Forward Me Back to You

Forward Me Back to You

by Mitali Perkins

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Overview

The award-winning author of You Bring the Distant Near explores identity, homecoming, and the legacy of assault in this personal and ambitious new novel.

Katina King is the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, but she’s having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past.

Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in India and is reluctant to take on his future. If he can’t find his roots, how can he possibly plan ahead?

Robin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places—a summer service trip to Kolkata to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds build between the travelmates, Robin and Kat discover that justice and healing are tangled, like the pain of their pasts and the hope for their futures. You can’t rewind life; sometimes you just have to push play.

In turns heart wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins's Forward Me Back to You focuses its lens on the ripple effects of violence—across borders and generations—and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.

This title has Common Core connections.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374304928
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 04/02/2019
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 326,700
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)
Lexile: HL690L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Mitali Perkins has written many award-winning books for young readers. Her novel, You Bring the Distant Near, was a Walter Honor Book and a National Book Award Nominee, won the South Asia Book Award, and received six starred reviews, in addition to other accolades. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India, and has lived in Bangladesh, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana. She currently resides in Northern California.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

KAT

INT. KING APARTMENT, EAST OAKLAND — NIGHT

Canine. Feline. Avian.

Zoologists use taxonomy to separate predators from prey. Backs to a wall, dogs bite. Felines scratch. Birds peck.

Katina King classifies herself as a mountain lion.

She might have become a tame cat in a safer world. But when she was eleven, her body changed so fast it turned her into prey. Nothing she could do to stop luring canine eyes, so she'd put on a feral mask since then to prowl the hills of Oakland.

Fangs, claws, snarl.

They should have kept wolves away, but they didn't.

Later, she realizes she should have called the cops. But she doesn't even tell her mother what happened until she's caught throwing up in the middle of the night. Kat's so tired from three nights of no sleeping that the truth comes hurtling out before she can stop it.

"He did what?" Kat's always seen her mother as a pigeon. But if someone comes after her daughter, look out for beak and talons. "I'm calling Saundra right now. Oh, honey!" The two of them are on the sofa sitting so close it sounds like Mom's best friend is in Kat's ear. "Let me talk to her," Saundra says.

Mom hands over the phone. It's wet with tears. Disgusting Wolf. Kat hates him even more for making Mom cry. Not me, she thinks. Never me.

"When did it happen, Filhote?" Saundra asks. She's in Panther mode — even uses Kat's Brazilian jiu-jitsu nickname. Kat's been Lion Cub since she started training with "Pantera" at eleven; this is the same growl that's coached her to victory over other aggressive jiu-jitsu opponents.

"Three days ago. In the stairwell. At school."

"Security cameras?"

"Don't think so." Probably why he picked the place.

"Any bruising — apart from what you got at practice? Scratches on your skin?"

"Nothing new." Kat's scrubbed so hard in the shower it feels like she doesn't have much of her own DNA left on her skin.

"Still got the clothes you were wearing? Did you wash them?" Kat hesitates. "No. I put them in the trash."

"When's garbage pickup?"

"Yesterday." Stupid, stupid me. Should have known to keep the clothes. But her mind's been a blur.

Saundra doesn't yell like she does when Kat makes a dumb jiujitsu move. "Be there in ten," she says instead.

Mom's crying hard now. Kat puts an arm around her shoulder and pulls her close. This is exactly why she didn't tell her mother right away. Don't let him do this to you, Mom. Don't give that Wolf power over us.

Saundra gets to their apartment so fast Kat wonders if she used the siren on her patrol car. "You okay?" she asks, scanning Kat's face.

Kat has her fiercest fighting expression locked into place. "I took care of him."

Mom sits up. "How? Saundra, he tried to —"

"He didn't, though." Kat turns to Saundra. "I couldn't think at first — it didn't seem real — but then the instincts kicked in. Used a Kimura to break his hold."

"Good job," says Saundra. "Any injuries for him?"

"Broken pinkie, rotator cuff sprain." Kat takes a breath. "He's saying it happened during a pickup basketball game."

"We'll report him to the police," Mom says. "It's not too late, is it, Saundra?"

Saundra sighs. "No hard evidence, Mary. It would be her word against his. But I'll drive you to the station if you want. Take a moment, Kat; think hard."

That's what she shouts when an opponent's got Kat trapped on the mat. Take a moment, think about your next move; think hard. And so Kat does. Cops or no cops? What would she gain if she reported him? Nothing, really. Just more time on the mat with that Wolf. I'm not wasting one more ounce of energy on him. I left him in pain. He tapped out. I'll get over this; I know I will.

It's second semester of junior year. ACTs are coming up. She works twenty hours a week at the zoo. Jiu-jitsu practice and matches. Chores and paying bills. Honors classes. College applications staring her in the face.

"No cops," she says.

"He assaulted you, Kat!" Mom says.

"I stopped him."

"But —"

"Nothing happened!" Kat stands up. "I'm

FINE. He's the one who's injured — not me!"

"Then why were you the one throwing up?" Mom asks. "We have to tell someone. The school, at least."

Kat scowls. "Nobody'll believe me."

Why would they? He's a basketball alpha. They rule the school. On top of that, he's charming, handsome enough to be a local social media celebrity, high GPA. Grew up in the hills in one of those big houses with two lawyer parents who donate big bucks to Sanger Academy.

And Kat? She overheard a whispered conversation once in the bathroom.

"That King girl has a tiny white-trash mom."

"Really?"

"Yeah. She's 'biracial,' I guess, but just brown enough to win a scholarship."

"Filhote, this isn't just about you," Saundra says, interrupting Kat's thoughts, and her voice is gentler now. "What if the next girl can't fight him off?"

Dang.

She hadn't thought about him trying that stairwell stunt again.

Saundra's right. Kat's going to have to speak the truth at Sanger Academy.

CHAPTER 2

ROBIN

INT. THORNTON HOUSE, OUTSKIRTS OF BOSTON — NIGHT

On Robin's eighteenth birthday, the Thorntons eat takeout Indian lamb biryani as usual. It's an annual tradition. Nobody is sure if March fourth is his actual birthday, but they've always celebrated it on this day.

"We know you were born sometime in early March," Mom says.

"Anyway, you 'march forth' into the future every year," Dad adds.

It's just the three of them this time. Robin's grandparents don't leave Florida much. And he didn't feel like inviting Brian, Ashley, Ms. Vee, PG, Martin, or even Gracie, even though some or all of them had been at his previous birthday celebrations. Gracie sent a card that said "Cristo es mi superhéroe." The rest of them texted, called, sent cards. Except Brian, who probably forgot.

"Glad we have privacy, actually," Dad says, handing Robin a square ivory envelope. "Here you go."

Robin doesn't open it right away. He already knows what's inside. The expensive envelope is embossed with raised letters: EDWARD THORNTON III. That's his name, too. He's been Edward Thornton V for fifteen years, but he never introduces his brown, Indian self as "Edward." That name belongs to his tall, blond father, who looks exactly like a younger version of Edward Thornton III.

The mirroring stopped there.

In the orphanage in India, he'd been "Ravi"— a name he secretly likes — but his parents nicknamed him "Robin" when he started school. And for some reason that stuck. He's never told anyone how much he hates it. A sidekick's name. Even his online gamer tag is a version of it: boy*wonder_7. He didn't get to pick that, either. Brian — dark*knight_7, of course — chose it when they were seven. The only thing worse is "Little Guy," which is what Brian calls him in real life.

"Aren't you going to open it, Robin?" Mom asks.

Robin pulls out the matching stationery inside the envelope — it's embossed with his official name, too — and silently reads Grandfather Thornton's spidery handwriting.

Dear Robin,

Happiest of birthdays to our one and only grandchild. You're turning eighteen this year, which means you now have access to your charity trust fund. We have been blessed with wealth in our family, but as you know, my dear Robin, the Bible tells us that "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." One way to moderate the negatives of having money is by giving it away generously. I won't tell you what to support, but here's a bit of advice if you'll bear with me: Find some cause or work that you care about, and be a thoughtful, informed donor. Give with passion and joy. "God loves acheerful giver," the Bible also says, and I trust (pun intended) you'll find that to be true.

Sincerely, Your loving grandfather

Robin has known for years that a charity trust fund was coming his way. His parents have given through Dad's fund to many different causes. What he hasn't known, though, is the amount — now fully in his care — that Grandfather Thornton scribbled as a postscript.

"Wow," Robin says aloud, putting the letter back into the envelope. "That's ... a lot."

"A big responsibility," Mom says.

Her words make Robin feel like he's wearing a heavy suit of armor engraved with the family crest. No wonder he's always wanted a sibling — to help shoulder the weight.

"Did your grandfather tell you his two requirements for giving?" Dad asks.

"Yep. Passion. And joy," Robin mutters. Neither of which I have.

There's a silence.

"The shelter could always use a donation," Dad says brightly. His "job" as president of the family's jewelry business is mostly a figurehead role, so he works for free at a nonprofit in Boston that serves the homeless.

Mom has a real job — public defender for the County — but she's also on the board of an organization that helps resettle refugee families. "Our fund-raising gala's coming up," she says. "You can consider that, too."

Geez. It's been three minutes since he opened the letter, and already they're making decisions about how to give away his money. "I'll think about it. I'm kind of tired. Got homework, too."

His parents exchange looks.

"What about your cake, honey?" Mom asks. "I picked up those big candles — a 'one' and an 'eight'— for you to blow out."

"You guys eat it. We aren't even sure it's my real birthday, anyway. Good night."

During cake time, he knows Mom will say a prayer of thanksgiving for Robin's "first mother, who gave him the gift of life." For some reason, this always makes Robin squirm. It feels like she's giving thanks for a bad accident or a big mistake. Or even a wrong decision.

He doesn't want to think about the past. Not when he's trying to survive the present, and everyone seems to be worrying about his future.

CHAPTER 3

KAT

INT./EXT. OAKLAND — DAY

Turns out Sanger has a judicial process to handle this kind of "claim." Each "party" gets to share their version of what happened, separately. While Mom cries quietly beside her, Kat recounts what happened to an ombudsman committee.He pushed me against the wall, held me there by the throat, tore open my shirt, and tried to pull down his pants. I had to fight him off. Her voice is flat and controlled. No tears. She answers follow-up questions the same way — no frills or emotion.

Afterward, she and Mom get a transcript of what he said. SHE attacked ME, he told them. For no reason at all. When someone asked if he did anything that might have provoked the "other party," he said: No. Nothing. Maybe she's just a violent type. Grew up in an abusive home? Who knows?

Kat's fury swells as she reads this. Come after me, Wolf. I'll beat you again. But stay away from my mother.

The committee's verdict comes by email. No cameras in the stairwell, so Saundra was right: All they have is his word versus Kat's. His doctor's report: broken finger, sprained shoulder. Her? The school's used to the ongoing jiu-jitsu bruises on her jawline, temple, arms, legs. They can't be sure these are new marks from him. And nightmares don't count as evidence, it turns out. Final decision: counseling for both of them and an unofficial "restraining order" to stay away from each other.

Should have trusted my instincts, Kat thinks as Mom rants about the decision. Shouldn't have said anything. What good did it do? Dragged us back into a fight, and now I'm the one losing. And so is Mom.

After the restraining order, he doesn't come near Kat. But Kat keeps an eye on him from a distance. Sees him strutting down the halls of Sanger, day after day.

Brittany and Amber say they believe Kat, but she avoids them. Don't need anyone on the mat with me. She's Katina King, the reigning middleweight under-seventeen Northern California Brazilian jiu-jitsu grappling champion. I've got this, she tells herself, just like she does in the middle of a BJJ fight.

Problem is that this time, she doesn't.

Still can't sleep.

Nightmares bring back the memory of what happened, night after night.

Rumors spread through the school like a California wildfire —

She wanted him since her first day at Sanger.

She's mad he didn't like her back.

She's jealous.

Lies, lies, all lies.

But that's not the worst of it. She vomits so often she starts dropping pounds. Loses a BJJ match. Loses another. During practice, she steps on the mat only if a female sparring partner is waiting there.

Checks five times to make sure a public bathroom stall is locked. Even then, pushes her heel against the door while she uses the toilet.

Lines up for female cashiers at the grocery store.

Asks Mom to switch to a dentist who's a woman.

Canine eyes checking her out — which she's always hated — now send her straight into panic mode. Their touch — ?! No way.

No man is going to lay a finger on her again.

INT. KING APARTMENT — NIGHT

The school counselor calls while Kat's watching Batman Returns for maybe the tenth time. Dr. Mitchell's name pops up on Mom's phone in the middle of Michelle Pfeiffer's brilliant milk-drinking, costume-sewing scene.

Kat sighs. She knows what this is about. Earlier today, she skipped yet another "mandatory" session with the dude.

"Hello, Dr. Mitchell," Mom says, taking the phone into the kitchen.

The apartment's tiny; Kat presses PAUSE to overhear her mother's end of the conversation.

"I'll talk to her. Yes, I'm going ahead with my plan."

Plan? What plan? Pfeiffer-as-Selina-Kyle is frozen on-screen with a crazed expression as she stitches up her mask. Kat presses PLAY again to pretend that she wasn't eavesdropping.

Mom comes back and powers off the television. "You stopped seeing the counselor?"

"I don't need his help."

"That's where you're wrong, Kat. You do. It's been two months, and it's getting harder instead of easier. Dr. Mitchell thinks you might need a break from that environment." She pauses and glances toward the living room window. Somewhere up the street, a car alarm has gone off. "He asked if you wanted to transfer to another school, just for the rest of this semester."

No. Definitely not. Leaving Sanger means Kat loses. "The school in our neighborhood sucks," she says. "No biology honors classes. No free ACT prep. I'm not letting this hurt my college chances."

"That's what I thought." Mom moves closer, and Kat gets a whiff of that hospital antiseptic smell on her uniform. "We've been like sisters, right, Kat darling? Grew up together, you and me."

Kat doesn't say it out loud: Except I take care of you. Does the laundry, brews Mom's tea, picks up around the house, keeps track of bills and the budget, and makes them both turn off the television when Mom has an early shift. Kat's mother doesn't even check to make sure the apartment's locked at night. Kat does that.

Mom rests a hand on Kat's short, curly hair and takes a big breath. "But I'm pulling rank this time. Saundra suggested spending some time with her great-aunt in Boston. You leave in a week. I booked your ticket."

Kat jumps up. "BOSTON? No way, Mom! I'm not going to stay with some stranger! Besides, we can't afford a plane ticket. Cancel it. Right now."

Her mother stands up, too. Bends her skinny arms and plants her small fists on her hips. Tips her pigeon head back and stares right up into Kat's snarl. "I'm not changing my mind. Ticket's nonrefundable. You'll finish out the semester there."

Kat can't believe this. "What about school? I'm not letting him — what happened — wreck my life! I need a full ride to USC or Davis! What about my job? And I've got to win my next few BJJ matches —"

"Jiu-jitsu and the zoo aren't worth the pain of staying in that toxic environment. Ms. Jones is an excellent teacher; she'll homeschool you until the middle of June. I've already cleared it with Sanger. Your teachers agreed to send you assignments and keep track of your papers and tests online."

"WHAT? You didn't ask ME first? I'm SIXTEEN!"

"I know. That's how old I was when you were born. But you have a real mom; all I had were a bunch of foster parents. For once in my life, I'm going to be a controlling mother, whether you like it or not."

Mom's voice sounds fiercer than Saundra's. She and Kat glare at each other for a long moment.

Controlling mother, huh?

Cue bratty teenager, then.

Kat stomps off to her bedroom and slams the door.

CHAPTER 4

ROBIN

INT. ROBIN'S BEDROOM — NIGHT

Robin stretches out on his bed and decides to watch Batman Returns, the 1992 flick with Michael Keaton as Batman. It's been a while since he's seen it. He forgot that it starts with the Cobblepots throwing Oswald — the baby who grows up to be the Penguin — into a sewer. Poor Oswald. No wonder he becomes a villain. Who wouldn't? Robin turns off the movie and switches to the soundtrack from Guardians of the Galaxy, which usually helps him unwind.

"I feel stuck, Ms. Vee," he told his friend at church just last Sunday. "I'm tired of people asking what I'm doing after graduation. 'Figure out your passions, Robin,' they tell me. 'Find your talents.' What if I don't have any? I'm a C student."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Forward Me Back to You"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Mitali Perkins.
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,
Dedication,
Author's Note,
Part ONE: Boston,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Kat,
Robin,
Part TWO: Kolkata,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Kat,
Ravi,
Acknowledgments,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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