Quinn is a teen who loves her family, skateboarding, basketball, and her friends, but after she's diagnosed with a condition called alopecia which causes her to lose all of her hair, her friends abandon her. Jake was once a star football player, but because of a freak accidentcaused by his brotherhe loses both of his legs. Quinn and Jake meet and find the confidence to believe in themselves again, and maybe even love.
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|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|Product dimensions:||5.66(w) x 8.45(h) x 1.07(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Natasha Friend is the award-winning author of Where You'll Find Me, Perfect, Lush, Bounce, For Keeps, My Life in Black and White, and The Other F-Word. She lives in Madison, Connecticut, with her family.
Read an Excerpt
ON THE FIRST MORNING OF HER NEW LIFE, Quinn was debating. Guinevere or Sasha? Guinevere was long, strawberry blond, and wavy. Sasha was short and black, glossy as a patent-leather shoe. They were Estetica human hair wigs, $2,000 a pop, no joke. They lived on two Styrofoam heads on Quinn's dresser. They were supposed to make her feel normal. Right.
G. I. Jane.
Quinn looked at her reflection. Most of the time she tried not to, but today she looked. You would think that after 408 days she'd be used to it. She wasn't. She was a cue ball. A plucked chicken. Her mirror hadn't been hung up yet. It was propped on three cardboard boxes that she had yet to unpack. Maybe she would do it later, put her new room together. Or maybe she would live out of cardboard boxes like a nomad until her parents came to their senses — until they realized that loading all their earthly possessions into a U-Haul and driving two thousand miles wasn't going to change anything. What was that expression? Wherever you go, there you are?
It had been a week, and so far they were still here. Gulls Head, Massachusetts, which was a weird name for a town. Even weirder was the accent everyone seemed to have. The real estate agent, the cashier at 7-Eleven, the secretary from Gulls Head High School who'd given Quinn a tour. Everyone in this town talked like the letter R didn't exist. Far was "fah." Locker was "lockah." How are you? sounded like "hawahya?" Quinn felt like she'd landed on another planet.
Her family hadn't moved to Gulls Head, Massachusetts, for her, although the suckfest that was eighth grade would have been reason enough. They'd moved because of Quinn's nine-year-old brother, Julius. Because the Boulder public schools hadn't been "equipped" to meet his "special needs." (This was code for Julius had a lot of tantrums, banged his face against a few walls, bit the lunch lady.) Sometimes Quinn's brother did things and you had no idea why. Were the lights too bright in the cafeteria? Were the kids too loud? Did the lunch lady say something that made him want to bite her?
Julius's new school, the Cove, was supposed to be different. According to Quinn's mom, who had done all the research and filled out the paperwork, the Cove was internationally renowned. It called itself a therapeutic day school for exceptional children, which was Julius, no doubt. Exceptional.
You could tell just by looking at his breakfast, which he was eating right now at the kitchen table. Wonder bread and cream cheese. Yogurt. Hardboiled egg, no yolk. Because today was Wednesday, and Julius ate only white foods on Wednesdays. Mondays he ate only meat. Fridays he ate only foods that were fried. This was the first thing you learned about Quinn's brother: he did things his own way. Throw off his system and you would witness destruction like you had never seen.
"White Wednesday," Julius said, lining up his utensils like train cars. "Right, Mo?" This was what he called their mom: Mo. Her real name was Maureen. That was another thing about Quinn's brother: he had his own way of speaking. For the first four years of his life, he hadn't spoken at all. Everyone was afraid he never would. Then one day, out of nowhere, he opened his mouth, and bam! Their dad was "Phil," Quinn was "Q," and Mom was "Mo." Once Julius started talking, he was a faucet you couldn't turn off. Sometimes it was long streams of words, sometimes it was short spurts.
"Right, Mo? White Wednesday. Right, Mo? Right?"
"That's right, buddy," Mo said, placing a glass of white milk on the table. There was brown under her fingernails. Clay. Quinn's mom was a sculptor. Heads and busts, mostly. When they'd lived in Boulder her pieces had sold in galleries downtown, but Gulls Head didn't have much of an art scene, so Quinn didn't know how it was going to work out for her mom here. Quinn didn't know how it was going to work out for any of them. Her dad had taken an adjunct professorship. They were only renting this house. Flying by the seat of their pants, that was what they were doing.
While Quinn was standing in the kitchen doorway thinking how crazy it was that her family had just picked up and moved two thousand miles for Julius to try a new school, her mom looked up from the box she was unpacking. "Morning, Q," she said. She was wearing an old flannel shirt of Quinn's dad's, ripped jeans, clogs. Her hair was in a messy bun, held in place with a pencil.
"Morning," Quinn said.
Her mom's eyes hovered on Guinevere. Quinn waited for her to comment, but she didn't. Even though this was the first time Mo had seen Quinn in a wig since she'd tried on about fifty of them at Belle's Wig Botik in Denver. Even though Quinn had been wearing the same ratty Colorado Rockies baseball cap every day for a year. Mo smiled, and her eyes crinkled at the corners. "Hungry?" she said.
Quinn's poor mom. She was trying so hard to act normal, like her daughter wasn't wearing a costume.
"A little," Quinn said.
"Hardboiled egg?" Mo gestured to a bowl on the table.
"The most hardboiled eggs to be peeled and eaten in a minute is six." Quinn's brother said this without looking up. His hair was a mess. Spiky all over like a blond stegosaurus.
"Morning, Julius." Quinn pulled out a chair.
"Ashrita Furman of the USA." He added a fork to his utensil train. "At the offices of the Songs of the Soul, in New York, New York, USA, on twenty-three March two thousand and twelve. Each egg was weighed and was more than fifty-eight grams. All eggs were peeled and consumed within one minute."
That was another thing Julius did. He repeated things. Not just stuff he'd heard, like lines from commercials or TV shows or movies, but whole passages from books he'd read. He didn't care if you were interested or not. He'd say it anyway.
"All eggs were peeled and consumed within one minute."
"Wow," Quinn said, taking an egg from the bowl.
"Wow is a palindrome."
"Yes, it is."
"A palindrome reads the same forward and backward."
"Yes, it does." Quinn cracked the egg on the table.
"The longest known palindromic word is saippuakivikauppias, which is Finnish for a dealer in lye."
"Cool," she said.
"Cool is not a palindrome."
"Cool does not read the same forward and backward."
Shut up, Quinn sometimes wanted to whisper. But she never did.
* * *
"You don't have to drive me," Quinn said as she strapped herself into the front seat. "I can walk."
"I don't mind driving you," her mom said.
"I don't mind walking."
"It's your first day," Mo said. "I want to see you off."
Quinn shrugged, holding the basketball in her lap. It was a new one, barely scuffed. Her dad had bought it for her before they left Colorado. This basketball was her tabula rasa, her blank slate.
As the car backed out of the driveway, Julius began muttering to himself from the backseat, Guinness World Records 2017 propped in his lap, bright yellow headphones clamped to his ears.
"So," Mo said, glancing over at Quinn. "Are you nervous?" They had the same eyes, hazel, that shifted from brown to gold to green depending on the light. Mood eyes, her mom called them.
"I'm okay," Quinn said. It wasn't exactly a lie. Even though her scalp itched and she worried that the five pieces of wig tape she'd used might not be enough. What if they didn't stick? What if Guinevere came flying off in the middle of PE?
"That skirt looks nice," her mom said.
It was denim with red stitching. Quinn felt stupid wearing it. She never wore skirts.
"Thanks," Quinn said. She should have worn shorts and her Colorado Rockies baseball cap. But no. No. That was the whole problem back in Boulder. Just thinking about eighth grade — her bald head, her mesh basketball shorts, long and loose around her knees — Quinn felt a small, sharp twinge of shame. Mr. Clean. Vin Diesel. "You're bringing this on yourself," Paige had said once. "Why don't you make an effort?"
Well, Quinn was making an effort now, wasn't she? The wig. The skirt. If she looked like all the other girls at Gulls Head High School, maybe she would blend in. She'd be one of those leaf-tailed geckos, mimicking the foliage of its habitat so no predators would eat it. This was Quinn's plan: avoid being eaten.
Snap, snap, snap.
She heard Julius start to snap his fingers. Slowly at first, then picking up speed. Her mom heard, too, and she glanced in the rearview mirror.
"Bud?" Mo said quietly. "You okay?" She always stayed calm, even when Quinn's brother began to lose it. They were like equal and opposite forces. The more he amped up, the mellower she became.
Julius mumbled something, still snapping away.
"What's that?" Mo said.
"Tea and cakes," Julius blurted out.
"Ah," Mo said.
Quinn didn't ask, as if not asking would defuse the situation.
"T and Cakes," her mom said anyway. "It's the bakery in Boulder. We used to stop on the way to his school."
"Tea and cakes, Mo. Tea and cakes."
"That's right, buddy. You miss those white-chocolate scones, don't you? They were part of our old Wednesday routine."
Quinn squeezed her basketball. She listened to her mom try to soothe Julius, but there was no soothing him. Now they were going to have to drive all over Gulls Head, Massachusetts, looking for white-chocolate scones. Quinn wished they didn't have to. She wished, just once, that a ride in the car could be just a ride and not an episode of My Strange Addiction. She wished so many things. She wished that her brother's brain could be rewired. She wished that their entire lives did not revolve around his food. She wished that her dad didn't have to get up at five a.m. to take the commuter rail to work instead of riding his bike the way he had in Boulder. She wished that she still had hair. Even though she had never been one of those girly girls like Paige and Tara, who worried about clothes and nail polish and bad hair days, now that it was gone she missed it. She really did.
It had started last summer, a week before Quinn's thirteenth birthday. They'd been in the pool in their backyard when Julius had said, "Hair, Q. Hair." Before Quinn could ask what he was talking about, her brother had launched into one of his monologues. "Xie Qiuping from China has been growing her hair since nineteen seventy-three. She now holds the record for the longest female hair with a length of five-point-six-two-seven meters when last measured. That's nearly as long as the height of a giraffe. Susa Forster from Breitenfelde, Germany, has two thousand four hundred and seventy-three giraffe items that she has collected ..."
Julius had droned on until Quinn tuned him out and continued practicing her back dive. But that night, when she was getting ready for bed, she'd looked in the mirror and seen what her brother had been talking about: a bald patch about the size of a quarter, right near her part. It was probably nothing, she thought. Maybe she'd been wearing her ponytail too tight. Then she showed her mom, and Mo found two more spots — one at the back of Quinn's head, the other above her left ear. Mo told her not to worry. Maybe Quinn had a vitamin deficiency. Maybe it was hormones. Still, Mo called Dr. Steiner first thing the next morning. Dr. Steiner sent them to another doctor, a dermatologist named Dr. Hersh, who stuck Quinn's head under a light and peered at her scalp through magnifying glasses. He took off his glasses and spoke: "Alopecia areata." The words sounded like some food Quinn had never tasted but already knew she would hate. Baba ghanoush. Ratatouille.
"It's an autoimmune disorder," he said. "Your white blood cells are attacking your hair follicles."
"The hair could grow back," he said, "or it could fall out completely. We'll just have to wait and see."
Quinn's mom had squeezed Quinn's hand. She'd said they would go get ice cream. Chocolate chip and butter pecan. Hot fudge. Whipped cream. Nuts, sprinkles, the works. They had eaten like goddesses. Then they had driven home and watched Quinn's hair fall out.
Paige and Tara had watched, too. Every few days that summer, another spot would appear, until finally, by the second week of eighth grade, there was nothing left. Paige and Tara pretended not to care. They knew it wasn't Quinn's fault. They knew she wasn't contagious. But still, Quinn felt a distance growing between them. She felt a gaping hole of loss.
Wasn't it weird to miss something you'd never thought twice about? And here was another weird but true thing: Quinn was glad her family had moved, even if they'd done it for Julius. Because no one in Gulls Head, Massachusetts, knew that Guinevere wasn't her real hair. No one knew about her brother, either.
"Tea and cakes!"
She could be anyone.
"Tea and cakes! Tea and cakes!"
Anyone at all.
"Eee, eee, eee!"
Julius was starting to shriek and smack his head with the flat of his palm. Next would come the book.
"Buddy," Mo said quietly. "Gentle hands."
"Mom," Quinn said.
"Gentle, Julius. We will find you a scone as soon as we drop off your sister."
"Eee, eee, eee!"
You never knew what would set Julius off. It could be a hundred different things. Transitions. Noise. Hunger. Fatigue. Whatever the reason, when he got like this, it took forever to calm him down.
"Mom," Quinn said louder. "Pull over. I'll walk."
Mo sighed. "Q, please ... It's your first day. I want to bring you."
"You can bring me tomorrow." The thought of arriving at Gulls Head High School with her brother hitting himself and screaming "tea and cakes" from the backseat was more than Quinn could bear. She reached down and grabbed her backpack. "Just let me out here, okay? I know where I'm going."
Quinn did know. All week she had been riding around on her skateboard, exploring, looking for a decent court.
"Eee, eee, eee!"
Here came the book.
"Julius," Mo said, dead calm. "Stop." She was pulling over, not to let Quinn out, but to remove Guinness World Records 2017 from her brother's hands before he broke his own nose. He'd done that before. Twice.
"Honey, wait," Mo said, climbing into the backseat. "Just give us a minute."
But Quinn was already opening the door. Outside, the air smelled briny and sharp. She took a good, deep swallow, filling her lungs. "I'll see you later, Mom."
"Are you sure?" Mo was wrestling the book from Julius's grip.
"I'm sure," Quinn said.
Even though she wished she were wearing sneakers instead of these stupid wedge sandals that she'd only worn once to her cousin Nadine's wedding, and even though she would probably get blisters, it felt good to walk away.CHAPTER 2
QUINN WAS TRYING TO BLEND in with her new habitat, but Mr. Kellar's homeroom had assigned seats, and her desk was dead center. All through attendance she could feel the eyeballs on her. It was mostly sideways glances, no outright stares, but still. The feeling of so many eyeballs made the skin on Quinn's neck prickle. It made her want to reach up and pat Guinevere, just to be sure. Were five pieces of wig tape enough? What if she started to sweat? Quinn willed her hands to stay down. She focused her attention on the #2 pencil in front of her. Its smooth yellow coating. Its perfectly pink, never-before-used eraser.
Tabula rasa, Quinn thought. Blank slate.
Back in Colorado, there had been a dry-erase board on the wall in Quinn's kitchen. Every morning, before her dad left for work, he would write some random Latin phrase on the board for Quinn to contemplate. Carpe diem. Ex nihilo nihil fit. Vincit qui se vincit.
When Mr. Kellar began walking around the room, handing out schedules, Quinn slipped her phone out of her pocket and texted her dad:
Never got my quote this AM.
Fortes fortuna adiuvat, her dad texted back. Fortune favors the brave.
It was his first day of school, too. He was the adjunct professor of classics at some college Quinn had never heard of. She wondered if he missed UC Boulder. She wondered if he was nervous. She pictured her sweet, dorky dad, standing alone at the front of some lecture hall, holding a stub of chalk, clearing his throat.
Quinn looked up. Mr. Kellar's face was as round and white as the moon.
"Yuh schedule. Put it in yuh bindah."
He might as well be speaking Latin.
* * *
First-period PE. Ten laps around the gym. If this were 408 days ago, Quinn would not have minded. She was born to run.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "How We Roll"
Copyright © 2018 Natasha Friend.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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