A girl tumbles into a downward spiral when a romantic encounter turns violent in this heartwrenching novel from the author of Cracked.
Dell is used to disappointment. Ever since her dad left, it’s been one letdown after another. But no one—not even her best friend—understands all the pain she’s going through. So Dell hides behind self-deprecating jokes and forced smiles.
Then the one person she trusts betrays her. Dell is beyond devastated. Without anyone to turn to for comfort, her depression and self-loathing spin out of control. But just how far will she go to make all of heartbreak and the name-calling stop?
About the Author
K. M. Walton is the author of Cracked and Empty. A former middle school language arts teacher and teaching coach, she is passionate about education and ending peer bullying. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family. Visit her online at KMWalton.com and follow her on Twitter at @KMWalton1.
Read an Excerpt
I LIKE THE IDEA OF MAKING THINGS DISAPPEAR. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
It’s the dead of night, the murky time that’s thick with shadows and mystery, and I’m watching David Blaine and Criss Angel YouTube videos on my phone. As usual, I’m completely blown away. It all looks so real. I stare at the ceiling for a while, and my phone goes dark. In the blackness I listen to the steady hum of traffic. I lie still as stone and think.
The people’s reactions to the magic are the best. They’re always freaked out—questioning, smiling, looking to their friends for explanations that never come. It’s one of my favorite moments.
My little sister coughs from her crib across the room and startles me. I close my eyes and start fantasizing about making out with David or Criss. They’re both delicious.
I roll my eyes in the dark. Neither of them would touch me, not since I’ve put all of this weight on. Fantasy ruined. I put my phone on my nightstand. I toss and turn, trying to get comfortable. There are things I’d like to vanish from my life—maybe even a person or two. I’m not talking about killing anyone, but having them gone would be sweet.
I fluff my pillow and pull the blankets up around my face. I’ve already watched (and rewatched) a ton of videos tonight. I need to fall asleep. My opening game is tomorrow.
• • •
I’m in the locker room, yawning as I get into my jersey. It took some concentrated online searching to get one in my size. You try Googling “plus-size softball uniform” and see what you come up with. Answer? Nothing. The company that made the rest of my team’s uniforms only went up to a sixteen, which was fine for me last season, but I’ve managed to gain seventy pounds since last summer. And the royal blue on my uniform is a slightly brighter blue than the rest of the team’s.
Should make for an interesting season.
I know the only reason coach kept me this year is because I’m a hitter. Even as I gained weight all last season I was still the best hitter on the team.
“Listen up!” Coach booms. Everyone takes a seat. “East has Forman pitching today, so watch her slider.” Coach Douglas goes on and gives her pep talk, and we end it with our chant. I don’t feel like chanting because I’m so damn tired.
Our hands are all stacked on top of one another. Everyone’s hyping themselves up, and I’m wincing as I evaluate the thickness of my forearm compared to my thin teammates’. Mine is easily double the width.
“Come on, Dell! Let’s hear it!” Coach shouts.
I snap out of it and join in. My stomach clenches after each word, but I lay it on thick. I turn my head slowly from side to side—I want them all to know how psyched I am—and I chant like a banshee. Our shortstop, Amy, shoves me with her shoulder, her face curled in a snarl. “I’m gonna need to hear out there. Could you not scream in my ear? Thanks.”
I smile and nod. “Sorry, lost my damn mind there for a second.” I growl a few times to get her to smile. “I’m pumped, Amy! Rawr!”
Amy smirks. “Ha-ha,” she deadpans.
I look around as the huddle breaks apart, and no one catches my eye. They’re all talking and bantering among themselves as they make their way out of the locker room. Not one girl looks back to see if I’m coming or where I am. I’m by myself. Maybe I have disappeared.
Coach’s head is suddenly in the doorway. “Let’s go, Dell! Wake up.”
I snap out of my stupid thoughts and grab my hat and glove. As my feet hit the grass, I hear the tail end of the crowd cheering. I squint into the blazing sun and pull my hat down onto my forehead so I can see. Both sets of bleachers are full, since it’s our first game. I make my way to the dugout and notice people lining the fence along the first- and third-base lines. Lots of kids are here today, which is unusual. Typically it’s just some parents and a few teachers who love to watch softball.
I take my seat on the bench and immediately spot Cara—top row, left corner, like always. My gaze drifts a few rows down to my father’s usual spot. I know he’s not there. I still hoped he would be. Even though my father has been a jerk, I always liked when he showed up for my games. He hasn’t been to a game in a long time. His girlfriend, Donna, doesn’t like the sun.
Before my father cheated on my mom and blew up our lives, I was proud of him. Proud of his brainiac job, and proud of the kind of dad he was. He’s the one who got me into softball. He told me I was a natural. He even coached my team when I was little. The man documented every team I played on and every big moment with pictures and videos. Before each season he and I would sit and watch some of my best hits or slides or catches, and he’d give me pointers. He didn’t take the photos and videos when he moved out. Instead he leapt off the diving board and landed in the selfish pool.
Then he tried to drown the rest of us in it.
As Coach gives her last-minute pointers, I zone out, staring at the cluster of guys standing next to the bleachers on our side.
I spot Brandon Levitt right away.
I’ve been crushing on him hard since middle school. Whenever I see his smile and the way he bites his lower lip, it makes my knees buckle.
It takes me just a split second to realize that Brandon’s group is actually our baseball team with their coaches. Our teams try and support each other as much as we can throughout the season. A group of wandering girls suddenly grabs the attention of the baseball team. There’s lots of movement as boys high-five each other and girls fling their hair, jumping, hugging. And then there’s a kiss.
Brandon and his girlfriend, Taryn, lock lips. A surge of nervous energy goes directly to my heart.
I want to be kissing Brandon, which, as with the Criss Angel/David Blaine scenarios, I understand is a complete impossibility, given the fact that I am not popular, not pretty, and fat. Not the combination to attract the gorgeous star baseball pitcher with the hot body and big blue eyes. I may be a dreamer, but I am not an idiot.
Luckily, the game starts, and I refocus my attention. I play right-center field, and I think I’ve used my sleeve to mop off my face eight hundred times out here. We’re in the top of the seventh. As of yet I haven’t had a hit, which is unlike me. I think it’s this heat.
We’re losing, one–nothing.
East doesn’t score, and now it’s our turn to bat. I head off the field into the dugout. To shade. Glorious, glorious shade. The baseball team and their girl-crew have planted themselves along the first-base-line fence. They’re lined up twenty long. I’m going to have to run by them if I get a hit. My face crumples into a squinty scowl as I register this hideous fact.
Amy catches my expression and says, “You can’t give up, Dell. We can win. Just stop making faces and hit the ball.”
I give her an over-the-top salute and a goofy grin. She shakes her head and then says, “It’s not funny,” over her shoulder as she walks away.
I can’t win with her today. I don’t have any more energy to try to break the tension with my comedic genius. If Amy only knew how close I am to passing out, she’d be up my ass even more.
By the time I guzzle two water bottles, we’ve managed to get two outs. I grab my batting helmet. I’m on deck. I do a few practice swings and watch our current hitter get a single. I am now the winning run.
Please, please, please don’t let me look stupid running the baseline. Please.
I take a few deep breaths. I should be able to do this. I’ve done it a bunch of times. I used to be so sure of myself as I stepped into the batter’s box. Not anymore—each pound I’ve gained has jabbed at my confidence. The 286th pound must’ve been particularly pointy and sharp, because I feel deflated. And to make matters worse, I got zero sleep last night.
I step into the batter’s box and get into position.
“Hit it over the fence, Dell!” comes from my right. I don’t look over, but I’m pretty sure it was Brandon. I swallow hard and lick my lips. At least he’s not mooing.
The ball is released and I make contact. I toss my bat and run.
First base suddenly zooms away from me like in a cartoon. I feel like I’m running underwater. With bricks tied to my ankles.
The shortstop picks up the hop and throws it to first base.
I still run through the bag. My heart is pounding when I come to a stop. I desperately want to put my hands on my knees and catch my breath, but I can’t because it’d be too obvious that I’m about to pass out. I don’t want Brandon to see me panting—actually, I don’t want anyone to see me heaving. I put my hands on my lower back and raise my eyes to the sky, hoping to open up my throat and let air in.
“Why are you even out here?” East’s first-base player shouts over her shoulder as she runs off the field.
I haven’t caught my breath yet so I can’t answer her. What do you care, I think to myself, wiping off my face. The East team has left the field. My team has left the dugout. I am alone out here. I drop my eyes and shake my head.
What was that, Adele? Huh? What the hell was that?
Right now would be the perfect time to be zapped invisible, because I can’t stand here forever. I have to walk off the field, but I’m trapped—the only way off is past everyone leaning on the fence. They’re all still there, goofing around.
I shout, “Hey!” The group turns my way. I form a pistol with my hand and pretend to shoot myself in the temple. I go big with an exaggerated head snap and stagger. “Right?!”
I hear some light laughter roll through the crowd, and then everyone breaks apart. Kids walk away in twos and threes. Taryn’s laugh slices the air. She’s still surrounded by a few people—Sydney, Melissa, Emma, Brandon, and his buddy Chase.
I hadn’t seen her over there when I did my little fake-suicide-funny-ha-ha show.
Taryn looks over their heads, right at me, and says loudly, “She’s too freaking huge to hustle! She should not be running. Anywhere.”
My breath catches in my lungs and I gasp for air. I may pass out right there on first base, in front of them all. I don’t have a funny retort for Taryn. In fact, I am mortified into silence. Taryn turns on her heels and walks away. Her groupies all follow, except for Cara. She waves, points to where we always meet, and then scurries away. Why is Cara with those girls?
I somehow get myself together and walk off the field as fast as I can. My thighs rub together with each step. By the time I reach the locker-room door, my skin stings so badly I swear there should be blood seeping through my stupid polyester uniform.
I lean against the wall and inhale the smell of sweat. I don’t want to go in there. My teammates are quiet. I close my eyes and picture them all moping around.
I toy with the idea of just leaving, walking home and not looking back. I don’t care about my T-shirt and jeans in my locker. Then I remember my backpack. I have homework.
Shit. I have to go in there.
Coach is addressing the team with her back to me as I enter the locker room. Everyone watches as I waddle toward the back wall, trying not to let my thighs touch in any way. I’m sure I look like I’ve just crapped my pants. I catch two eye rolls and one sneer. Thanks, bitches.
“Everyone has a bad game, ladies. Even the pros. We let this one get away. Let’s remind ourselves how badly we want States this year,” Coach says. She drops her voice down an octave. “Don’t ever stop wanting it.” Her eyes match the passion in her voice. “When we stop wanting it, we lose. It’s that simple. Is everyone with me?”
My team gives her a weak “Yeah.” I don’t even open my mouth.
“Do you want to win?” Coach shouts.
“Yeah!” the girls shout. The energy in the room lifts.
“Do you want to win States?” Coach asks again.
Coach’s passion is contagious. Something feels awakened inside of me. My organs quiver. They’ve been switched from off to on. I’m alive again. I join in this time. “Yeah!”
I want to win a state championship. I always have. Coach’s words have done their job. I’m officially inspired. My guilt from today’s shitty performance slowly melts away as I pack up my stuff. Winning matters to me again. I want to feel the surge of pride that comes with hard work and success. How could I have let myself fall apart like this?
My hands work with silent enthusiasm, changing clothes and packing up. I’m done before everyone else. I sit back and watch my team in various stages of undress and marvel at their smallness. Don’t get me wrong—they’re definitely not a girly-girl group. Our best pitcher could probably level half the baseball team with her eyes closed, and she’s less than half my size. Some girls have their legs up on the bench, untying their cleats. I couldn’t get my leg up on this bench anymore with a crane.
But not for long. Good-bye pizza, ice cream, and cheese fries. I want to win.
Coach suddenly materializes in front of me and tells me we need to talk. I know what’s coming. Diet talk. But I’m ready to hear it this time. I leave my stuff and follow her back to her office. She closes the door, walks behind her desk, and sits down. I give her a little smile, just to let her know I’m on her side. She’s stone-faced and motions for me to sit down with her head.
“You looked awful out there today, Dell.”
I tighten my mouth and nod.
“I wanted to give you a shot this year because of your past performances. You’ve always been our best hitter.”
I squint. This isn’t heading where I thought it would. Exercise, eating right, blah, blah, blah. Why am I sweating again? My face, if wrung out, could fill a juice glass.
She reaches across her desk and hands me a towel. “I should’ve done this preseason. I’m sorry, but this isn’t going to work.” She exhales. “You’re not in shape, and that’s not fair to the rest of the team. Do you understand?”
I look through her as I lie and say, “Yeah.” I think I’m about to get cut.
“I wish I didn’t have to do this, Dell. But, Christ, I can’t have you blowing our chances at winning state. I have to cut you. Take the weight off, and we’ll talk next season.”
“Yeah,” I repeat. I look away and stare at the Phillies calendar thumbtacked to the otherwise blank white wall.
Softball scholarship to college—poof.
Degree in communications—poof.
ESPN sportscaster job—poof.
The only things connecting me to my shithead father—poof.
Now that’s some fucking magic.
Coach doesn’t say another word, and neither do I. Like a lost kid at the mall, I wander into the locker room with wide eyes and terror in my heart. The rest of the team is gone. I lean against the cinder block wall and smack the back of my head against it a few times. Despite my size, it never occurred to me that I could get cut from the team. I walk over to my stuff, grab my bat, and grip it until my knuckles turn white. I want to smash it into the wall again and again, until I’ve reduced it to a pile of dust.
“Turn off the lights on your way out, Dell!” Coach shouts from her office.
My hands release a little, and I start nodding for some reason. With shaking hands and a bobbing head, I somehow get the bat into my bag. Now I can’t bash up the locker room. I just want to get out of here. Far away.
I know Cara is outside waiting for me, yet I walk around the front of the building to avoid her. I am not capable of talking to her right now. She’s probably hanging out with the popular kids anyway.
On my walk home, my brain goes on processing overload. By the time I reach the steps to my apartment I’ve come to two major conclusions:
1. I’ve never meshed with my team socially. They’ve never invited me places or included me in stuff. I’ve always been detached, even freshman year when I was skinny. The weight I’ve put on has definitely pushed them further away from me.
2. Truthfully, I never needed any of those girls in my life—I’ve always had Cara. They can all, including my coach, shove softball up their firm asses.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have to say that EMPTY is one of the most tragic, gritty, raw and realistic stories that I have ever read. This is a story of a girl that has absolutely no self-esteem, no self worth, no respect for herself. Dell is a 16 year old high school student that deals with many, many issues throughout the book. One of Dell's biggest problems is that she is severely overweight. Like obese. Now, Dell wasn't always so heavy, most of the weight packed on as her life spiraled more and more down hill beginning in Middle School when her father left their family for another woman. Dell is so deeply hurt by this and the super close relationship with her father that no longer exists, she starts binge eating to make herself feel whole again. Of course that doesn't actually work but it feels the hollow, empty feeling she has inside of her for a very brief time. Dell's home life is one of a true nightmare honestly. Her mother has completely fallen apart since her husband left her. She has become addicted to prescription drugs, completely ignores Dell and leaves the largest responsibility of all for Dell to deal with. Her baby sister. Still in diapers, not able to do anything for herself. Thank goodness too young still to realize what a crazy mess her parents have really become. Dell's life at school is not much different from her home life. She goes every day with a fake smile on her face, making horrifying jokes about herself before others can beat her to it and then laughing along with them like it doesn't bother her. Yet all the while, she is slowly dying inside and feels that she has absolutely no one to share her feelings and fears with. Not even her so-called best friend. Yeah, the same best friend she's had for years. The same best friend that doesn't stick up for her and doesn't really talk with her. Really, it's just the best friend that seems to be the best friend because it's convenient. While watching all of the horrors that Dell had to live through on a daily basis made me hurt inside for the child she never got to be, the teenager she never will be and the adult that may become as hateful and/or miserable as her own parents. Dell's story is one that unfortunately happens in many homes all over the world and that honestly breaks my heart. When I finished reading EMPTY, I could not just go on with my life as if everything were normal. I could not stop thinking of her and how simply wrong it was for her to have a life as she did. EMPTY will move you in so many ways, you will be thankful for the life you have, for the love and friendships you have. Dell's story is honest, brutal, harrowing, thought provoking and truly breathtaking. Walton has written a story that is tragic and very memorable. Dell's story will stay with me always. I encourage anyone and everyone to read it. Maybe some will actually see that the sun doesn't shine all the time for every one. "EMPTY is Dell's story. Dell's story is important. Dell is in desperate pain. Her pain is in her soul. Her heart. Her very skin."
Is it possible to love a book and simultaneously rip out the last pages. If so, that is my feelings after reading Empty. The ending hit me in a way to personal level and i cried and nearly didn't finish the book... I was hoping for something different to happen. It left me heartbroken and wishing that things could change in this world, as well as hurting for myself, and my family who some of these issues have hit way close to my heart. That said, Adele is a character that could have been me in so many ways. I have tried to both east away and starve away my problems, as well add cut them away so I know what it means to shove down pain and problems and not deal with them. I just wish that I could give her a hug. Her voice was so powerful and she took me on quite a ride with her ups and downs. This book takes a dark and realistic view of important issues such as eating issues, bullying, the power of words both positions, negative and unsaid, as well as taking pills. This is for mature teens only with the themes as well as cursing. As for characters, while i liked Adele and wished things were different for her,.the other characters made me remember high school in a bad way. Bottom line. Powerful, dark and emotional book.
Tragic but realistic story. You see what bullying does to people. The ending is shocking and the story will stay with you forever.
Can i be your girlfriend
Lays on the couch sleeping
I was really indulged in the book since I can relate to Adele's experiences and extremely negative thoughts (self-loathing and among other things), but I really expected a better ending. I wanted to know what happened after her suicide. Did the people who bullied her or took her for granted feel any sense of guilt or regret? That was the only disappointment there....
One word, "Wow".
This book is amazing and the end made me cry.
Its a very touching story. I read it a year ago after I finished it I was crying for like 2 hours. It really makes you realize that the world isn't a happy place for everyone. You can look at her peers and think "Is that how I act towards my friends?" This book enters a whole other world of bullying. Dell is just one example. This book may be fiction, but it is a non-fiction book for so many teenagers around the world. Bullying can be fatal. If you want to think about your actions and the results of bullying, read this amazing story.
This book is very depressing, but its about Adele and how she is being bullied in school.Empty really makes you think about all of the good and the bad.But also you could reflect on what you did and what Adele did if you have experieced being hurt or betrayed by your own friends.It really grabs you by the heart and wants you to make the world a better place free of bullying.
i loved it and i dont like reading very much but i bought this book and read it in 4 days it was so good and her life is kind of like mine i feel its something that people can relate too.
Im locked outta all duh hunger games bkz..
A truthful look at bullying and how it affects everyone's life. Dell is constantly insulted about her weight and her "friend" really is just using her as an excuse to try to get close to the people bullying Dell. Dell's father was never there for her, and Dell's mother is a drug addict who criticizes Dell constantly. And Dell is all alone trying to just dissapear from it all.
What the heck?
Hey did i do sonething wrong
Is there suppoused to be a party here? If there is i will bartend. (: