A heartwrenching YA coming of age story about three siblings on a roadtrip in search of healing.
With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip.
Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing upincluding falling in love.
Christy Ottaviano Books
|Publisher:||Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2008
Daylight creeps into the game cave.
I turn to Caleb. "We played all night, man. We played all night."
Caleb Ta'amu does not respond. His wide body is sucked into the sofa, long hair frizzing wild, eyes bugging on a flat screen, zombied out on too much Halo.
I toss my headset. Dig through fast-food wrappers on the coffee table. Grab my phone and shove it in Caleb's face.
He slaps my hand, pissed I'm messing with his gamer trance. "What the hell, T?"
"Check the time!"
Caleb checks it. He whips off his headset. "Do not tell me it's tomorrow."
"It's tomorrow, Caleb."
He drops his controller. Hops to his feet. "You gotta get outta here."
We sneak upstairs. Caleb opens the door. He rubs his eyes in the gray morning light. "Second day, junior year. We're off to a stellar start."
"Yeah," I say. "We're killing it."
"You gonna try and make first period?"
"I guess. You?"
"I guess. If my dad doesn't strangle me first. You better go, T."
* * *
I hike the sidewalk-less, residential streets of SeaTac, Washington. Drizzle spraying my face. Water sloshing through my shoes. A mile of dark, evergreen-tree-lined streets. Shabby houses, beige apartments, barred windows, rusted cars on blocks ...
I arrive at my destination.
But I can't go inside.
I stand, stuck in this spot on this potholed road, soaking up rain to the rumble soundtrack of Sea-Tac Airport jumbo jets.
They come. They go. Move in and out.
I cannot move.
And I can't stop staring at the dented-up front door of a tiny, falling-down rental house — our tiny, falling-down rental house.
And I can't stop thinking how we got here.
How two summers ago, we rode the happy housing bubble right into a bright blue, boxy, four-bathroom house down in Des Moines. My mom and dad's marriage needed a spark. My dad hoped a big new house would do the trick.
One year later the housing bubble popped.
The whole economy popped.
Orders for Boeing planes slowed way down and Fauntleroy Fabrication in Seattle — where my dad machined airplane parts and my mom was a warehouse clerk — went belly-up.
Papi's fat union check was gone.
Mami traded her living-wage job for part-time work at Walmart.
And we went from being a family that didn't worry much about money, to one that did.
I'll never forget the night last spring. My dad drove me and my sister, Xochitl, ten minutes from Des Moines to SeaTac. And he parked right here in front of this rental. Right where I'm standing. He told us he'd done the math and decided it would be better to hang on to some savings and walk away from the new house now, than be stuck owing way more than it's worth. He'd rather tank his credit for years than put us in a deeper financial hole. He said we'd swallow our pride and move on.
Then he pointed at the dented-up metal door. And said we'd be living here for a while.
The drizzle turns to showers. I take a step toward that door.
But I can't do it.
I can't open up.
Cuz I can't stop thinking about my big brother, Manny.
And I can't stop thinking about us back when we were still living in our old house — the solid little house we all grew up in — the one where we still lived when Manny left us for Iraq. For years, every time I saw our front door, I'd have this hope he'd be inside when I opened up. My brother would be sitting there, smiling at me like he never went to war. He'd be ready to toss a baseball. Take me for a ride in his Mustang. Fishing at the Des Moines pier. Slurpies. Double-scoop cones. French fries and homework help.
I'd see that old door, and I'd feel that stupid hope.
But Manny's tours of duty kept getting extended.
So I gave up hoping for Manny.
And I settled for hoping I'd walk in and catch my parents dancing or cooking together again, teasing each other like they used to. Something would click and they'd remember how good they were before my brother shocked us with his big announcement.
Spring of his senior year, Manny sits us down and tells us he's off to basic training right after graduation. He says he's been planning this ever since those towers fell a year and a half before.
My mom flips. She tells him he can't go because he's headed to college. She tells him he can't kill people for this lie of a war. That's what Mami tells him.
He gives Manny a back-pounding hug. Tells him he's proud and gives him his blessing.
And that's the start of my parents fighting their quiet war at home.
The front doors have changed since then.
But Mami and Papi haven't changed.
Screw it. I'm soaked to the bone and freezing cold. I walk up. Turn the knob. And push in that messed-up door.
* * *
My big sister is sitting at the table. Xochitl is postshow buzzed. Scribbling in her journal. Badass in her purple-striped hair and tattooed arms. Smelling like cigarettes and beer.
She shakes her head at me back and forth, dramatic, fake-parental, wagging her finger, then pointing at the spot on her wrist where a watch would go.
I shrug my shoulders. Make a pleading face, playing like I'm in big trouble.
She chokes back a laugh.
I can't help but laugh out loud.
She shushes me, leaves the room, and returns with a towel. Throws it at me.
I sit at the table. She sits across.
It's been so long since the two of us hung out.
And so long since we played Radio Xochitl. I raise my pointer finger in the air.
My sister smirks and shakes her head no.
I bob my head. Oh, yes.
She looks to our parents' room. Mouths the words, It's too late.
I know she can't resist showing off. So I press the invisible power button and Xochitl starts singing.
She's Aretha Franklin. Powerful, even with the volume on low.
They say that it's a man's world.
She keeps her eyes on me.
But you can't prove that by me —
I mime spinning the dial. Xochitl babbles gibberish as stations fly by.
I stop and she belts out norteño — Los Tigres del Norte.
Somos más americanos que toditos los — I turn the dial. Xochitl busts it.
My method on the microphone is bangin' Wu-Tang slang'll leave your headpiece hang —
I spin again and again and she doesn't miss a beat. Dixie Chicks, Café Tacuba, Jill Scott — then serious and intense with some Ani DiFranco ...
What kind of paradise am I looking for? I've got everything I want and still I want more
Even in a whisper, Xochitl can kill you with a song. I poke that power button in the air. Radio Xochitl fades to silence. She's smiling, loving this. I'm smiling. Loving my crazy sister. The doors have changed. Thank God Xochitl hasn't.CHAPTER 2
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2008
Xochitl wasn't quiet enough. My mom woke up and freaked about my all-nighter with Caleb. So today I head straight back to the rental after school.
Xochitl's here, too. She's never home for dinner. I'm guessing she either got fired from selling zit cream at the mall or she quit another band.
Mami doesn't ask questions. We're all home, so she gets to work whipping up her one comfort food specialty: green chile cheeseburgers.
Mami's uncle, our Tío Ed, got married to a New Mexican and moved down there a long time ago. He started farming New Mexican green chile, and for years he's sent us a box every fall. Mami tried out the recipes they make down there, like green chile enchiladas and green chile stew. Those were tasty as hell. But the Avila family go-to became the green chile cheeseburger.
These peppers are not jalapeños. Not poblanos. I got nothing against 'em. But New Mexican green chile was created by the Almighty Gods of Flavor for the purpose of combining heat with cream or cheese and creating ecstasy in your mouth. So Mami only pulls them out of the freezer for special occasions.
I don't think this qualifies as a special occasion. But I'm not gonna argue.
It's a quiet dinner. Nothing but the sounds of faces being stuffed till Xochitl slaps a drum roll on the table. She splashes an imaginary cymbal and says, "I bring you this announcement from Fallujah, Iraq: Manny's coming home! They promised. He's home for good in February."
"How do you know?" Mami says.
"We e-mail. It's all set up. He'll call you with the details."
Mami looks at Xochitl like she feels sorry for her for being hopeful.
We've been burned so many times. I can't stand Xochitl even talking about it.
My dad says, "Vamos a ver, mija. We'll see."
Xochitl scoots her chair back. "We can't wait, Papi." She hops to her feet. "We have to get our act together now. For Manny."
Barely twenty years old, and she's taking charge. "We have to make this house feel like a home," she says. "We'll paint. Put up prints. Get our old furniture in here."
"Xochitl, stop," I say.
"I'm not stopping. And I'm reinstituting game night. Everyone plays." She points at our parents. "And you two are going out on mandatory dates."
"Xochitl," Mami says.
"Déjalo, mija," Papi says.
"At least talk to Father Michael?"
What is Xochitl talking about? We haven't been to mass in forever.
Then she points at me. "What's Manny gonna think when he sees you, you big lazy clown? There's a world out there, T. Find a passion. Set a goal. And go for it, bro!"
I make a beeline for my room, pissed at my sister for turning on me. Pissed at her for jacking up the volume on our quiet dysfunction.
Before I can slam my door, she says, "He's coming home, guys. Let's see some energy. Let's see some smiles. Oh, and I quit the Art Institute."
"No, Xochitl, no." Mami drops forehead onto palm and shakes her head. "You can't do that."
"I already did."
Xochitl tells them it's great she's quitting because it's too expensive. Plus she can work full-time during the day and help with rent and bills till Papi finds union work again.
"This way I'll be home afternoons before rehearsals to help out," she says.
"We're okay," Papi says. "No te preocupes tanto, mija."
Xochitl looks at the bare walls of the rental. Looks at our parents. Shakes her head. "We have to get right. And we need to do it before Manny comes home."
I wanna tell Xochitl that's impossible. Cuz Manny being here — being with us — is the only thing that can get us right.CHAPTER 3
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2008
Breaks squeal. Rubber doors slap open. I hop a bus headed for Seattle. I do not care where.
It's been a whole week of my sister telling us stuff we already know about how bad we suck. A whole week of her taking charge in a way our parents should be taking charge.
Plus, she bought Risk. And tonight she will open that box. My mom will grumble as Xochitl explains the rules. Papi will ask a ton of questions. Xochitl will try very hard to explain. Mami will roll eyes at both of them. Then Xochitl will bawl them out like she's the parent.
If I'm there, I'll get pissed and walk out and my sister will throw down another lecture about my lame life. And the whole night will be a confirmation that Manny's still gone, my parents are a lost cause, and Xochitl has flipped and she's no longer my sister.
I flash the driver my pass. He nods. The breaks exhale. The engine rumbles and jerks us into traffic.
I would be over at Caleb's, but his dad got on his case after our all-nighter. Kennedy Ta'amu told Caleb it was time to get a life. Play a sport. Volunteer at church. Get a job. So now he's working a couple nights as a dishwasher at Vince's Pizza.
The bus winds its way north. Up Pac Highway. Past Sea-Tac Airport. Onto 405, then I-5. Into Seattle. The U District. The University of Washington campus.
I hop off at the Husky Union Building — the HUB — a brick, ivy-covered, dry place to kill some time.
I pull open the old wooden doors, walk past a bike shop, past a little branch of University Book Store, into a big open corridor. College kids lounge at tables and couches. They flirt. Surf the web. Read important novels. Argue about important things.
I head over to a newsstand to grab a Coke. I pay the lady and turn to go. No big deal.
But I almost bump into the girl behind me cuz she's on one knee tying her laces. She's got this shiny, dark brown hair hanging down so I can't see her face, but I got a feeling she might be cute and I want to find out.
So I fake sneeze.
The girl springs to her feet. "Do everyone a favor and cover that stuff up."
All I've got are uhs and ums because she is, in fact, kind of cute. Cute cheeks. Cute scowl as she stands there with cute brown eyes staring at me through long lashes and black dork glasses.
"Sorry about that," I say as I walk away fast.
"You wait, mister." She grabs me by the arm and examines my face.
And I'm like, "What?"
And she's like, "Your momma taught you better than that."
"Excuse me? My momma?"
"Yeah. She taught you better."
"Leave my momma outta this cuz you don't know my momma."
Then she slips a bit of a wicked smile. "I think maybe I know your mamá."
I can't help but slip some of my smile and say, "How you think you know my mamá?"
And she says — her smile growing bigger — "Summers in Florence, Oregon. My great-uncle Frank's place."
I'm frozen stupid as time and space mess with my head.
This is Wendy Martinez, Frank O'Brien's grandniece.
But the Wendy Martinez from way-back summers was not cute. She was a bossy little busybody who chased me around and drove me nuts and — I'll admit it — I was a tiny bit scared of the little Wendy.
"You had better manners back then," she says. She busts out a full-on smile. "Teodoro Avila! Dude! Hug it out!"
We go in for the hug. Wrap arms like people do and ...
Oh. My God.
This hug. It's like firm? But soft and warm.
I turn to jelly in Wendy's arms as she squeezes tighter and my mind — everything fades and this is all there is. Me wrapped around Wendy. Wendy wrapped around me.
Then both of us — at the same exact time — inhale deep and fast and look big eyes right into each other.
That breath, those eyes — it's all way too much. So we let go and step back.
"My mom's at the bookstore," she says. "You have a second to talk?"
"I have lots of seconds," I say. But I'm thinking, I got the rest of my life, Wendy Martinez.
We find a bright spot in the atrium. We sit across a table from each other. Smile some nervous smiles. Then Wendy asks me about the family.
I tell her to go first.
Wendy says she and her mom still live a couple hours away in Vancouver, across the river from Portland. She's here at the University of Washington looking into a scholarship for women in science. She says this is the place to study health care. She's thinking about med school already. Wendy's got all the data and all her stuff one hundred percent together.
Before I know it, she asks me what I'm doing here.
I start telling Wendy about staying away from game night, but that feels way too complicated. So I sneeze again — I cover up this time — and I tell her that I am also here checking out the University of Washington, only I call it U-Dub so she knows I know people call it that.
And I say it with a straight face. As if I believed they would let me into the University of Washington. For actual college.
That's the first of my lies as I try to convince beautiful and brilliant Wendy Martinez that my parents are doing great. Xochitl's got a great music career going and she's doing awesome in art school. And I'm carefully considering my many college options before making my decision.
The thing about Wendy — besides her smile, her hair, her not-skinny curves, and those smart-girl glasses — is she is so full of caring. Like when the subject of Manny comes up and I tell her how bad I miss him. How scared I am he might never come back. Wendy looks me in the eyes as I talk. Touches my hand to make a point. Asks me if I'm okay — like really okay.
And when a stupid tear slips when I say I miss him, she acts like it's nothing. She just reaches over and wipes it away with a finger midsentence and says she can't imagine how stressful the waiting must be. How difficult it must be on all of us that Manny keeps getting redeployed. How much she hopes he makes it back.
When people try to make us feel better about Manny, they say, Everything's going to be okay. God has a plan. Everything happens for a reason.
Wendy doesn't say any of that BS. She gets that it's way more complicated. And that makes me like her even more.
In a minute, Wendy's mom walks our way. Rebecca O'Brien acts thrilled to see me. She asks how the family is and I keep my lies straight as Wendy takes off running. We watch her go and I'm about to ask, but Rebecca sighs and says, "You never know with that girl."
Rebecca tells me Uncle Frank misses us terribly. She says it'd be great if we all spent a week in Florence, like old times. I tell her I'll let Mami and Papi know.
Pretty soon, Wendy's standing there again, one hand hidden behind her back.
Rebecca edges away and it's clear they have to go.
I don't want this moment to end, so I say, "Wendy, being here, soaking this place in, I think this old U-Dub might be tops on my list."
"That's awesome," she says. "It'd be great if we both went here."
Then I totally lose it and I tell Wendy if she comes here, I'm coming here.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "American Road Trip"
Copyright © 2018 Patrick Flores-Scott.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Thursday, September 4, 2008,
Thursday, September 4, 2008,
Wednesday, September 10, 2008,
Thursday, September 11, 2008,
Friday, September 19, 2008,
Wednesday, October 1, 2008,
Friday, October 3, 2008,
Saturday, October 11, 2008,
Tuesday, November 4, 2008,
Friday, November 28, 2008,
Saturday, December 6, 2008,
Saturday, December 13, 2008,
Tuesday, December 16, 2008,
Wednesday, December 24, 2008,
Friday, January 9, 2009,
Monday, February 2, 2009,
Tuesday, February 3, 2009,
Saturday, February 7, 2009,
Sunday, February 8, 2009,
Wednesday, February 11, 2009,
Tuesday, February 24, 2009,
Wednesday, February 25, 2009,
Thursday, March 26, 2009,
Sunday, April 5, 2009,
Monday, April 6, 2009,
Tuesday, April 7, 2009,
Thursday, April 9, 2009,
Thursday, May 7, 2009,
Friday, June 12, 2009,
Saturday, June 13, 2009,
Sunday, June 14, 2009,
Monday, June 15, 2009,
Monday, June 15, 2009,
Tuesday, June 16, 2009,
Wednesday, June 17, 2009,
Wednesday, June 17, 2009,
Thursday, June 18, 2009,
Friday, June 19, 2009,
Sunday, June 21, 2009,
Monday, June 22, 2009,
Friday, June 26, 2009,
Saturday, June 27, 2009,
Sunday, June 28, 2009,
Monday, June 29, 2009,
Tuesday, June 30, 2009,
Thursday, July 2, 2009,
Friday, July 3, 2009,
Sunday, July 5, 2009,
Friday, July 10, 2009,
Friday, July 31, 2009,
Saturday, August 1, 2009,
Saturday, August 8, 2009,
Wednesday, August 12, 2009,
Thursday, August 13, 2009,
Friday, August 14, 2009,
Monday, August 24, 2009,
Tuesday, August 25, 2009,
Tuesday, September 1, 2009,
Wednesday, September 2, 2009,
A Note on the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans,
Praise for Jumped In,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I absolutely loved this book. I woke up this morning at 3:30 so I could finish it. This novel is about sacrifices, family, war, about giving of yourself and yes, there is some romance. I loved the cover of this novel but I don’t think the synopsis gives the book the justice, that it deserves. T’s brother is returning home from the war but in reality, the war is coming home with Manny. Manny has PTSD. T’s family is trying to reverse time and make things like they were before Manny went off to war. It sounds easy as they paint and refurnish their home with items from years past but the calendar has been flipping and times have changed and individuals have changed, all the while he was gone. T is trying to turn his grades around so he can attend college, not an easy task when he was one of the low ones on the totem pole. His determined to change is Wendy. Wendy, the girl he grew up, the girl who thinks she knows T. Xochitl is determined to bring her family together. She wants her family to be the people they were before Maddy left and she will give up everything she has to achieve this. Xochitl realizes the world that she wants is not coming into focus, so she plans a trip with just her two brothers. I’m not saying anymore about this novel except that I really loved it. It’s an emotional book, a book that gets to the heart of the matter. As I finished reading this book, tears where falling down my face. This story feels real. It’s definitely one that I highly recommend- it’s a keeper!