents in a summer program that takes place in Rome. It's their last summer together before Chris goes to college, but they won't be having that time together. Robin is so miserable. Robin agrees to go on a long trip with her aunt and two younger cousins that she never seemed to get along with, even after her uncle's death. The four of them start zigzagging through the country on their journey. Robin discovers parts of the country she never thought existed. Zig Zag wasn't the book for me. It had a good lead for the beginning, but when they got into their journey I started to read the book less often and got bored with it. I didn't really like the style of the book. Also, the journey started to get boring after a few pages since it started because the author was saying what they all did and taking it really slow. I would rate this book a two out of five stars because it wasn't a terrible book that I wouldn't recommend to anyone but it wasn't a fantastic book. I recommend this book to people who like books that are more journal-like and for people who are interested in learning a few things about our country.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 21, 2007
As the reader, you are taken along on the journey as Robin embarks on a life changing experience. Her longtime boyfriend, Chris, is spending his last summer in their small hometown of Thunder Lake, Iowa before running off to college. Robin had only one summer left with Chris before facing her senior year of high school without him. Unfortunately for Robin, the Melville¿s graduation gift to their son was to break them apart, or so she thought. Chris¿ parents had enrolled him in a summer program in Rome. Their last summer together was suddenly cut short. Devastated by Chris` departure, Robin reluctantly accepts an invitation to accompany her Aunt Dory and two younger cousins on a cross-country road trip. Spending time with recently widowed Dory and ¿bratty¿ cousins, 13-year-old Iris and 10-year old-Marshall wasn¿t exactly how Robin pictured her summer vacation, though it was sure to help take her mind off of Chris. For Robin, the trip begins as a nightmare. Cramped in a car with a family grieving the loss of their husband and father, Robin finds herself in the middle of every sibling and parental dispute. Iris and Marshall can¿t seem to get along and are constantly fighting with one another. Their outrageous behavior catches the attention of Dory and especially Robin. As their journey continues, Robin quickly realizes she has the ability to help her troubled family and in return helps herself. What begins as a teen¿s summer of disappointment becomes an life-changing adventure filled with growth and discovery.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2007
This book is really good...it surprised me some toward the end...it is clearly shown how robin changes in the story, also marshal and iris... i love this book and i enjoyed reading it too...it really is proof that a road trip can change you life!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 22, 2006
ZigZag was a really good book!It made me cry at times but also made me laugh.I can read this book over and over without getting bored...thats just how good it is. If your looking for some cluse about the book its about a girl who learnstocpe with life and her cousins one step at a time.She grows more mature and learns she doesnt always have to depend on somebody including her boyfriend.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 23, 2005
i loved this book. it made me want to take a road trip myself. it was also about family problems like what can happen to kids when relatives die. i loved how robin helped iris and marshall get over it. i loved it a lot and i couldnt put it down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 13, 2005
Posted October 10, 2005
Zigzag. Ellen Wittlinger. Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 2005. 264 p. Zigzag by Ellen Wittlinger was a fiction novel based on a teenager¿s life. The thesis or theme of the book is to not underestimate oneself and to believe in oneself. The main character is forced into a situation where she realizes qualities in herself that are crucial to her being a better person. The purpose of the novel was to teach teenagers to be independent. It also was for pure entertainment, not to educate someone about a certain topic. The audience of this book was probably meant to be for young adults considering the situations that were written about. My opinion of this book is very good. A woman who is 14 to 20 years old would typically enjoy this book because of the context. The literature is fairly well written, with a hearty amount of vocabulary. It also discusses appealing subjects such as high school, vacations, and relationships. Zigzag is a great book for someone to read for a leisure activity. Zigzag is about a seventeen-year-old girl who calls herself Robin. She lives with her single mom because her father left them when she was just a little child. The story begins in the summer right after school is released. Robin is astounded when her boyfriend, Chris, tells her he is going to a summer program in Rome for ten weeks. Robin is devastated because it is their last summer together because Chris will be attending Georgetown University in the fall. In her words, this is ¿no occasion for rejoicing.¿ As a result of the unexpected change, Robin decides to join her aunt Dori, and cousins, Iris and Marshall, on a road trip across the country, which they refer to as the zigzag plan. Earlier this year, Dori¿s husband and the children¿s father passed away. Since then the family has become even more dysfunctional than they already were. The four relatives zigzag across the country to discover places and qualities they never thought they existed. Each person is changed forever and eyes are opened a little wider. Robin learns change can be good and that she can be the person she always admired. Characters in the novel played a crucial role in the structure of the story. The whole story was based on the main character, Robin. Robin is a dependent girl who is very confused about who she is as a person. During the book, Robin discovers herself. She learns how to help others in need and most importantly how to help herself. Chris, Robin¿s boyfriend, is a rather selfish boy who is very rich. He is inconsiderate of Robin by going off to Rome for the summer. Dori, Robin¿s aunt, is very fragile because of her husband¿s death. She is very weak and is overtaken by her children. Iris and Marshall are Robin¿s cousins. They both have their own drastic problems. Iris suffers from bulimia, an eating disorder. She is also a complete brat who throws tantrums frequently. Marshall has frightening nightmares about death and draws inappropriate pictures covered in red ink, symbolizing blood. He also has random outrages where he curses and screams. Those are the characters that have a major impact on the story. Each character¿s personality changes drastically because they are all in different settings and surrounding from their daily life. This book achieves its purpose very well. The purpose was to entertain. Zigzag was not just entertaining it was humorous, sad, and scary all at the same time. It definitely satisfied the reader¿s purpose in reading the book. The significance of the title is so important to the book itself. The title of the book is Zigzag, which emblematizes the road trip the family takes. The road trip, designed by Dori, is to travel through southwest America, ending up in California. The group is taking the longest route, zigzagging across the country. They hope to see interesting landmarks and acquire knowledge from the trip. Dori refers to the trip as the zigzag plan because of the charWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 3, 2005
Posted April 5, 2005
Zigzag has to be the best book I have ever read in my entire life. It is full of teenage issues, family relationships, love, courage, and so much more!!! The characters are so great in this book! Ellen Wittlinger describes the scenery of the midwest so wonderully, I can almost see myself there! I loved the storyline,charcters, and everything about this book!! You should definitly read it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 4, 2005
This was a great book. I liked it a alot and really enjoyed reading it. It really fit the title with the events that happen throughout the story. It was a about a 17 year-old girl named Robin. She has a boyfriend named Chris who just graduated from highschool and this was their last summer together before he went off for college and he had some bad news to tell Robin. His parents gave him a graduation present to go to Italy for the summer to study. Robin was really upset about this and got furious. She didn't talk to Chris for days and they left eachother on bad notes. A few days after he was gone, Robin's aunt called and asked if she wanted to go on a road trip with her and her two children who Robin wasn't really fond of. Since she doesn't have anyone else to spend her summer with. The trip is really a big zigzag. Many things happen along the ride and you never know what to expect to happen next, then one big event changes everything and with that note you'll have to read to find out what.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 12, 2003
Satisfied is the way I felt when I finished this book. I almost loved this book, but not quite. Robin lives in Iowa with her mom and boyfriend. When the book opens, she's upset because he has just graduated and in September, he'll be going east to school. Then she receives further bad news, his parents are sending him to Italy for the summer! Coincidentally, Robin's aunt calls asking if she is free to join her aunt and cousins on a car trip zig-zagging their way to California. Of course there are some interesting developments along the way.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 10, 2011
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Posted January 18, 2011
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