Bubbles: A Novel

Bubbles: A Novel

by Abby Cooper


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


From the author of Sticks & Stones, a novel about friendship, overcoming obstacles, and what it really means to understand the people around you.

Twelve-year-old Sophie Mulvaney's world has been turned upside down. Mom lost her job at the TV station and broke up with Pratik, whom Sophie adored. Her teacher is making them do a special project about risk-taking, so Sophie gets roped into doing a triathlon. And to top it all off, she's started seeing bubbles above people's heads that tell her what these people are thinking. Seeing other people's thoughts seems like it should be cool, but it's actually just stressful. What does it mean that Pratik wishes she and Mom were with him to eat dinner? Is her best friend Kaya really going out with their other best friend, Rafael, whom Sophie also has a crush on? And can Sophie's mom ever go back to her old self? In this funny, heartwarming novel from Abby Cooper, BUBBLES shows readers that people are more than what they seem—or what they think.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374302900
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 07/03/2017
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 951,035
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 10 - 12 Years

About the Author

Abby Cooper has worked as a librarian for early-elementary school students and a K-8 library media specialist. She is the author of Sticks & Stones. She lives in Minnesota.

Read an Excerpt



The locks we use today were invented by a guy named Linus Yale in 1848, but his son, Linus Yale Jr., made a way improved version in 1861. He was like, Great invention, Dad, but I know how to make it better, and that's exactly what he did, and then his dad was like, Awesome, thanks.

History is full of cool facts like that. Real life, not so much.

The awesome thing about historical facts is that they're really easy to learn. You can get them from school, obviously, but also from books or the Internet or TV, and there's no end. You can learn as many facts as you can cram into your brain. Then, when your mom says things to you at night like "stay in bed" even though you're twelve and it's a weird thing to say, in your head, you can be like, Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867, and it almost drowns her voice right out. And when she pulls your tie-dye covers all the way up to your neck, and you look really close at her eyes and realize there are tears in them, you can roll away from her and think, Iceland has the world's oldest democracy.

And when she says, "I love you, Sophie" — well, that part is okay to listen to, because that's a fact, even if she has a funny way of showing it.

I rolled back around so I was facing her. "Love you, too," I said.

Another fact. I really did love her, but after almost four months, this bedtime routine was getting a little old. And depressing. Definitely depressing. Like the kind of depressing where the teachers who promise never to give homework on the weekends give homework on the weekends. But since it was mostly my fault she was like this in the first place, I just had to deal with it for as long as it went on.

She closed my door and made a clicking sound with her throat, which was supposed to be the imaginary lock she put on it so I couldn't get out.

Imaginary locks were invented in 2017 by Molly Mulvaney, aka Mom.

She put the same kind of lock on the front door to our condo, not when we went out out, like to school or grocery shopping or any of the other regular life things we still did, but usually just at night, and usually just for her. Nights were when she got the saddest, when she wanted to go downstairs to the second floor the most and knock on Pratik's apartment door, even though she knew that would be a super awkward, bad thing to do, probably even worse than the time I called Demarius Gilbert last year in fifth grade on New Year's Eve and told him I liked him.

So she pretended she was locked in, and I was locked in with her.

And that was fine with me, mostly. I didn't have anywhere to go. It was late enough that my best friends, Kaya and Rafael, were probably in bed, too, and it wasn't like we could go out for pancakes or anything. So when Mom put the imaginary lock on my door, I left it there, and I didn't go downstairs to Pratik's apartment (because we both knew that's what she really meant by "stay in bed"), and she didn't, either, and maybe my not going downstairs somehow helped her not go downstairs, and maybe that was a good thing. I definitely owed her a good thing or two.

But maybe, I was starting to think, it wasn't so good at all.

What was so wrong about seeing Pratik? He and Mom had gone out for almost two years, so he was practically family and we missed him a lot, even though they broke up four months ago, not long after school started. Just because he and Mom weren't together anymore didn't mean we had to be "stay in bed" about it.

Maybe if I could figure out how to help her, this weird bedtime ritual could end. I pulled back the covers and sat up straight. The problem was, there was only one person I knew who could help me figure Mom out, and that person was Pratik.

I got out of bed.

Maybe Mom's imaginary lock invention wasn't perfect. Maybe, like Linus Yale Sr., she needed her kid to make a few improvements.

Maybe imaginary locks were meant to hold firm only sometimes.

Other times, maybe they were better off broken.



I threw on my bathrobe and carefully turned my doorknob. If my imaginary lock had been a real lock, it would have probably made some weird clicky noise, totally waking up Mom and getting me in a ton of trouble.

I peeked around the corner to make sure Mom's door was closed, tiptoed out of my room, and inched toward the front door.

Part of me expected some scary loud alarm to go off as I grabbed my key and opened the door. But I went out into the hall and nothing happened except for my stomach feeling as twisty as the garlic knots Mom and I had eaten with our pizza for dinner.

Mom used to call us the Adventurous Girls. We used to be the Adventurous Girls before and during the time she dated Pratik. It used to be a no-brainer to order the hottest, spiciest garlic knots on the menu. It used to be a no-brainer to do any of the fun, adventurous things we did: getting off the bus at random stops and exploring new neighborhoods, taking flying trapeze lessons by the lake, trying every different ride at the state fair, even the really fast ones and the upside-down ones and the ones that flung you into freezing cold water ... but all of that was before. Now we had to try to talk ourselves into doing stuff like that, but we didn't try that hard. Mom would be like, "You want to?" and I'd shrug and be like, "Do you?" and she'd shake her head and we'd go back to watching our movie on TV or whatever and that would be it.

The truth was, we only had garlic knots tonight because there was some deal where they came with the pizza for free. I only ate one. Mom only had a bite. We threw the rest away.

I paused before I took the final two steps to get to the second floor. This was where Mom and I used to stop for our typical Stairway Selfie. We'd smile and snap a shot or two or ten with one of our phones, just to make sure our hair was good, nothing weird was hanging from either of our noses, and we were both still looking as cute as we had when we'd left our place. After all, it was at least a twenty-second walk from our condo to his. A lot could change in twenty seconds. I knew that better than anybody.

Twenty seconds was all it took for me to ruin Mom's life the first time.

And another twenty seconds to ruin it a second time with Pratik.

But maybe a third twenty seconds could fix it.

The garlic knot in my stomach felt bigger and knottier as I reached Pratik's door. I needed to be brave for Mom. This was not even a scary thing I was facing. This was a door.

I brought my knuckles to the wood, tapping twice, softly, and then stood back and waited, but no one answered. I glanced down at my Minnie Mouse slippers. What was I expecting, anyway? That Pratik would open the door, see me, and magically remember how much he cared about us and how much fun we had together? That he would come upstairs so Mom could be happy again?

When the Revolutionary War was going on and the colonists lost their first few battles to the British, they were pretty bummed out. They started thinking maybe all those rules and taxes and stuff wouldn't have been so bad after all. They felt totally silly. And standing in the hallway with no one but Minnie Mouse to keep me company, that's how I felt, too — maybe Mom invented the lock rule for a reason.

After waiting for what seemed like a thousand years (or at least until ten-thirtyish, which I knew it was because if I'm still awake at ten-thirtyish at night, my eyelids get droopy and my cheeks feel weirdly sore), I decided to do the only other thing I could think of: go outside. Pratik didn't always answer his door, but he usually left his shades wide open.

I crept down the stairs to the first floor (Ms. Wolfson's floor), and then opened the door that led outside. I pulled my fuzzy blue bathrobe closer to my skin. Chicago winters seriously don't mess around. Maybe a coat would have been a good idea. But I wouldn't be out for long. Just long enough to see if he was home and maybe figure out a way to get him to answer his door.

I hurried to the giant tree in front of our building and hid behind it. Then I slowly peered out, my droopy eyelids in full swing, and forced those droopers up. Pratik's light was on. He was totally home. I knew it.

He was sitting at his table, holding a fork and eating something that looked pretty fantastic. That was one of the awful things about Pratik — he was an incredible cook. Well, now it was awful, since we didn't get any of the food anymore. Even now, in the middle of the night, just thinking about his amazing spicy curry and naan and tandoori chicken made my mouth water up a storm. Oooh, and his spaghetti with the fancy turkey meatballs. And his chicken enchiladas. And his —

Okay, I had to focus.

The rest of the neighborhood was eerily quiet. Even on a Tuesday night in February, there was usually something going on in Wicker Park. Our condo was right off Milwaukee Avenue, where all the restaurants and stores were. But tonight, I could only hear the rustle of the wind. Go back inside, you weirdo, it seemed to say. This was a bad idea.

So I took one last look at Pratik and glanced toward the front door, figuring out how I could run back in without him seeing me or tripping and falling on my face. But maybe it would be good if he saw me. I guess I had the same problem Mom did when it came to Pratik — sometimes I wanted to see him and be seen, and other times I would do anything to make sure I was hidden away. It was usually one or the other, and whatever the feeling was, it was always really, really strong.

I tugged on the strings of my bathrobe so it wouldn't come loose and fall off during my attempt at a sprint, and then I peeked up one final time. I'm down here, Pratik. I'm down here, whatever yummy-looking greenish-tannish thing of deliciousness you're eating without Mom and me.

Poor Mom. She would probably love a greenish-tannish thing of deliciousness right about now. And she couldn't have one.

Pratik didn't look out the window. But wait — what was that? I scrunched up my eyebrows and tried to see closer. There was some sort of whitish bubbly thing hanging over him, like a funny-looking hat that wasn't actually attached to his head.

I tilted my head to the side. It had to be at least ten forty-five by now; I was probably losing my mind a little bit. This was super-duper-droopy-eyelid/weirdly-sore-cheek territory.

But was I really losing it? The thing definitely looked like a bubble, like the kind you see in cartoons with the three little dots coming out of the character's head leading to a big bubble where you can see their most private thought, the thing they're really thinking but can't (or won't) say out loud.

The big bubble, I was 99 percent sure of it now, was hanging over Pratik's head like it was no big deal. And, even freakier, there were words inside it, slowly appearing one by one. Words!

I squinted my eyes to read them.

Man, this food is amazing. I'm such a good cook! I wish Molly and Sophie were here to try this.

Just as soon as I read the words, they disappeared. What. The. Holy. Chocolate. Pancakes.

I froze to the ground, my eyes suddenly wide open and not droopy at all, as I tried to make sense out of what I had seen. The bubble was still there, but the words had disappeared after I read them. Maybe I had actually fallen asleep an hour ago and this was some sort of crazy dream. Maybe that spicy garlic knot had done something besides set my mouth on fire. Maybe ... I didn't know.

But I knew for sure that this going-outside — going-downstairs — business had been a terrible idea. Now, with these freaky bubbles, things were even more confusing.

At the same time — he missed us! He really missed us!

I snuck back into the building, took the elevator up, opened the apartment door, slipped into my room, threw my bathrobe on the floor, and dove into bed, pulling the covers all the way up to my neck the way they were before, the way they should have stayed before I got my crazy idea and was rightfully punished for it with more craziness. I shouldn't have done that. I should have stayed right here. Why couldn't I do anything right? I'd messed up so much stuff for Mom. The least I could do was listen to her when she said to stay in bed, and I couldn't even manage that.

After what felt like forever, my heart slowed down, my eyes closed, and I convinced myself that there was no way I could have actually seen what I thought I saw. There was no way. Cartoon people had thought bubbles hanging over their heads. Real people didn't.

Unless ... unless, somehow, they did.



A man named Walter Washington Williams was the last reported veteran of the Civil War. He lived till he was 117 years old, and when he died, Dwight Eisenhower, the president at the time, declared that it would be a national day of mourning, which meant that everyone would sit around being really sad the whole entire day.

I wasn't there, but I bet it was kinda like the day Mom and Pratik broke up.

It seemed like a normal day at first. No one was 117 years old and famous and on the verge of death or anything, so that was good. Mom was making pancakes. Pratik was on the couch, doing a crossword puzzle.

"Seven-letter word for delight," he said.

"Pancake," I said. He laughed.

"Not even a little bit, but thanks."

"Chocolate pancake?"

"That's sixteen letters." He smiled and threw a pillow at me.

Mom realized we were out of eggs. Pratik didn't have any either, so she went downstairs to see if she could borrow some from Ms. Wolfson. Ms. Wolfson was super helpful; she was always there to give us eggs if we needed them, and she was there if we needed anything else, too. Before Mom started going out with Pratik, I slept over at her condo sometimes if Mom got really busy with work on a school night. Ms. Wolfson made me the best cocoa I ever had and taught me how to play this really fun card game called cribbage. Besides Pratik, she was pretty much the best.

Pratik's phone rang right as Mom went out.

He glanced at who was calling and turned to me. "Can you give me some privacy, Sophie?"

"Uh, sure." I pretended to go to my room, but really, I ducked behind the couch. Adventurous Girls would never pass up a chance to have an adventurous spying session. It wasn't really spying, though. Technically I was giving him privacy; there was a whole couch between us. And what could he possibly need to talk about that he couldn't talk about in front of his almost-daughter?

"Hey," Pratik said in this super excited kind of voice. "Oh, I definitely got it, man." He pumped his fist in the air. "Yeah, found out last week. I can't believe how great this is." He paused. "Yeah, they have overseas offices all over the place."

Forgetting I was supposed to be hiding, I popped up and leaned forward so far that I almost fell over the top of the couch. "Overseas? Like, across seas? Like somewhere else that isn't here?"

Pratik almost dropped the phone. He shot me a look. "Gotta run," he said to whomever he was talking to. "I'll text you later."

I went back around to the front of the couch and sat down as he finished the call. Then he gave me another look.

"I know that wasn't total privacy," I blurted out. "Sorry! But you're going to go overseas? Like, to other countries? When? Where? Why?"

Pratik sighed and sat down next to me.

"Look, that was just something I shared with my buddy, okay? It's not going to be a ton of traveling ... but it is going to be a great new job." He got a dreamy look in his eyes that was pretty similar to the way my eyes looked when I thought about pancakes.

"I haven't mentioned this to your mom yet," he added. "Think you can keep it to yourself until I do?"

I sat up straighter on the couch. It was totally my fault for listening in, but I couldn't keep a secret from Mom. Especially one like this that felt sorta big, even though I didn't know exactly why.

"Yeah, your secret's safe with me," I lied. "I'm going to the bathroom."

Ms. Wolfson's bathroom, I added silently. Seriously, didn't he know me at all? An Adventurous Girl could never keep something like that to herself. An Adventurous Girl chose the adventure. So I jumped off the couch, hopped out the door, found Mom on the stairs, and told her what I'd heard.

That afternoon, Mom and Pratik broke up. It wasn't about the new job, Mom told me. It was about the fight they got into while talking about it, and then he broke up with her.


Excerpted from "Bubbles"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Abby Cooper.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
1 Imaginary Locks,
2 Downstairs,
3 Four Months of Mourning,
4 Risk,
5 Rainbow Insides,
6 False Alarm,
7 Try-athlon,
8 Rocks,
9 Ten P.M.,
10 Weird Whimpers,
11 Un-manifesting Destiny,
12 Secrets,
13 For the Gloves,
14 Spinning,
15 The Tough Eat Pancakes,
16 Wristbands,
17 Highlights,
18 Bubbles Are upon Us,
19 Noodling and Other Non-drowning Activities,
20 The Pool,
21 Steam,
22 Swimming (or Something),
23 Splat,
24 Work,
25 Truth,
26 Little Wins,
27 You Can Run but You Can't Hide,
28 Eruption,
29 The Stuff You Know,
30 An Update,
31 The New Project,
32 Tri Time,
33 The End of the Race,
34 News,
35 Figuring It Out,
36 Pancake Party,
37 All the Truth,
38 The End of the Bubbles,
39 An Adventure,
40 Climbing Mount Fitz Roy,
41 What You Do,
42 The Risks I Took,
Also by Abby Cooper,
About the Author,

Customer Reviews