Eleanor & Park meets Perks of Being a Wallflower in this bittersweet 1980’s story about love, loss, and a comet that only comes around every ninety-seven years. When Carrie looks through her telescope, the world makes sense. It’s life here on Earth that’s hard to decipher. Since her older sister, Ginny, died, Carrie has been floating in the orbit of Ginny’s friends, the cool kids, who are far more interested in bands and partying than science. Carrie’s reckless behavior crosses a line, and her father enrolls her in a summer work camp at a local state park. There, Carrie pulls weeds and endures pep talks about the power of hard work. Despite her best efforts to hate the job, Carrie actually feels happy out in nature. And when she meets Dean—warm, thoughtful, and perceptive—she starts to discover that her life can be like her beloved night sky, with black holes of grief for Ginny and dazzling meteors of joy from first love.
About the Author
Lisa Selin Davis is the author of the novel Belly. She has written articles for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, and many other publications. Originally from Saratoga Springs, New York, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids. Learn more at www.lisaselindavis.com and follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaSelinDavis.
Read an Excerpt
“THAT’S THE LAST TIME,” MY FATHER YELLED, pounding the arm of his flowered dusty-rose armchair. “I mean itI’m not gonna take this crap anymore. This is no way to start the summer.” “What are you gonna do about it?” I yelled back, stomping up the stairs and slamming my door. The room buzzed with the electricity of our screams, and my hands shook as I placed the record on the turntable: the Replacements singing “Unsatisfied.” I let the sweet, sad sound of the guitar calm me down. The joint helped too. “Carrie, put that out.” His voice rode the line between pleading and pissed. “I can smell it from down here.” I flung open the door. “I stole it from you,” I yelled down the stairs. “You’re such a hypocrite.” “Caraway—” “Don’t call me that! It’s Carrie!” I knew I was screaming so loud that the neighbors in the giant house next door could probably hear me, but that only made me scream louder, so loud my voice began to crack. “Why did you guys have to name me after a loaf of rye bread?” I stomped down the stairs and threw one of my jelly shoes at him, and he ducked. Then he stopped. He just stood there, stunned and irate, his whole face descended into blankness, as if he had sudden-onset Alzheimer’s and didn’t know anymore who he was or who I was or how we had gotten there. Which was probably the case. I was still heaving with all that anger, breathing hard. It welled up in me sometimes, a fiery asteroid of it. It just took over in my bones. But when he froze, I did too. We stared at each other for a minute, and then it was as if he crumbled, his whole six-foot frame collapsing into that armchair, the one that had become his makeshift home since our family fell apart. I could hardly hear him, he was whispering so low. So I had to step closer. And then closer. “We didn’t name you after rye bread,” he was saying. “It’s a spice.” He looked up at me, and I thought for a second he was going to reach up and hug me, and a terrible pool of feeling, not one particular feeling but just a messy stew of everything, started flooding me, and I felt like I had to throw something or break something or cut something or smoke something, and I let out an enormous grunt, like a white dwarf star, collapsed and out of gas. He put his head into his hands and started whispering again. He was saying, “I just don’t know what to do with you. I don’t know how to help you. It’s getting worse, and I don’t know what to do.”
What he did was ground me. I had arrived home reeking of cigarettes and pot, nearly falling into the house at six p.m. when I was supposed to be at work ringing up fingerless gloves and neon half shirts at Dot’s Duds. I’d never shown up, and most likely Dot had called him. Most likely I’d been fired. Again. This was, as he’d said, no way to start the summer. So he laid down the law: no going out with friends. No walking downtown to buy records. No going to Soo’s, where I was supposed to be by nine o’clock. Worst of all: no going up to the roof to monitor the progress of the Vira comet, otherwise known as 11P/Alexandrov, which any day now would blast through the sky, this ball of ice and dust that grew a tail of gas when it neared the sun, as it would this summer for the first time since 1890. It only came around every ninety-seven years. I was eleven when my parents first took me and my sisters up to the observatory to see Mars at oppositionwhen the planet is closest to Earth and all lit up by the sun, a beautiful, almost orchestral eruption of light. Even then, before the accident, something about the laws of the universe made so much more sense to me than shop class and school dances and the elusive species known as boys. The story of how Earth hangs there in the sky, tied to the sun but always turning away, day after day, as if trying to escape: that was a story I understood. Unlike my family, which even then seemed to have some green patina of dysfunctiontranslucent, but always therethat pure, rule-bound vision I saw through my telescope made all the sense in the world. The telescope, unfortunately, had disappeared about three months ago, just before my mom took off and things went from worse to worst. Punishment for another one of the terrible things I’d done, I assumed, but I still had the roof. Until now. “You have to at least let me up there,” I begged my father. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Maybe twice if I live to be a hundred and thirteen. Or three times if I hit two ten.” I thought I saw a smile creeping to the corners of his lips—the roof had been our spot, once upon a time, the telescope our shared obsession. But he just said, “Add it to the list of life’s disappointments.” I stomped back upstairs and blasted X’s “Real Child of Hell,” collapsing on my bed, pulling the star sheets that my mom had bought me years ago up over my head. My mom wouldn’t have punished me. My mom would have defended me, saying, Paul, sweetie, lay offshe’s just a teenager. Let’s let her be. Let’s choose to trust her. But maybe she’d learned not to say that kind of thing anymore. Since there was no talking on the phone, I couldn’t even tell Soo of this next level of injustice (she was the only one to whom I revealed my secret nerd-dom) or that I couldn’t show up at her house that night. Impossible to sneak it, either, because we were a one-phone household, just our touchtone mounted to the wall in the kitchen, the beige plastic smudged from how often Rosie and I talked on it, and fought over it. My dad had had to replace it twice in the last year, after I ripped it from the wall in one of what he called my “fits.” Now Rosie was standing outside my locked door, yelling, “Turn it down, pleaseI’m trying to study!” Rosie was the only person I knew who went to summer school voluntarily. “You should stop studying and have some fun,” I called, kind of meaning it. Every once in a while I liked Rosie. Now was not one of those times. “School’s out, for crying out loud.” “You should stop having so much fun and start studying,” she yelled back. I put the Pixies EP on the turntable and used all of my concentration to place the needle on the record and pretend I couldn’t hear her through the door. “I wish you would just leave, Carrie!” Her footsteps receded down the hallway. Why hadn’t I thought of that? “Great idea!” I called out. If my father caught me, I’d just tell him Rosie had told me to go. At some point in our family history, Rosie would have to do something wrong. My sneaking suspicion was that Rosie was normal because they had given her a normal name. It was still a spiceRosemarybut it passed as regular. Ginny, too. Most people hadn’t known that her real name was Ginger until they saw it on her gravestone, and even then, it wasn’t that strange. But call your kid Caraway and bad shit is bound to happen. My window screen clicked as I slid it open and did a perfunctory check for parental patrol. My father wasn’t outside, and there was just enough cover from the pine trees next door to form a kind of protective canopy. We lived on a narrow street of humble, and sometimes crumbling, little Victorian houses that hid behind a wide boulevard called Grand Street. Our town had once been a resort for fancy New Yorkers, but now it was mostly run-down except for the pockets of wealth, one of which happened to be right next to us. Grand was full of mansions, thus constantly reminding us of our station in life back here. Our little housefour tiny bedrooms, low ceilings, asbestos sidingwas in the shadow of Mrs. Richmond’s place, a big white house with huge columns, separated from us by a high picket fence. I almost never saw Mrs. Richmond herselfshe reportedly had a multitude of housesbut that was a good thing; it meant she never caught me when I snuck out. I slithered out the window and onto the roof of the porch, then scaled down the porch column and onto the bricked-over dirt we called a yard. Pretty amazing for someone whose only exercise was adjusting telescope lenses (before they were taken away) and playing guitar. In the clear, I took out my Camel Lights and puffed all the way to Soo’s. It was June and the perfect temperature, that velvety kind of early evening air, that fading golden light. It all made a weird hard ball in the center of my chest and I wished I had my guitar. Or another joint. Or that it was already late at night and I was heading to a bus stop somewhere on the outskirts of town with my guitar slung over my shoulder and it would turn out that my life was actually a movie, some small-town Breakfast Club kind of deal where there were happy endings all around. And boyfriends. My kingdomor really, my crappy housefor a boyfriend.
When I got to Soo’s, the partying was in full swing. Soo’s dad owned a bar downtowna skeevy but apparently very lucrative biker bar in which we were never allowed to set footand was never home at night. Her mom, well, she was usually too intoxicated herself to even come down to the basement to check on us. “One of the world’s few female Korean-American drunks,” Soo often noted. Soo had a finished basement that she’d done up all 1970s: fake wood paneling, red pleather couch, a killer sound system, a mirror ballthe kind of stuff rich kids had, but which I, through the miracle of Soo’s generosity and our family tragedy, had access to. It was like having our own discotheque, even though nobody liked disco anymore. Or, well, almost nobody. Secretly I still loved “I Will Survive,” my favorite song when I was six. The boys were all there, including Tommy Patarami and Tiger Alvarez and Justin Banks, and they’d set up a couple of amps and mikes and a drum kit in the back of the room. The guys were standing in front of Soo’s dad’s enormous wall of records, picking out what to play. “The Ghost in You” by the Psychedelic Furs was on. I did my goofy dance, sort of the-twist-meets-moshI was not that into the Psychedelic Fursand Tommy yelled, “What’s up, Rye Bread?” and I laughed, even though I hated when he called me that. “Not much, Pastrami,” I said, and someone else said, “She got you, Patarami.” There was nothing better than making people laugh. Well, almost nothing better. I was pretty sure a couple of things were better. “Carrie!” Soo and Greta left the scrum of half-intoxicated boys to greet me, handing me a beer and huddling around me like the world’s prettiest football players. I could smell the sticky sweet scent of Soo’s mousse, and I was semi-suffocating inside their group hug and pushing them away, but only lightly. Some part of me just wanted to stay in there forever. “Our little Carrie is here!” “Yay,” I said, my normal deadpan. “Let the rejoicing begin.” I was sixteen, going into eleventh grade, and they had all just graduated, as Ginny would have too. These used to be her friends, and then, in her absence, they were mine; I had been subsumed by her world. The only thing I missed about my old life was astronomy club. At this point, I no longer had any extracurricular activities other than songwriting and amateur drug taking. And who would do that with me when they were gone at the end of summer, off to their new lives at college? It would be like losing my sister all over again. “They’re not going to play, are they?” I asked Soo, nodding at Justin, who was standing in front of his Flying V guitar, as we sank into the red pleather couch. I’d always thought that was a dumb-looking guitar. “They suck, you know. And they have the worst band name in history.” “Piece of Toast isn’t that bad.” “It’s always a bad idea to name your band while tripping,” I said. “Well, they might play,” Soo said. “Depends on if my mom passes out or not. She’s been complaining about the noise. Apparently alcohol does not dull your hearing.” The boys didn’t bother coming over. Tommy buried his face in a pile of records. I hadn’t seen him since he’d shoved his fingers up me in an attempt at something vaguely sexual, which had happened on the football field when we got wasted the weekend before. It seemed he had decided to pretty much ignore me, which was fine, so I traced the rim of my beer can with my fingertip and tried to look bored so I wouldn’t look unmoored, as if I were in danger of drifting off the couch and out of orbit, holding on to the upholstery buttons for dear life. It wasn’t like I liked Tommy anyway. We were just the only two perpetually single people in the group. Soo tossed her hair back, her perfect pearl earrings sparkling. “So what’s with the fashionable lateness?” She took an expert sip of her beer. Mine was sweating on the table. “I was waiting outside for the butler to present me,” I said. “Waitthis isn’t my coming-out party? The debutante’s ball? Huh.” Occasionally Soo was immune to my humor. “I wasn’t even sure if you were going to show.” She wasn’t looking at me, a sign that she was hurt that I was so late, that I hadn’t even called. “I wasn’t allowed to leave my room!” I said, and I was already so raw and tired that the flood started coming, my hands in parted prayer position, reaching into the air. Heading toward a fit. “Not all of us have parents who don’t have any rules!” “Okay, Carit’s okay.” She grabbed my hands from the air and brought them back down, spreading my fingers out on the sticky fabric. She always knew how to calm the wave. “What happened?” I pressed my hands against the pleather until my heartbeat slowed. I gulped my beer. “Eh, just the usual.” The beer was warm, but I drank it anyway because Greta and Soo and the rest of them were drinking it, and they were my real family, the collective Daddy Warbucks to my orphan Annie. “You know, a little parental freak-out and some Spider-Man-style escape.” I wanted to tell Soo about the fight with my dad, but sometimes it seemed like the past couple of years weren’t real. That wasn’t me screaming and throwing things. That wasn’t me in the middle of the sidewalk, face-down, kicking my legs, being dragged off in the ambulance. That was someone who lived inside me. My devilish alter ego. Mr. Hyde. It wasn’t me. So I just told her, “I used my Spidey sense.” “You’re such a dork,” she said, and she was smiling, but I wasn’t sure she said it to be funny, because when they had rescued me from the funeral and what would have been a lifetime of depressing days after it, my dorkdomthough softened by my guitar playing and encyclopedic memorization of Public Enemy lyricswas still firmly intact. The truth was, I had never been cool, but Ginny had been the quintessential popular girl. Not the cheerleader kind. The beautiful-girl-with-the-short-dyed-black-hair-and-bright-green-eyes-and-cat’s-eye-glasses kind, the introduce-your-kid-sister-to-Elvis-Costello-and-Velvet-Underground kind, the skip-school-but-still-get-good-grades kind, the run-with-the-fast-crowd kind. I had been scrambling to keep up with her even before she was gone. “I’m just glad you’re here.” Soo lifted up her beer. Oh. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I had kept up. “Cheers.” Before I had even clinked her can, Justin sidled up to us. The perfect eighteen-year-old human being, Justin was a jock and an art room druggie all at once, Johnny Depp-meets-Scott Baio looks with shaggy, chestnut-colored hair and green eyes. He crouched down next to Soo and picked up her hand and stroked it. I pretended to vomit. Justin got that look, like he didn’t know if he should laugh. “Oh, nodon’t take it personally. I’ve just had too much to drink.” I raised my nearly full first beer. He still didn’t laugh. “I’m just messing with you,” I said, and lightly punched his arm. “Ow,” he said. At least I’d thought it was lightly. “I’m getting another beer.” Soo went with him, and Greta sat with me. In her fuchsia Cyndi Lauper dress, strapless with a fluffy crepe skirt on the bottom, her Converse high-tops and her long, feathered, perfectly curly strawberry blond hairachieved naturally, no perm necessaryshe looked like a movie star: Kim Basinger, but somehow even prettier. Greta. She was good at tennis and still a hippie chick and a cheerleader anyway. She was so good at holding her liquor. So statuesque. How could one person be so many good things? No wonder she always had a boyfriend. Everything about her was pretty. I was wearing one of my mom’s old T-shirts with the sleeves cut off and the bottom sliced into fringes, and cutoff Lee jeans. “Drink up, kid,” she told me with that perfect smile. I’d do anything she said. So I drank, even though I much preferred my mom’s iced tea, the kind she made from the mint she grew every summer in pots on our porch. Beer no longer tasted like toe fungus (or what I thought toe fungus would taste like), but I would never actually like it. “So what’s up?” “Let’s see,” I said. “I’m currently locked in my room, as you can see.” “Ah, the father,” she said. “Yeah, it sucks when they pretend that they actually care about you so they can ground you.” “That’s what they say. Luckily my dad doesn’t even pretend.” “God, you are lucky,” I said, smiling at her joke. I wondered if she knew how lucky she was. I’d never met her dad, but I figured he must be wealthy and handsome and worldly and kind if he’d sired her. Justin and Soo stood in the corner now, holding hands, cocooned in a private world. “Mmm, young love,” Greta said, as if they were so naïve, as if she knew something they didn’t. What did she know? Greta had not gone a day without a boyfriend since she was twelvebreak up one day, find a new one the next. But Soo hadn’t dated much. She’d been more like me: on the sidelines, occasionally pulled into the action but never claimed. And now she was In Love. What did she know? What did they all know?
In the evening after Ginny’s funeral, Greta had retrieved me from the reception and taken me with her and Soo and their friends, driving in some older boy’s car with the windows rolled down and the soft spring air on my face, stunned and numb and comfortable in the womblike enclosure of Ginny’s friends, with Janis Joplin’s “Bye, Bye Baby” blaring through the speaker: You just got lost somewhere out in the world, she sang, and you left me here to face it all alone. I’d never heard Janis Joplin before. Her voice was sort of like sandpaper and sort of like an organ played by the goddess Athena. Ginny’s friends smoked and drankthings I had not done until that nightand we ended up at a roller-skating rink called Diamonds, because roller skating had been Ginny’s favorite activity, and there was lots of toasting her, drinking from Ginny’s own flaskhow did they get that?the flask I was sure my parents never knew she had. The first time I drank that cheap bourbon, I felt my gray matter turning black, felt the stars dim, a feeling I both craved and hated. And then, suddenly, all fogged in my brain, I was laced up and floating in circles around the place with Greta and her then (and now again) boyfriend, Tiger. I was wearing something I’d taken from Ginny’s closet, before my mother cleaned out her room: a pink and gray striped shirt with thin bands of silver between the stripes. Disco-ish, but I hadn’t yet learned that we’d declared war on disco. Greta had gone off to the parking lot with Justin and Tommy to drink some bourbon from the flask, and Tiger and I were still roller skating around the rink by ourselves, and then I felt his hand grab mine, his fingers curl around mine, a feeling it seemed I had waited my whole life to feel. We rolled and glided together across that shiny floor, strobe lights blinking, “Eye of the Tiger” blaring through the speakers, which somehow made it feel like fate, even though that was one of the least romantic songs ever. Dark circles of sweat stained the armpits of my shirt, so I tried to keep my arms plastered to my sides, but that was hard to do and hold Tiger’s hand at the same time, and then my palm was so sweaty that my hand slipped out of his and he drifted away and I didn’t know how to get him back. Later, in the bathroom, when I showed Greta the sweat stains, she said, “Don’t worry, honey,” and took off her white button-down shirt and helped me into it, and then she said, “Hold on a sec,” and took out her Love’s Baby Soft and sprayed it on my neck and then put some strawberry-scented gloss on my lips, which I immediately got on my front teeth because I had never worn my retainer and my overbite had come right back after my parents spent all that money on braces, as they had reminded me constantly before something far worse happened. “There,” she said. And she left the bathroom, looking oh-so-chic in her thin white tank top. I stood there and looked at myself in the mirror for a few minutes, trying to like what I saw. But it just looked like me with a little lip gloss and Greta’s shirt. I wasn’t particularly fond of my teeth, the way one of them jutted out, or my hands with their stubby fingers. My head was too small and my brown eyes were too close together and my brown hair was frizzy instead of perfectly curly like Greta’s and the space between my nose and my upper lip was too big and I was so, so, so, so, so short and everything about me was off. Worst of all, I was alive. As I came out, there was Tiger, and he pressed me up against those icy concrete walls and kissed me and it was wrong and bad and it was amazing and I didn’t understand. Why had he turned his attention toward me? Did he feel sorry for me because my sister had died? Did Greta know? Tiger was so cute: half Puerto Rican, half Irish, dark skin, dark eyes, a gold chain around his neck, a football jersey, totally out of my league. Or maybe totally out of my league until Ginny had let me step into hers. Ginny, with that little space between her two front teeth, always visible because of her huge smile, and that too-loud laugh, and her perpetually perfect wave of blue eye shadow and her fingerless lace Madonna glovesshe had walked off, or driven off, leaving a path for me. Was I supposed to be happy about the life she’d left me in her wake? And then the kiss stopped and Tiger walked back out to the rink. And the evening ended. And we all piled in the back of the car, me and Greta and Tiger, and the two of them made out, but he reached back and held my hand for a minute, gave it a squeeze. A consolation prize. Greta got love and sex. I got a hand squeeze. Ginny would never have anything again. When I got out of the car, Greta handed me the flask.
Now I picked out records to play: Sam Cooke, Hüsker Dü, R.E.M., the Ramones, and, what the heck, Nina Simone’s cover of the Bee Gees: You don’t know what it’s like, she sang, to love somebody like I love you. That feeling of one tune connecting to the other, making a story out of a series of songs, of being hit right in the chest when the music gets it rightit was the best. “Good mix,” Tommy said, nodding his head, hand stroking his stubbly chin like he was appreciating Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (as if Tommy would know what that was). Apparently Tommy was talking to me again. “Except that Hüsker Dü shit is totally screwed up.” The song was “Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely.” “I’m known all over town for my screwed-up-ness,” I said. Which, sadly, was true. I could feel Tommy looking at me, now that he was drunk and swaying. “And, Tommy, Hüsker Dü is rad.” We all drank and drank and drank and then we smoked and smoked and smoked. For a long time, I put my head on the back of the couch and looked at the drop ceiling, all those little pockmarks like some kind of constellation that I couldn’t quite figure out, a map I couldn’t read. Every time I looked down from the ceiling, people were making outSoo and Justin, Tiger and Greta. Tommy studied the record covers in faux oblivion. Tommy. So not my type. Short hair, thick wrestler’s body, not so smart, too into Rush. I liked them tall and skinny and long-haired and into Big Star. At least in theory I did. Somebody passed me a joint, and I took a long hit and laid my head back again and listened to the song that was playing now, the Velvet Underground with Nico’s smoky voice singing “I’ll Be Your Mirror”: Reflect what you are, in case you don’t know. The song ripped open a hole in my chest, and for a minute it was hard to breathe. When I looked up, my vision blurring, Justin had his hand on Soo’s face like they did it in old movies and they both had their eyes open and they kept stopping to look at each other and squeeze hands. “Get a room, why don’t you?” I called, my words all slurry and echoing in my own ears. Soo looked over at me, her eyes fierce. And then she left. She just left me there, Bye-bye, baby, bye-bye. She probably went upstairs to her bedroom, and I knew what she was doing there, something I’d never done even though I’d thought about it once last year when that nineteen-year-old boy Anton Oboieski was on top of me and I knew everyone else was doing the same thing in the rooms all around me but then he opened his eyes for a second and narrowed them at me, as if realizing only then that I wasn’t Ginny. When he closed his eyes again, I pressed against his chest and said, very softly, “Sorry,” and grabbed my plaid shirt and leggings and crept out of the room, waiting with a warm, undrunk beer until the rest of them were finished. Since then, I’d let those boys do so many things to me but that one thingI was just saving that one thing. I was holding on to it in the hope that someday I’d want somebody and he’d want me, too. The same amount. Now Tommy grabbed me and shoved his hand down my shirt, and I was enveloped by the whole thing, the music and the drugs and the meaningless touches. I just left my body and let it happen, let him grope and paw and lick and kiss. I let myself get erased.
It was almost five in the morning by the time I got home. Justin had come back to retrieve me, driving Soo’s Le Car, and now the two of them were dropping me off as I groaned, prostrate on the back seat. I forced myself to sit up when we got to my block. “I gotta walk from here,” I said, even though I had vertigo. I pushed the door open and hung my head between my knees. “You drink too much,” Justin said. I waited for Soo to object but she didn’t. I liked the protective shield my friends provided more than I liked alcohol, but Justin didn’t know that. And besides, it was they who had introduced me to all the illegal substances I now regularly consumed. Everything was their idea. “Yeah, I do everything too much,” I said. “This has been pointed out to me before.” The therapist had said to me, I believe you have some kind of impulse disorder and essentially feel all of your emotions too strongly to regulate them. To which I had replied, Have you ever heard of the term fuck off? I scooted out of the car and hobbled down the street, past Mrs. Moran’s and the Chins’ and Missy Tester’s house. One pinpoint of light shot across the sky, the beginning of the meteor showers, the preview to Vira, and then it was really quiet in that perfect small-town way, crickets and rustling leaves, and I so did not want to be alone. I crept up alongside the fence that separated our yard from the big house’s grounds, toward the back door of our house. Amid the low sound of the crickets and the occasional thrum of a car driving down Grand Street, I heard something. Someone was playing guitar, somewhere over by Mrs. Richmond’s. I recognized itthe lick from the Jam’s “English Rose.” Whoever it was played all those notes almost perfectly but really quietly, so you wouldn’t hear it unless you came right up close. Which I did. I walked up to the fence and stood on a metal pail to get a look, because I wasn’t sure if I was making it up or not, what with my head throbbing in that terrible coming-down-from-being-wasted way, and my stomach reeling from all that watery beer. On the front step of the big house sat a boyor, not a boy, but maybe a college kidwith a beat-up Guild on his lap, picking out the notes and occasionally stopping to look up at the cornflower blue early dawn sky. He was tall and thin and had long hair, and he had on a worn blue-and-yellow-striped rugby shirt and ripped jean shorts and combat boots with the laces undone, and he was beautiful. He was just beautiful. Then I somehow kicked the pail out from under me and it clanged and the boy looked up and I swore he saw me as the light went on in my father’s bedroom. I scampered inside and forgot to shut the screen door slowly and it slammed. The whole house shuddered. I slinked up to my room. My father was standing outside my door, arms crossed, hair all spiky and bags under his eyes from interrupted sleep. Rosie called, “You woke me up, you jerk,” from inside her room. Rosie could fall asleep almost anywhere instantly, and slept hard, so this was a rare and unwelcome event. She opened the door and threw her hands in the air. “Get yourself some help.” Then she went back into her room and collapsed on her bed. My father didn’t say anything. He just watched as I went into my room and shut the door. I took out my Saturday Night Fever record, wiped it clean with the red velvety lint brush that seemed like the most luxurious thing in my life sometimes, and I placed the stylus oh-so-gently on the record and plugged in my headphones, so big and fluffy, giant leather clouds over my ears. I put the needle on track five, “If I Can’t Have You.” Don’t know why, I’m surviving every lonely day . . . I lay down on my Snoopy-in-space pillow and cried along with the beat, just cried and cried until I fell asleep.
Somehow I slept the entire day, squirming to life in my bed at four p.m. I woke up with my head throbbing, the sun bright in my window and making me squint. I breathed in and felt that tentacle-ish pain in my chestI almost liked that sensation, the ache of having smoked far too many cigarettes the night before. It was a kind of trophy. Outside my room, my father waited. Had he been there all night? All morning? All day? But no. He’d clearly been out somewhere, for he stood there very calmly, holding a sea-foam-green hardhat and a brochure. I could make out the pictures: young people smiling happily in those same hardhats amid a backdrop of tall pines. “What in god’s name is that?” I asked, rubbing my knotted, bed-headed hair and fake-yawning. He handed it over to me, placed the hard plastic right in my hands and pressed them against it. He said, “I figured out what to do with you.”
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Lost Stars sucked me in, and I didn't want to put it down. Maybe, because I have a soft spot for wrecked teens. Or maybe, it was because I was intrigued by the amount of information Ms. Davis had to know about certain things (that mostly went right over my head... I am not mathematically inclined). Or maybe, it was because the lack of communication in a frustrated household is such a normal thing, but it doesn't often get addressed or talked out, and like a leaky roof, nothing about it gets better with time. Or maybe (yes I think it was this one, for sure), it was because Ms. Davis wrote Carrie and the rest of the characters so well. All I know is that though everyone deals with tragedy in their own unique way, there's still one common thread between most people affected by it: self-blame. In that regard, Lost Stars was a perfect before and after of "normal life" vs. when something goes horribly wrong. Siblings, parents, friends, acquaintances... everyone's perceptions, responses, and coping mechanisms change with loss. (Oftentimes, there are varying levels of empathy--and those degrees affect the person dealing with tragedy almost as much as the tragedy itself. This also factored in to Carrie's behavior, as well as almost everyone else.) Lost Stars is a coming of age story like many out there--teen doesn't want to face their feelings, so teen makes poor decisions, then teen is forced to be responsible/own up to their actions, etc. But what makes LS different is that you get to know Carrie in all her funks and idiosyncrasies. You understand why she makes the decisions she does. You're not sitting there going, "wow, what a brat", you're rooting for her, in hopes that things will finally go her way. And when SHE starts to see things for what they really are, YOU'RE doing it, too. It's a journey. One that, thank goodness, ends in a positive way. (Is that a spoiler? I'm going to say no.) I sure hope Ms. Davis has more YA on its way! **Due to language, underage drinking, drug use, and sexual situations, I'd say Lost Stars is most definitely UPPER YA.**
First I have to say that the cover of this title is absolutely gorgeous, even more so in person. I think that is what I first fell in love with, I have always had an affinity towards celestial items. This is the heart wrenching story of Carrie. A young woman whose family has been destroyed in the wake of an accident. A young woman who has been trying to fit in where she can in order to not feel as if she is completely alone. While struggling with her broken life at home, she also harbors quite a bit of survivors guilt over her sisters accident. This actually hit home a bit for me. While not the same situation, my father also suffers this horrid disease. He lost his best friend at 16 to a drunk driving accident and he has never let it go. So it was a bit easier for me to understand exactly what Carrie was harboring inside. Life starts to change a bit when she meets Dean though. Slowly Carrie starts to realize that she's been living life all wrong. That she's been embracing and pushing away the wrong people and actions. Coming around to the fact that there is some information that's been missing from her assumptions since her sister's passing. Lost Stars is a great novel of growing, accepting, learning and letting go. No I do wonder if there is going to be a follow up to this book. Dean's past really wasn't elaborated on as much as I had hoped and I'm wondering whether that would have an impact on the relationship that's developing with Carrie towards the end.
This one took some time for me to settle into. I struggled with this story. Hard. And if not for a blog tour, I might have DNF'd. Carrie is hard to like in the beginning. She's rude and mean and careless and perhaps a bit suicidal. There's been a lot of loss and upheaval in her world and her reaction is to act a fool. There are loads of secondary characters, but we don't really get to know them. It's an effective way to show Carrie's state of mind and how she feels alone. The book is set at a very slow pace and parts did seem repetitive. Yet now that I've finished the book, I can see the slow transformation of Carrie. It's not perfect, and it's definitely not complete, but it is hopeful. Overall, not quite what I was expecting, but good. I would have liked more of an ending, but I'm greedy and it sort of worked. I'm glad I stuck with it and finished. **Huge thanks to HMH Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**