But the past holds many secrets, and they come to light as Kara faces an anonymous terror: Someone is leaving her handwritten notes. Someone who knows exactly where she is and what she’s doing. As the notes lead her to piece together the events that preceded Kellen’s terrible, life-changing betrayal years before, she starts to catch glimpses of her dead sister: an unwelcome ghost in filthy Ugg boots. If Kara doesn’t figure out who her stalker is, and soon, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.
|Publisher:||Soho Press, Incorporated|
|Sold by:||Penguin Random House Publisher Services|
|File size:||1 MB|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
We can all smell when someone’s getting an F. Right now that F smells like burnt sugar, and there’s a lot of noise coming from the other side of the room where someone is actually failing home ec.
I try to ignore it and keep stirring, but my sister Kellen’s knee bobs up and down, up and down, threatening to knock my mixing bowl to the floor. I wonder if she can tell it’s ticking me off. Once upon a time, I would’ve tried to smack her. Maybe.
“Kara.” The teacher spooks me from behind, oblivious to the panic across the room and to my sister sitting there, now kicking her legs back and forth.
Mr. King balances a stack of catalogs and paper, topped off with a half-eaten apple fritter. He pulls out a shiny postcard and waves it in the air. Kellen keeps kicking.
“Read this after class. And, I have something else for you in here,” he says, rummaging through his stack, “I know it’s here somewhere . . .”
While Mr. King keeps digging, I drop the postcard into my backpack without looking at it. But my stomach knots because I locate the “something else” before he does.
He swears under his breath, which is usually funny to me, but not now, not when I see a familiar blue-gray envelope with bloody red fibers poking out of his pile.
“Here it is!” he exclaims. He smiles as he hands it to me. “Found this on my desk this morning. I—” His smile sags into a frown. “Kara?”
Different sounds spin through the air: the creak of an oven door, the hum of mixers, and the throbbing in my head. My teacher’s voice registers somewhere in the midst of it all. I stare at the envelope he offers while I point to the counter, hoping he’ll stick it there because I don’t want to touch it.
“Kara? Are you feeling okay?” He sets the envelope down. “You look pale.”
“Okay. Hey, make sure you don’t read that postcard in class.”
I nod. My hand shakes. I hope he doesn’t notice as I pull the sealed envelope through the flour spill on the counter. The tracks remind me of when Kellen and I were kids, and she would pull the sled, running with it just ahead of me so I couldn’t get on.
“Go on, dumbshit, get in!” she’d say.
I’d put my hands down to climb on and off she’d go—pulling it away, unable to contain her laughter as I fell on my face, eating snow.
My hand is still shaking when I stuff the unopened envelope into my backpack, as if hiding it from my sight will make me forget about it.
Mr. King thinks I've come down with the flu so when he sends me to the office, I sneak out early. I don’t usually cut class, but I needed distraction from that thing in my backpack. Now I’m hiding, sitting on an old root at the bottom of my favorite tree, at my old house. I’m pretty sure no one can see me. I pinch a joint tight between two fingers—because I tend to drop lit joints—while I doodle a cookie design in my notebook.
I suck in a long drag, trying hard not to cough this time. The weed is probably expensive so I don’t want to waste it. As if I would know the going rate. Kellen would know. But she’s not here anymore. She’s not here to teach me how to be a girl who cuts class to smoke weed.
The third-story attic used to be my room. Kellen had the room below mine. I stare at my sister’s old window and try blowing a big puff of smoke toward it, but I end up coughing.
This is the third time I’ve tried to properly smoke one of her buried treasures. I found her stash rolled up in a kitchen towel decorated with cherries, stuffed into a Playtex tampon box, inside one of the boxes her roommate packed up. Before I found it I’d never smoked even a cigarette. I’m doing it all wrong, I’m sure.
November wind carries the faint horn of a ferryboat. On my old front porch, a pile of U-Haul boxes sag from the damp Seattle weather. The boxes haven’t budged since the new family moved into my house, so there’s no room on the porch for a nine-year-old to sit and paint her toenails while her Barbies watch. No room to pretend to do homework while wishing for her crush to ride by on his bike, or to watch a summer thunderstorm and wonder if she should tell her best friends about that terrible secret she’s keeping.
On second thought, there is no wondering. She’ll never tell.
I’m ready for another puff when the bushes next to me move.
Branches snap and leaves pull back and fly in the opposite direction like arrows. In a panic I try to get to my feet but my toe catches the underside of a root. My notebook lies in the dirt. I drop the joint and fall backward on my ass, landing in the cove of moss and muck between tree roots.
Tiny wisps of smoke swirl and tuck, swirl and tuck, over and over as the joint rolls down the slope. I stare at it, keeping still and holding my breath, which is really hard because leftover weed smoke tickles my throat, just daring me to cough. But I have to keep quiet because the noise in the bushes might be him—the one who sent the note Mr. King gave me. The note that prompted me to cut class and sit here like the idiot that I am.
The new family’s dog appears out of the bushes. He sniffs through the dead grass and dandelions infesting Mom’s flowerbeds. I puff out my cheeks, meaning to exhale slowly, but I cough yet again. The stone angel I gave Mom when I was ten reaches above the tops of the weeds, begging to be saved. The dog lifts his leg and pisses on her wing.
Edges curl inward on the leaves covering the ground, and my little joint sits on top of one, still smoldering like a trooper after all that rolling downhill. I grab it and snuff it out.
I would absolutely kill for a Twinkie right now.
The damn dog finds me, poking its head through the bushes. When he growls, I grab my backpack and haul ass before he tries to pee on me, too.
My best and only friend, Noelle, is sitting at our table when I push through the door to my mom’s café. She glares as if I’m the biggest bitch on the Hill, probably because I’m
“Kar-a!” Mom sings. She skips around from behind the counter. The woman does this every day, like she totally forgot she saw me that morning. “Was your day blessed, sweetheart? Did you make good with the breath God gave you today? Why are you so late? Is everything okay?”
My face is in her hands, my cheeks squishing against my eyeballs so everything is a blur. It’s fine because I can’t see the people in the café watch Mom embarrass herself.
“Mom, I have homework,” I mumble into her neck, hoping she doesn’t smell weed. She kisses my forehead and whirls off to handle a customer. Emergency gum-chewing worked, I guess.
“Kar-a,” Noelle sings, mimicking my mother. “Did you make good with the mouth God gave you? Did you make Hayden’s dream come true? Bet he’d leave his girlfriend!”
I ignore this as I scoot into the booth and drop my bag. Noelle must not smell me, either; otherwise she’d be clawing her way into my backpack for my joint. I frown at her. She has new highlights. So this is the reason I was alone at lunch. Sometimes Noelle forgets that her Mini has two seats and that I have no friends. But I don’t mention it.
“You’re late, and—” Noelle cracks her gum, pointing her head and thumb in the same direction. “Hayden’s here, by the way.”
I already know that, but I act cool when I turn toward a group of college kids in a booth, all hunched around laptops and laughing like dorks. Except for Hayden; he catches me looking and smiles. I blush.
Hayden’s a college junior, so kind of too old for me. Noelle disagrees. She hopes I’m lucky enough to lose my virginity to a college guy soon, and she agrees that Hayden’s hot, but she also thinks he’s disturbed and a dork because he plays trombone in the marching band. I don’t think that’s so dorky when you’re out of high school. At least he doesn’t wear eyeliner, like her boyfriend.
They’re laughing at something on Hayden’s computer. On the rare occasion he’s by himself, he’ll usually try to get me to watch something funny on YouTube.
Noelle twists a freshly colored lock of hair around her finger. “You really should give up on that trom-bone player, Ker. You know he’s a boner, right? Yeah, he likes to play the bone, you do realize that, don’t you?”
“You’re gross. Hayden’s nice to me.”
Hayden’s disgusting girlfriend, Babe, sucks on his neck. I’m pretty sure her real name isn’t “Babe.” but that’s what Hayden always calls her. And I don’t really give a crap what her real name is because by next week there will be a new “Babe” and it won’t be me.
There’s no way in hell Hayden will ever be into me, which is probably the reason I can actually talk to him without throwing up. But still, I often fantasize about delivering my cookies to him, all bundled in a white box and tied with a red ribbon. He would smile while Babe shot me eye-daggers, and after he finished a cookie he’d sweep across the room, pull me out of the booth and kiss me—right there in the middle of Mom’s holy café.
I smile when Hayden unleeches Babe from his neck. Maybe he’s also remembering last time Mom kicked them out:
“The Lord and I are not amused by your lewd behavior in this establishment, where miracles occur daily. When you’re ready to check your Godless groping at the door and prepared to order food instead of nursing Cokes all day, then you have my blessing to come back!”
It was a glimpse of my old, badass Mom. The Mom I had before Kellen died, before she vanished inside herself and twirled back into the world six months later with Jesus on her arm. My mom thinks she had a near-death experience and that when she was dead, she saw Kellen, who told her to sell our house, open a café, and heal everyone on the Hill with her pea soup.
My mom is crazy, and it’s Kellen’s fault.
A dish shatters in the kitchen. I flinch. Noelle raises an eyebrow at me. I reach for the postcard in my backpack so she won’t hassle me about why I’m jumpy. When I grab it I can’t help but see the blue-gray envelope wedged between the pages of my math book. That will have to wait. I haven’t told Noelle about the notes I’m getting. I haven’t told anyone about them. About him.
“What’s this?” Noelle asks, grabbing the card from me. Her eyes narrow, zooming in on the Snowflake Sugar logo.
“Uh, it’s a baking contest in San Francisco that Mr. King wants me to enter.”
She reads it and sighs. “Snowflake Sugar Cookie Bake-Off. Wow.”
“Shut up,” I whisper. “I don’t want my mom to know, okay? And yeah, wow, the prize is a full scholarship to La Patisserie Pastry School—far away from here.”
After I graduate from La Patisserie I’ll go live in France and take more pastry classes and eat lots of cheese and baguettes. And I’ll force myself to drink wine, which I don’t like. I’ll make myself like it because I won’t want to stick out as the dumb American who doesn’t like wine. Then I’ll open my own bakery somewhere on the California coast. Or maybe on the East Coast. Or maybe I’ll love France and I’ll stay there and find a guy to teach me French and other things.
Mom keeps telling me La Patisserie is out of the question because it’s out of state. Yeah, like that will stop me. My whole future lies in winning this contest. If I don’t, I’ll be stuck here forever with Mom and bad memories.
Noelle sighs. “Uh, hey, Genius? You’ll need a plane ticket to get there and that requires actual money, which you don’t have. So how can you get there without telling your mom? Unless you’re planning on asking Officer Frank?”
The ceramic mug warms my fingers. I ignore her reference to my father. “I’m going to start working at Crockett’s.” I stare into the mug at the latte foam, swirled into a perfect brown creamy spiral. “The guy called me yesterday and said I got the job. I’ll earn enough money.” I look across the table. “And seriously, don’t tell anyone. I don’t want your mom telling mine.”
Noelle’s cell chimes. She looks at it and laughs before texting something back, probably to her boyfriend, Mason.
“What’s so funny?” I ask her.
“Sorry, your eyes are just too young for this.” She sets the cell on the table and raises her eyebrows. “Hey, Mason’s parents are going to Vegas for the weekend.”
“Is he having a party?”
She cracks her knuckles. That sound always makes me sick. “Nope. Well, just with me . . .” Her eyes drift from mine. They fix on a spot behind me and her face lights up. “Hey!”
“Ladies.” Mason, Noelle’s boyfriend of two years, the guy who wears black eyeliner, slides in next to her.
“Hey.” I sip my latte.
They kiss and I become wallpaper.
Noelle hasn’t always been my friend. She moved up here from California in sixth grade, and for some reason being from California gave her instant fame, even though she was a bitch to everyone, including me.
But once we started high school, she talked to me when my best friends Jen Creighton and Gaby Navarro stopped. Something happened during that summer between middle school and high school. Horrible secrets have a funny way of erasing friends from your life.
Mason is texting and Noelle has her head on his shoulder. They both laugh and I assume they’re making fun of me because of the looks I’m getting. I hate that Mason’s black eyeliner looks really good. His skin is the color of Dove soap. But it is weird when Noelle drags us into Sephora and I catch Mason checking out the products.
He sets his phone down. “McKinley, what’s up? You look almost happy.” He smiles and rests his elbows on the table.
“Aww.” Noelle grabs Mason’s arm and pulls him into her. “Our girl’s growing up, honey. She’s going to fly herself off to a big baking contest in Frisco and make all her dreams come true!”
Mason smiles. “Hey, that’s awesome. Is it like a contest-contest, like on uh . . . you know, like Iron Chef or some shit like that?”
“Yeah,” I say. “Something like that, except not on TV.” God, I hope it’s not on TV. I flick my eyes to Noelle. Her face oozes condescension. Her eyes are wide, blinking at me and nodding like she’s fixated on every word I say.
Then she’s back to texting. I scoot out of the booth, grabbing my bag. “I gotta get to work. Call me later, ’kay?”
“Like ‘frosting cookies’ work?”
Taking a deep breath, I turn without a reply because when Mason is around, Noelle’s even snarkier than usual. I hear them giggling. But I still have to smile. They are all I have.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Review originally posted on my young adult book blog, Here's to Happy Endings. When I first heard about this book and saw the really pretty cover and the creepy title (that pretty much says a lot about what this book is about), I was excited to read it. Whie I do find it difficult to come across a good YA thriller, I keep looking, hoping to find one that's really good! While it wasn't the best book I've read this year, From Where I Watch You definitely had its good parts and the creepy factor was pretty high up there. When I first started reading this book, I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it. It didn't really seem to grab my attention that much, and it started off a little bit slow. But after the first few chapters (which are adorably set up as steps in cooking baking - different and cute), I was hooked. From Where I Watch You starts off with Kara sitting in her Home Economics class, baking cookies while being stared at by the ghost of her dead sister, Kellen. Yep. That's right. Sounds like a positive beginning for a book, right? Her Home Ec teacher informs her of a cookie decorating contest being held in San Fransisco, in which first prize is a scholarship to a pastry school that Kara longs to attend (her mother won't let her go, because she refuses to let Kara go that far away after the death of Kara's older sister, Kellen). So this competition is Kara's one shot at getting to go to the school of her dreams. While Kara is terrified of going to this competition, and even though her mother forbids her from going, she plans on it, anyway. While this is the main story line, there are other things going on in Kara's world that are hindering her ability to focus on the contest. For one, her crush on a guy from college, Hayden. Another is the return of her old crush, Charlie, who went away for a while and recently returned to the area and got a job in Kara's mom's restaurant as a dishwasher. The third? Kara is receiving creepy stalker notes from someone who clearly knows all about her - her work schedule, when she is at home, school, and what she does in her free time. Oh, yeah, and she sees her dead sister everywhere. So between dealing with boy drama between Hayden and Charlie, she is also trying to figure out who is sending her these creepy notes. She doesn't want to bring her mom in on the notes, because then she figures her mom will put her foot down about the competition for sure. So she tries to figure it out on her own. At the end of the chapters, there are flashbacks into parts of Kara's life - such as what happened to her when she was 13, and also how things were between her and Kellen when they were little girls. These are important to the story, and they really add some depth to it. Without giving away any spoilers, I have to say that the way that Kara handled some of the things in her life was kind of questionable. The event that occurred when Kara was thirteen, for example, should have been handled differently, in my opinion, but at the same time, I guess I can see why she handled things the way that she did. The other problem I had with this book was that the ending seemed a little rushed. The entire book was leading up to an ending that should have taken more than one paragraph to play out. But honestly, I didn't see it coming, so it really surprised me (yay, I love when endings surprise me!). Note: I received an arc copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.