This achingly beautiful novel considers how to measure love when it has the power to both save and destroy.
Levon Grady and Samantha Vash are both students at an alternative high school for high-achieving but troubled teens. They have been chosen for a year-long project where they write their life stories and collect interviews from people who know them. The only rule is 100% confidentialitythey will share their work only with each other. What happens will transform their lives.
Told from the perspectives of Levon, Sam, and all the people who know them best, this is a love story infused with science and the exploration of identity. In Love Is Both Wave and Particle, Paul Cody looks at how love behaves in different situations, and how it can shed light on even the darkest heart.
Praise for Love is Both Wave and Particle:
"[A] series of first-person narratives from the teens’ parents, classmates, and counselor . . . offer varied perspectives on Sam and quiet, handsome Levon Grady, who is “maybe somewhere on the broad spectrum of Asperger’s,” as he puts it. . . . Part romance, part psychological study, adult author Cody’s first book for teens thoughtfully conveys Sam and Levon’s complex mental states, the evolution of their relationship, and their journeys of self-discovery." Publishers Weekly
|Publisher:||Roaring Brook Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Paul Cody earned an MFA at Cornell University, and has published several novels and a memoir for adults. He lives in Ithaca, New York, with his wife, the poet Elizabeth Holmes, and their two sons. Love Is Both Wave and Particle is his first novel for teenagers.
Read an Excerpt
The fat lady across the street died. At home, on Sunday. The one in the green house with the aluminum siding. Susan, my mom, told me in an email. She saw it in the local paper, the Ithaca Journal, at work, on Tuesday.
At first Susan wasn't sure if it was the thin woman or the fat woman. There was also a really short fat guy who lived there. You hardly ever saw any of them. The shades were always drawn, and they never used the front door. Except every once in a while an ambulance would pull up at night and they'd take the fat guy out on a stretcher, with an oxygen mask on his face.
If anything, we thought he'd be the first to go. They all seemed to be in their sixties or seventies, and they never seemed to go out except to get in this gray Chevrolet Impala, maybe to go grocery shopping or to the doctor. Once in a while one of the women would come out to the front porch to get the mail. Or the skinny woman or the fat woman would take the trash out to the strip of grass between the sidewalk and street, where the city had planted trees, on the side street from the back, because their house was on the corner.
Sometimes, if you passed them and they happened to be on the porch or taking the trash out or getting in the car, they'd nod or say hello, and I'd nod or say hello back. You never saw anybody visit, anybody stop in to have a cup of coffee or a beer or whatever people do when they visit each other. That was it. In fifteen or twenty years.
Well, seventeen years, because that's how old I was. But Susan was forty-three, and we'd lived across the street from them for all that time. And I don't think I ever said a word to the fat man, because I almost never saw him except when the ambulance was taking him away — always at night, and always out the front door on a stretcher, down the steps, the red light on top flashing and twirling, and the oxygen mask on his face. And I'd think, Maybe this is his last ride.
A few times I saw him standing in the driveway at the back of the house, on the side street, wearing a white shirt and dark pants, looking very neat, but strange because he was one of those people who was pretty much as wide as he was tall. He had a square face and black hair that was neatly combed back off his forehead.
The fat woman was not that wide, and had a round face and reddish hair, and none of them looked like each other, and Susan said none of them, as far as she knew, were related.
The fat lady who died was Dakota Goddell, the man was Harold W. Smithie, and the thin woman was Martha Nelson.
The name Dakota surprised me. She looked like a Mary or an Alice or a Kathy or a Norma. The obituary in the Journal said she was sixty-two, had died at home after a brief illness, and had "enjoyed living in the country and worked on farms prior to relocating to Ithaca in 1986. She loved animals and had owned many dogs. Dakota was a friendly person who never disagreed with anyone. She was always happy and never shirked a task. Survivors include friends and companions Harold W. Smithie and Martha Nelson." That was all.
I tried to remember what I had been doing Sunday night. I'm sure I was home because I don't go out much. They must have called the police or an ambulance or something to take the body away, but I didn't notice, didn't know, didn't have any idea that the fat lady, that Dakota Goddell, who had lived across the street for so many years, had died.
And so often over the years, four or five or six times, I had watched from the curtains at the front door as they took Mr. Smithie down the steps on a stretcher, with an oxygen mask on his face, and every time I had thought, This is it. He won't be back. This is the last time.
I always thought of the closed curtains, and what life must be like for them, and where they came from, and what they did all day.
And that's how this whole thing began — with Meg, my teacher, counselor, adviser, shrink at this special school I went to, who said I had to write a senior project to graduate. And how I met Sam, who was new to the town and the school, and had just spent most of a year in mental hospitals.
This was an English/writing seminar. We were to write a few pages each week about our lives, past and present. What we were doing and thinking, what our pasts had been like. We'd spend all of senior year on this. I would show nobody what I wrote except for Meg and Sam. Sam and I would read each other's versions and make comments and suggestions. The idea was to come to a deeper understanding of both ourselves and our pasts. And Meg would contact other people for us to solicit stories about us, and other students' versions of senior year, but she would limit telling anyone about the specifics or scope of the project, and they would be sworn to secrecy. She'd talk to former teachers, shrinks, roommates, fellow students, parents, anyone whose name she could come up with from our files. Meg would withhold outside input from us till the end of the year. The whole thing was pretty funny because I'd never met Samantha, who preferred to be called Sam. Just heard a little about her from Meg.
We were both supposed to be gifted, and we were both on meds, and we were both avoidant, or maybe somewhere on the broad spectrum of Asperger's, or depressed or ADD or something else the psychiatrists pulled out of the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Because everything needs a label, right? Everything fits into a neat little box? Then we can understand it and treat it, usually with drugs? Especially human beings? Their histories and souls?
Not that Meg did that, or even Susan, who was a neurobiologist. It was just kind of the way things went. When the boxes they put us in spilled over and fell off the shelves, everybody — honest to God — meant well, and they didn't want anyone, especially us kids, to get hurt. But it was really just about taking a complex kid, struggling to grow up, and giving him some labels so you had a set of symptoms you could treat and have a more orderly classroom. All of it was made up in the end.
I wouldn't even have considered doing the project, but I'd known Meg a long time, for all five years I'd been at the school, and I trusted her as much as I trusted anybody, maybe even my mom. And she said that she thought that Sam was talented, really talented, and complicated, and vulnerable. Sam was reluctant but willing.
This would be a yearlong project, Meg said. Who knew? she said. It could be a book people might read someday.
Meg said, I told her you were one of the most interesting kids in the school. And by far the best-read.
She smiled. And I said you were a nice guy, and occasionally charming.
I said, Oh.
And between you and me, kiddo, she's one of the most interesting, brightest kids I've come across in ages. Extremely well-read. And potentially funny and charming, if — if you can draw her out.
She handed me a piece of paper that had the name Sam and her email address.
She has yours, Meg said, but I think you make the first play. Otherwise I doubt you'll hear from her.
The paper was a pink Post-it note with the name Sam printed clearly, and the initials sav, three numerals, a star, a pound sign, two parenthesis signs with a question mark between the parens, @gmail.com.
I'd never seen such a strange email address.
This is her email? I asked Meg.
Exactly, she said.
So I got an email from this dude named Levon. Meg from the Clock School warned me about it. Said we were gonna do this senior project together. Well, not together exactly, but at the same time. Parallel projects writing our own autobiographies. It was English and writing, with maybe some psychology and personal history thrown in. He'd do his, I'd do mine, and we'd show each other what we were doing as we went along. Give each other feedback and such. Make suggestions. Advise and encourage.
Meg didn't exactly say where she'd come into the picture. If we would be meeting with her too, and with each other. Me and Levon. Pronounced LEE-von.
School didn't start officially for a week, even though things at the Clock School seemed pretty loose. They sort of have classes but they sort of don't. They have a lot of teachers and staff, and a lot of rooms with couches and easy chairs, and labs with computers, and a big room where kids build robots.
The school was on the second floor of this big old factory building where they used to make the Ithaca Calendar Clock, which was supposedly famous in the nineteenth century. Now it was completely overhauled. There was a music store on the first floor, and music teachers, and some offices for shrinks, and a massage therapist and a yoga studio. It was all very Ithaca. And it was in this normal, kind of leafy neighborhood called Fall Creek, where the houses were kind of close together, and the houses were set close to the street, but had cool backyards, and apparently a lot of writers and professors and musicians and artists lived in Fall Creek.
The school was a charter school, grades seven to twelve, but you had to be diagnosed with something from the DSM to go there, and you also had to be pretty good at school and want very small classes where you got a lot of teacher attention and support. Most of the students were faculty brats from Cornell or Ithaca College, and they just didn't fit in very well anywhere else. The school got state and federal money, and the staff and parents wrote and got grants, and the Clock School was ridiculously well funded.
I got this info from my parents, Nathan and Vera.
Anyway, back to Levon, which, by the way, was a curious name. Like he came from Arkansas, or the Old Testament. And had a long beard and wore suspenders. He sounded possibly okay, like we might do this thing by email.
When I met Meg, she showed me around the school, and we sat in her office, and she was wearing shorts and flip-flops and was carrying a few extra pounds, but she was wearing this nice lavender top, and a silver necklace with a red stone. She showed me around the mostly empty school, then to her office, which was down a long hall, then went right on the short part of an L.
It was somehow on the inside of the L, so there were no windows, just exposed red brick and beams, but shiny oak floors. There was a wall mostly of books, and a small desk in a corner, but it was big and more like a den. There was a couch, a coffee table, two big comfortable chairs, and everything looked clean and used.
And I loved the art on the walls. Two Paul Klees — Fish Magic and the ship with the red and yellow flags — plus a big copy of John Singer Sargent's The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, which has always struck me as incomparably beautiful and incredibly sad — each of the four daughters, from the toddler in the foreground in full light to the other three, recede into the background, then into darkness and obscurity as they go further into adolescence, framed by a large doorway and these gorgeous, tall, shapely vases, and nothing behind them but blackness.
I felt safe somehow in this room. In Meg's room. Maybe she got it about the Sargent painting.
So Levon. His email. He said, Hey Sam. He told me he had talked to Meg, and that while he wasn't wildly enthusiastic, he had to graduate, and he thought Meg was good people, the best. A very cool woman, in fact. He said he didn't mind how we did this. Text, Skype, email, phone, though he was not a big fan of the phone. He wasn't sure what Meg had in mind. The drill, the protocol. But he figured we could figure it out to our mutual satisfaction. Mutual satisfaction. He actually said that. Like a Henry James novel or something. Well, there it is. Well, where what is? It kept changing. And where was never quite clear. And is was shifting too. Beautifully ambiguous.
He said, Welcome to Ithaca. This is a pretty cool town. There's a lot of interesting stuff here for such a small place. Then he pastes in this thing he wrote about a fat lady who lived across the street who he barely knew and who had just died.
It was kind of interesting, but I didn't know what to make of it. It was sad, a little anyway. I mean, the woman's life sounded sad, and that she lived there so long and he hardly knew her was sad, and her obituary was sad. She liked dogs, never shirked a task, was always happy, never argued with anyone. Never? Anyone?
What struck me most of all was that he said he, Levon, never went out much, and in the last paragraph he wrote, I always thought of the closed curtains, and what life must be like for them, and where they came from, and what they did all day.
It was slightly creepy the way he watched them carry Mr. Smithie out on the stretcher so many times and thought he was going to die. And then Dakota Goddell died, and he didn't even know.
But it bothered him that he didn't know them, that she was gone, and he wondered about their lives. Not so much like being nosy or being a spy, but feeling curious and kind of feeling sorry for them.
And maybe too — and I wonder about this, I wonder if he was aware of this — he saw a little of himself in their lives. This guy behind closed curtains who didn't go out much. Who peeked out, and like Dakota, he had a slightly weird name.
I would never say this to him.
After the four pages, he wrote, This is what I have for now. I don't know if it means anything. But I hope to hear from you, and I'm looking forward.
I thought about it for a while. I sat on my bed on the third floor, and looked at the empty walls, which were empty because this had only been my room for like two months.
Finally, I wrote: Good. Okay.
Then I wrote down this poem I'd once made out of refrigerator magnets:
lick smooth my shadow together whisper weak music say here her feet rose languid through white summer
That's all for now, I wrote. There it is, as it were.
Fair skies and following seas.
I hit send.
A sailor's term for good luck. I wondered if he'd get that.
I gathered they emailed each other. They didn't say anything about what they said, of course, but the first big hurdle was crossed. He wrote to her and she wrote back, and they both let me know. So that's a good thing.
But get this: they both expected this project was going to happen over email. Ha! They'd work together on a project over an entire school year, and they'd never have to lay eyes on each other. They'd never even have to be in the same room together at the same time.
I disabused them both of that idea immediately. I told them the three of us would be meeting Wednesday at ten o'clock, in my office, the first week of classes.
You can both wear masks and disguises, if you wish, but you will both be here, I said in my most imperative Meg Goldman voice.
I didn't hear back from either of them after that one, but I was confident they'd be here. Sometimes kids like a lack of ambiguity.
I'd been working with kids, my Lord, almost twenty years. I got an undergraduate degree in English with the idea of being a teacher, and then after getting certified, I went on and got a master's in social work as well. I figured I'd be employable one way or the other. I did all of that at Syracuse, and then came down to Ithaca, which was like paradise.
Most people don't know it, but Syracuse is officially the snowiest city in the continental United States. It gets more snow than Buffalo, Fargo, Minneapolis, than anywhere. It has something to do with its proximity to Lake Erie, and air currents, so the winter is long and grim, and the city is not Paris. It's not even Cairo.
Ithaca has long, tough winters, but Ithaca is cool in so many ways I can't name them all. It has a major research university, a major college with a fine music conservatory. It has a wonderful unspoiled lake, a farmer's market, gorges, and really interesting people. Nabokov wrote most of Lolita here, and a significant part of its Ivy League institution is a state agricultural school, so people have cow shit on their shoes, and somehow, that keeps people, many of them anyway, just a little bit grounded.
I loved the town wholly and forever when I got here and started teaching English at Boynton Middle School. I taught for four years, and the biggest surprise was how widely diverse the students were. There were plenty of university brats, but there were kids from the projects, and kids bussed in from the Town of (rather than the City of) Ithaca. I started learning about all the kids with special needs, and assessments, and IEPs, which stands for individualized education programs. It sounds weirdly close to IED, an improvised explosive device, used so widely in the Middle East.
Excerpted from "Love is Both Wave and Particle"
Copyright © 2017 Paul Cody.
Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
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.
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