Growing up is a trip. . .
In high school, there are few worse crimes than being smart or fat. Lucky me, I'm both. But when Beau Gales blows in to town, it takes about two minutes for the jackasses at our Seattle school to figure out he's gay, and that makes him an even bigger target. Have you ever heard the saying: 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend'? There's something to that.
When the bullying gets violent and Beau decides to run away to San Francisco to ask his Uncle Frankie for advice, we all go. Beau, me, Leonie (designated class slut), and a scruffy rescue dog called The Bomb--a tribe of misfits crammed into my mom's minivan. Throw in a detour to the Twilight town of Forks, armed robbery, cool record shops, confessions, breakups and makeups, and you have the kind of journey that can change the way you look at the whole world--and yourself.
"A warm, funny, bitterly wise portrayal of the impulsivity and vulnerability of adolescence. If you've been one of the 'weird' kids, if you've felt like nothing and everything all at once, if best-friendship is your medicine and snark is your armor, you'll get it." --Lindy West, writer for jezebel.com
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Beau, Lee, The Bomb, & Me
By Mary McKinley
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Mary McKinley
All rights reserved.
In early October, about a month after school started—right before it gets really crappy weather-wise in Seattle—is when I remember Beau blowing in.
And I must say, I wasn't at all upset that he'd transferred to our school.
I thought, Good; fresh meat.
Because I knew he would be tormented for the entire time he was at Baboon High.
Like I am. All day ... every day.
The first time I saw Beau he was wearing a deep blue shirt that matched his eyes. He was tall and skinny, with wavy dark hair and a nice face, a lot like John Lennon from the Beatles.
He'd come from a high school in another state and was tan. He hadn't got the memo about not wearing bright colors in Seattle. If you don't have on some variation of rusty black, you aren't part of the team.
I must have been staring because we made eye contact, and he nodded and kind of bobbed his chin, like "hello," which was more human kindness than I'd been shown in this freaking hole for years.
I was so shocked I stopped, and it must have showed on my face because he tilted his head questioningly as he walked by. I looked away and headed toward my classroom, but I was so off my game/perturbed by our little encounter that I didn't even hear the hissing and catcalls directed my way by the geniuses right away, till they knocked my backpack off my shoulder and a bunch of crap went flying. When I crouched down to grab my stuff, they stomped on it and shoved by me, hard, till I unbalanced and fell through the threshold of my classroom, on my ass.
Like I said, I am tormented every day of my life here. Every. Day.
And why? Good question! But is there a good answer?
Yes! Turns out: I'm fair game....
For I am Rusty, the Un-chosen. I am Rusty, the Shunned.
For real. They hate me. See, I'm extremely smart. And that's not good, but that's not all....
I'm also extremely fat.
And not just muffin-top-chub-club ...
Oh no, no, my friends; I mean I stopped weighing after I hit two hundred and thirty pounds. I don't even know what I weigh. I'm sixteen years old and I reflect on death nearly every day.
And the death that I reflect on is mine. Because I hate my life. Sometimes I actually daydream, for hours here in my room, about just what I'd do ... about the stress and the mess and how to deal ...
Not so much that I feel bad about how I look, because they don't even know I lift weights and underneath the fat I'm very strong, but because of the way I feel about the constant verbal and borderline physical abuse—just to stop the noise. To shut them up, finally, y'know? Just shut 'em down. Show them that they can't fire me 'cuz I already quit. Like: Hey, here's proof that I don't care about being excluded; screw you all, I'll exclude myself! Who needs a bunch of friends, anyway ...? I'll show you ...
Then I stop. Deep down inside my mainspring hasn't broken.
So far, anyway.
I'll know when I implode.
But in my own defense: Why is it always at my expense? Any regular person would be hammered down eventually by the intense contempt, followed by some stupid stab at humor. And seriously, if these guys had just one good line, just one killing joke, even just one little funny bone in their whole amoeba bodies.... But alas, no, and still there's never a letup. It's all day; it's moronic and it's unrelenting. You walk down the hall and people make barnyard noises, grunting and oinking in a pretty fair display of both their gift for comedy and their parents' degree of relation, which I do my duty to ignore. Bless their feeble little hearts....
And ignore it I do. See, I've learned the path of least resistance. A good day is when they just yell out things and laugh like hyenas, like they have the least clue what it is to be witty or clever or anything but an extreme waste of space. Always the dull tools, always a lot of them together, always. They do this because they are pack animals, and cowards.
And I have come to expect this. You see, I am not a stupid girl; oh no, quite the opposite. I am very suspicious of sudden goodwill. I have been fooled by that one before. Back when I still had hope. Back in the day, when I was young and my heart was pure ...
The popular girls in sixth grade are suddenly my friends! Wow, great; my life is going to get better now that we are getting older and maybe they won't make fun of me anymore, or at least just not so much.
So: my first slumber party! I even get to buy new pajamas! We talked about it endlessly at school that week; I was included and I was suddenly happy! I didn't know what I had been missing, this companionship of my peers, and to find it filled a deep chasm in my heart.
Oh, my, I'm sure you know where this is going ... I'll just say it.
They ditched me.
I called—the girl said, come over, they were all there and going for pizza as soon as I got there. So I had my mom, who was so excited that I was finally getting friends, drive me across town to this girl's house, and, because my mom is fat too, I told her to drop me off three doors down because I didn't want them to see her being all fat, and maybe make fun of me anew—so this is all my own crappy karma coming back on me—but she drove off and I knocked on the door, and of course they were gone. Her dad and little brother were there; they had no idea anyone else was supposed to show up; her mom had taken them somewhere, probably the mall, but maybe the other mall. I sat down at his insistence, and he called, but she didn't pick up, neither his wife nor his evil freaking daughter.
Her little brother just stared at me out of the corner of his eye and snickered. His dad frowned at him, but he was laughing too; you could see it in his eyes. I shrugged, said oops, my bad—I must have gotten the wrong day or something, and I live just a little way away so I'll just be on my way.
He didn't offer a ride.
I walked the whole way home. I was crying so hard my nose was dripping freely in front of me as I lurched alone along the side of the dark road, like some zombie in a stupid indie film, crying aloud in my humiliation, keening, screaming, stupid/ stupid/stupid, gagging, staggering, staggered by my gullibility, stopping to bend over to catch my jagged breath ... wondering why had they done it, wondering what had I done to deserve this? This is fair because they find me so ugly I don't count? They decide? Freaking low-rent morons! Terrible loser brats who grow up into terrible loser adults!
And yet they got away with it. It was soon, in fact, considered hilarious.
I cried myself hoarse because I could. They lived outside the city, and the road I was walking on was quiet and lonesome.
Because I didn't exercise in those days I was winded when I got back to my part of the town, which was only like five miles, but I was slow, to say the least. I had exhausted myself by this time, for the present anyway, and I felt dull-eyed and sullen. Also I didn't know what to tell my mom. When she saw me, she looked so disappointed it was like it was her party that failed.
My poor mama, who is too good for this world ... she should have been a nun. She thought about it for a long time. She loves Jesus and being Catholic and rescuing stray cats and dogs and being a nurse, which she gave up for us kids "till the baby is in high school." The baby—who was then in fifth grade—the only boy, also fat, also messed with, is my little brother Paul. We are the fat family, and my dad has taken off for parts unknown.... Actually that's not true; he lives in Alaska and sends money. He just doesn't come down much. This I must admit.
Anyway, I pulled myself together and went in and told my mom I had what's-her-face's mom give me a ride home because I felt sick. Which was very true indeed. I felt gut punched and nauseous and shamed. And by that time I looked it.
That night was the first time I thought about killing myself. I was twelve.
The funny thing is I really can't remember her last name anymore. Her family moved in eighth grade, and I hope she is as happy as she deserves to be; that, in fact, she is an ex-con living with neck-tattoo remorse, in an unheated trailer with bedbugs. Her first name was Kris, and she thought she was much prettier than she actually was. She wore her dishwater blond hair very long, but it was extremely frizzy and damaged, completely lacking shine. And she was so stupid it was almost endearing, watching her try to flounder along when it was her turn to read aloud; it was like a wiener dog in deep snow, her nasal whine woofing out words hesitantly, like an ESL student, her jackass friends braying out their valuable encouragement.
I tell you, I despair of this generation....
When I get home from school that evening, I get on Facebook and read my messages. I have friends in Scotland who are a little older than me and with whom I chat almost every day. Thank gawd for the cyber buddies. There are two girls I talk to every time I'm online: Sharon (aka Shazzie) and Winnie. Winnie is a nurse, and Shazzie is majoring in English, or "reads" English, as they say over there, when they mean "study" English. I crack them up. They think I'm "a right wheeze," as they say! I don't have any profile pics of my actual face; I either use The Simpsons' cartoons, Prince Harry, or I have this picture of Tina Fey (with her mouth wide open and her eyes bugging out) that I post on occasion. I also learned that to friend anyone who friended me from school was exhibiting very poor judgment. I stupidly did when they asked, so dimly excited once again that maybe ...
But no ... I ended up unfriending them when it became clear that all they wanted to do was post pics of the tortured Orcas of horrible, horrible Sea World and tag them "Rusty Winters" and send them to each other. The people from school who "friended" me were seriously not, but oh, the butt-clenching humor they spawned! I know that Facebook is no longer groovy for the teen set and I'm all yay, not a moment too soon! Let my lil' peers do Snapchat and Twitter and whatevs, I'll be fine if they drift away into the huge ocean of social media and are never heard of again; I won't miss them.
So I ended up friends with some of my mom's younger nursing student friends who are freshmen, and then one had friends in the UK; then I struck up a friendship with this one nurse (Winnie) and her friend Shazzie, both truly awesome young women in their early twenties in Glasgow, and their friends friended me and, well, you know. Now we talk every day.
I sit down at the screen that is my portal, like Narnia, and mosey onto Facebook. Now I'm in Scotland. Just like that. It's late over here in the UK.
"How was your day?" I see on my wall. "How are your new classes going? xx."
That's Shaz. She puts kisses but no hugs at the end of her posts, thus: xxx, but no xox. Winnie too. It's a Brit thing.
"Great!!!!" I write back. "Apparently I look like a garbage can! What do you call it? A rubbish bin? They mistook me for one today. Super fun!!!!!!! [??] x."
"What?!! How did they mistake you for a rubbish bin, Ry? xx."
"'Cuz they are stupid. I was, like, why are they sharpening their pencils so much, and then after the bell I stood up and all this pencil shaving fell out of my hair & clothes. xx."
"Very stupid!! Ugggghhh! Did the wee rotters get in trouble? xx."
"NO!!!!!!! [??] x."
"That's mental, Rylee! Why?!! Tell your mum!!!!"
"I have. Over other things. She yelled."
"Good on her—& you!! How is it now?"
"It didn't help except now they make fun of her TOO. It SUCKS [??] [??] [??]!!!!!!!"
"Poor YOU! [??] I HATE your bloody school! xxx."
"ME TOO! I SODDING BLOODY HATE MY BEASTLY SCHOOL!!!!!"
Which sounds so poser, when I say it like the Brits do. But I recharge. I really do. Sharon is awesome. I post again:
"Lol! Thanks, Shazzie! That helps!! I feel better! xxx."
"Never fear! One of these days I'll meet you in Glasgow for chai! Winnie too! [??] xx."
"And scones! Count on it!!! I'll be there with bells on! [??] xx."
How demented is my life that someone I consider about my closest friend in the world lives on the other side of the earth and could walk right by me and not know me? Or worse. Shaz and Winnie asked me to post a picture of myself, but I am too cautious a young woman by now. If they laughed or something I don't know what I'd do. I don't think I could stand it.
I don't even think they would—it's just I won't risk it anymore.
But that's par now; it's just one of many things I won't risk—like driving to school regularly. I learned to avoid risks a lot. I got my license and am in the process of saving for my own car. My mom's is a minivan, and it's a toss-up which is worse, driving that to school or riding the bus. I usually opt for the bus; they keyed "soooy" into the side of the van the first (and last) time I drove it to school. I'm thinking it was meant to be a hog call. But, hey, it could be a soy lover with a drawl....
You see, I can still jest. Smiley face. Ha-ha-ha. Lol.
That afternoon, New Dude Beau rode the same bus as me. Moving through the menagerie, amid the inevitable chorus of oinking and lowing and barking and other noises the swill feel necessary to utter when first I draw near; I spot an empty seat, thank gawd, and squeeze in.
Luckily it's a seat neither too far nor too close to the front.... I pull out my book. I always have a book. It makes for a huge "no trespassing" wall, (and also reading is fundamental, right?) I can stare right through the red faces trying to hurt me.
My mom says, "Ignore them!" She says, "They're the ones oinking like pigs." She says I need to "grow a thicker skin." Sometimes I come home and I go straight to my room and I feel like I can't even get to the bed before I lose strength and fall. I would grow a thicker skin if I knew how. She says, "Stand up to them," that I'm smarter than all of them put together. Which is true, but when I stood up for myself in middle school, it only increased the cruelties, all very cat and mouse; oh well, if she's not quite dead yet—let us mess with her some more, even.
So instead I grew thicker books. I've read The Grapes of Wrath twice, then Gone with the Wind. Then Uncle Tom's Cabin, then Anna Karenina. I've read all of Jane Austen and most of Charles Dickens. I love David Copperfield. No, not the magician.
Jeez, look it up....
But today was different. New Guy got on my bus. He hadn't been there in the morning, so it was unexpected. The extremely loud rabbling and noise stopped for a second when he got on. Then grew immediately back to its usual deafening roar. New Guy walked by me and sat about three quarters of the way back, which, if you're not part of the acknowledged too-cool-for-school group of academics that ride that region of the bus, is just askin' fer trubble, partner.
Which came ... I wasn't reading: I was listening while pretending to read, something at which I have grown expert. I watched from the corner of my eye. They started low and slow, just kind of testing the waters....
I hadn't heard the dawn of the chorus in a long time. I listen, fascinated.
"Hey, Blue Shirt! Hey—what do you think this is, the Gay Pride Parade?"
And of course—the fatal mistake: Turning calmly and looking at them, he says, like a normal human:
"Yeah, my name is Beau. Hi." He pronounced it "Bow," like "bow and arrow."
And with that he sealed his fate with the baboon colony.
He has that androgynous way of speaking that some guys do. It's just the way they talk. Whether they are gay or not.
The pack circled, smelling blood. One hyena alone cannot take down the prey, but an entire craven pack....
They explode into laughter, which, as they say, is only one letter away from slaughter, and it's on.
"Oh my gawd! Aahhhhahahaha! Wait—it's a fag reality show! Ahhhhh! Are you effin' kidding me? No effin' way!"
Only they're not saying "effin'."
Excerpted from Beau, Lee, The Bomb, & Me by Mary McKinley. Copyright © 2014 Mary McKinley. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was hoping this book would be good but man my money is wasted!
It's bad enough being smart or fat in a high school with known bullying issues, Rusty Winters is both. It's even worse to be gay, which is unfortunate for new kid Beau Gales. When Beau arrives, Rusty's first thought is relief when she thinks the school might have someone else to target for a while. But when Rusty and Beau become fast friends, it hits her hard when Beau's bullying escalates to a beating on his way home. Rusty and fellow misfit Leonie readily agree to follow Beau when he decides to run away to San Francisco to ask his gay uncle for advice. This road-trip novel is peppered with nods to The Wizard of Oz that range from clever to heavy-handed. A detour to the town of Forks (of "Twilight" fame) and numerous additional plot points—including the friends deciding how to properly deal with Leonie's molestation by her teacher and others, a car-jacking, and more—force much of the character development off-page in the form of time jumps and informative asides. Lengthy passages about the devastating effects of the AIDS outbreak, often reductive explanations of the gay rights movement, and numerous reminders about the importance of tolerance lend a self-righteous tone to the narrative. While the issues of bullying and gay rights are timely, outmoded pop-culture references and odd slang choices lend a dated feel to this novel. Worth a look for those hoping to flesh out their LGBTQ or bullying selections as well as hardcore Oz-philes. A good choice to pair with Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. *A slightly different version of this review appeared in an issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various sites online*
3.5 stars There was a lot to like about this book and some points I’d like to make as to why it could have been a better book. What was so wonderful about this novel, I believe is the storyline for starters. Bullying and being different was the story's theme. Rusty, was humiliated every day at school and it just became routine for him. Beau, a new student, starts taking the heat from the students because he’s gay. Rusty and Beau end up being friends and they lean on each other. This sounds like a great start and it is. The guys at school start a fight with Beau and his mother decides to call authorities. It’s too much for Beau so he decides it time to visit his uncle in San Francisco, perhaps he can give Beau some advice. Rusty knows he can’t travel this distance by himself, so she decides to accompany him and before long it’s a road trip. Leonie decides to join them also as her relationship is drama with a capital d. Everything moves smoothly, almost too smoothly I believe and the pace is quick. Things happen too rapidly without any warning. It’s not as if I wanted harm or conflict to the characters, I just felt that among the characters things were too perfect. They did have an incident with the Bomb but it only lasted for a few minutes otherwise they were one with each other. In San Francisco, the teens are living the life with Beau’s uncle and his partner, Oscar. My favorite character has to be Oscar. I loved his talks, his random all over the place feelings that were spewing from his lips. His thoughts were all tied together along a string, each like a thread falling off to the side, all filled with emotions and held together with his passion and energy. This book was good yet too perfect for me.