Join a tough eleven-year-old as she faces down zombie rabbits, alien mobs, and Puppet Cartels while trying to find her missing twin in Sarah Cannon's imaginative middle-grade debut, Oddity.
Welcome to Oddity, New Mexico, where normal is odd and odd is normal.
Ada Roundtree is no stranger to dodging carnivorous dumpsters, distracting zombie rabbits with marshmallows, and instigating games of alien punkball. But things haven’t been the same since her twin sister, Pearl, won the town’s yearly Sweepstakes and disappeared . . .
Along with her best friend, Raymond, and new-kid-from-Chicago Cayden (whose inability to accept being locked in the gym with live leopards is honestly quite laughable), Ada leads a self-given quest to discover Oddity’s secrets, even evading the invisible Blurmonster terrorizing the outskirts of town.
But one of their missions goes sideways, revealing something hinky with the Sweepstakes . . . and Ada can’t let it go. Because, if the Sweepstakes is bad, then what happened to Pearl?
About the Author
Sarah Cannon, author of Oddity, has lived all over the U.S., but right now she calls Indiana home. She has a husband, three kids and a misguided dog. Sarah holds a B.S. in Education. She's a nerdy knitting gardener who drinks a lot of coffee, and eats a lot of raspberries.
She is probably human.
Read an Excerpt
Times like now, as I hide behind a stack of gym mats holding Cayden's head down so he won't get clawed, I wish Pearl was here. I don't know why safety drills have to be so realistic. Everyone knows Cayden just moved here from Chicago. Why not prepare him a little before setting angry leopards loose in the gym, instead of letting him drag down our class's score?
Cayden's our neighbor, and I know I should help him, but he's holding me back. Raymond's going to get more points than me. He dove straight for the weapons locker, like I wanted to. We're finally fifth graders, and there's no one bigger to get there first. On the other hand, I know Cayden hasn't finished his half of our diorama on "The Three Reasons Science Is Risky." If he gets eaten, I'll have to do all that homework myself.
A bead of sweat rolls down his forehead. He's always pale next to Raymond and me, but right now he's white as a yeti.
"You know what my dad says every time we move, Ada? He says, 'It'll be an adventure!' This time, I told him he was just saying it to make himself feel better. He's getting back at me for complaining, isn't he?" "Nope. This is pretty normal for Oddity. Do what I say and you'll probably live."
Gosh, kid. Pull it together.
I glance over the stack of mats we're hiding behind. Eunice is doing way better at rope climbing this year. She's got claw marks in her gym shorts, but she's high enough up that the leopards aren't going to get her again.
The fourth graders pulled the bleachers out and are defending the top. Our class tried that, the time we had cassowaries. It didn't work so well. Too easy for whatever it is to run around under there, going after your feet.
The teachers stand outside the grilled doors, waiting. Mr. Bakshi watches and makes notes on his clipboard. Ms. Winters rubs her hands up and down her arms, even though she's got a sweater on and it's about a hundred degrees out. She hasn't been the same since she spent Labor Day weekend in the morgue. (It was an honest mistake. The EMTs thought she was dead.) I heard her tell Mrs. O'Halloran she's so behind on grading now it will be Memorial Day before she's caught up. That's what they get for going to year-round school.
I run a hand through my braids and give the gym a quick once-over. The heavy doors they put in last spring will keep the leopards out of the locker room, at least. Sure enough, most of the big cats are under the bleachers swiping at people's ankles. Raymond tranqed one on his way over here, at close range, I notice. I approve.
He tosses me a gun. "How many minutes you figure we got?"
"I'm timing," I say. "Three and change."
He sends another gun sailing over the stack of gym mats, almost whacking Cayden in the head.
"Aw, Mendez, you know he can't use that."
He vaults over the mats to land beside us. None of Cayden's swingy skater hair for him, just the same old military buzz cut. He's the one thing I can count on.
"Look, he's gotta learn sometime. I'm not giving up a pizza party for the new kid."
That's this year's prize for the highest safety ratings. There's a new place we want to try called Ransom Pizza. They deliver empty boxes with threatening notes inside, and you have thirty minutes to find your pizza, or it explodes.
"He's had three months of small sortie fighting drills. He's ready. Cayden, get up!" Cayden does. He's still pale, but he's standing. I give him the tranquilizer gun. Raymond also has Betsy, a shotgun, slung over his shoulder, but he won't use her for this. Leopards are endangered, and we're a green school.
I squeeze off a shot over Raymond's shoulder, and the leopard stumbles, sliding to a stop behind him, out. Probably out. The other one's still down. That's a good sign. If they had superpowers, we'd know by now. I head around the side of the bleachers to get a clear view. Wish I had a flashlight. There must not have been any in the locker. Raymond's good about grabbing that stuff.
I use the reflected light in their eyes to aim, and I get one. Then I take out the one Cayden's aiming at and missing. The one behind that is so close I can see the ripple of its spots in the bars of light coming in through the bleachers. I yank Cayden out. It rounds the corner.
"Try again, Cayden," I say, but Raymond puts it down before Cayden's got a clear shot.
"Three for me, two for you," I say, mad that he messed up my lesson. There's only one left out on the floor, but either it's not too swift on the uptake or Mr. Bakshi was taunting them this morning, because it's swiping at the glass of the outside door over and over, and not accomplishing anything. I motion for Cayden to take that one, and he edges over. Still, I'm not impressed with the intelligence of leopards. The raptors were way worse.
Something hits me between the shoulder blades, knocking me flat, and I just know I'm about to get savaged. Figures. Kindergarten through fourth grade, no savagings, then I decide to be a Good Samaritan — savaging. It's got the back of my sweatshirt in its teeth, and it's shaking me. My shoes squeak as they're jerked back and forth across the very, very waxed gym floor. My braids whip back and forth past my face, beads clacking. I don't know where Raymond is, but I hope he's doing something helpful. This thing is going to figure out it doesn't have my head in its mouth eventually. I still have my tranquilizer gun, but there's no way to aim when I can't at least brace my arm.
I imagine the overhead announcement:
"Students are advised during future safety drills to please watch your twenty and keep your head out of leopards' mouths if at all possible. As of today, the safety drill running score total is as follows: Fourth grade, fifty; fifth grade, minus twenty for preventable decapitation; third grade ..."
There's a shot, and I'm suddenly buried under a very heavy leopard robe.
Someone rolls the big cat off me, and I blink up at Raymond and that Emuel kid. Cayden points his shaking gun at the remaining glass-pawing leopard to cover us. He couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but at least he's trying.
Cayden finally bags the last leopard, mostly because it's so obsessed with Mr. Bakshi that it's impossible to miss. We're dismissed to wash up and change our clothes, which is good because our gym shorts are ugly as ever.
When I leave the locker room, I'm wearing jeans with the cuffs rolled up and a sleeveless blouse I found at For a Song Secondhand Clothes. That's one good thing about gym uniforms — my favorite clothes don't get shredded. My arms are too skinny, but I like the white blouse against my dark skin, so I wear it anyway. I meet up with Cayden and Raymond in the hall, and we start to head for class, but something is ... heinous.
"What is that SMELL?"
Cayden's expression is guilty. "What?"
"Someone reeks like a lovesick hyena."
Raymond actually laughs. I'm a bit proud — usually only Pearl can get him to do that — but Cayden's miffed.
"How would you even know what a lovesick hyena smells like?"
Raymond and I start to answer at the same time, and Cayden rolls his eyes. "Never mind. I don't want to know."
"It's obviously you, Cayden." Raymond makes a gag face. "What IS that?"
"It's just ... this spray kids use at home."
"That's pretty smart," I say. "What does it repel?"
He stares. "It's not supposed to repel anything. It's supposed to smell good."
Raymond unzips Cayden's backpack and fishes out a spray can with a hammer as big as Thor's on the side.
BASH! it reads. IN YOUR FACE! (DO NOT APPLY TO YOUR ACTUAL FACE.)
We burst out laughing, and even behind his hair, I can tell Cayden's turning red. "Shut up," he says.
"It's okay." I pat his shoulder. "You can wash it off at my house after school."
When the last bell rings, I scoop up my stuff and make a run for it, before something happens in the bus line to trigger a lockdown. Last week a bologna sandwich in the back of someone's locker developed sentience and busted its way out, attacking bystanders' ankles. It took staff a while to sort out what was blood and what was ketchup. I don't know why things like that never happen during spelling tests.
As I weave and twist my way through the crowded halls, Raymond and Cayden are right behind me. For once we don't have my cousin Mason tagging along. He's going home with a friend.
Cayden lives next door to us, in Aunt Bets's old house. Pearl and I used to hide in its creaky old bathroom and yell down the tub drain, and something down there yelled back. I should tell Cayden about it so he can try. I swear, though, I've never seen such a special little flower in all my life as Cayden Coates. He can't handle carnivorous slugs, or angry clowns, or anything. It's wearying having him around all the time, but I can't very well leave him alone. He wouldn't last a day without me.
We hoof it down Havasu Hill past Greeley's Groceries, which is creepily, perfectly white no matter how hard the sun beats down on it. Its vast, freshly paved parking lot shimmers in the haze of the New Mexico heat. On the left end of the building, the conveyor belt rolls out of its dark opening. Workers in blue shirts and white pants scurry to load groceries into waiting cars as the latest in a long series of Greeleys gives directions, with his straw hat sitting jauntily on his head and his gray beard neatly trimmed, same as Greeleys have been doing for as long as anyone can remember.
A conveyor belt from the store to your trunk. It's one of those things no one thought to want, but now that we have it, everyone feels like it should have been that way all the time. Like air-conditioning, I guess, or cable TV. But I never liked it. The thing about the conveyor belt is that, between the moment you pick out your groceries and the moment you load them into your car, you don't actually know what's happening to them in there.
When Cayden saw it, he didn't understand what it was. No grocery stores anywhere he lived — and he's lived in Orlando, and Philadelphia, and Chicago — ever had one. If I wasn't still wondering where Pearl went after they led her into the Greeley's Sweepstakes tent in that very parking lot last year, I would be a little bit proud of having an invention he'd never seen right here in my hometown. As it is, every time I look at that conveyor belt, all I want to know is what's at the other end.
Lately I keep thinking that Greeley's is trying a little too hard. The signs are so jaunty and cheery that they insist you're not having a bad day. The carts and parking lot lines are aggressively perfect. It makes me want to shove something really dangerous into that conveyor belt's open mouth. Greeley's doesn't get to tell me to be cheerful.
I remember the brass band playing, and the blue-and-white tent that put the desert sky to shame. I'm supposed to be happy for Pearl. But I never considered being the one left behind. The win-less twin, missing my winsome sister.
Once I'm past, it's better. Main Street is everything Greeley's isn't. Instead of a building full of blue-shirts who follow us around smiling and offering us samples just a little too enthusiastically, there's a row of stores filled with people who knew our parents before they were parents. The brightly painted false fronts remind me of a row of greeting cards, and right now they all read: food!
My stomach rumbles.
"Bakery?" says Cayden hopefully, pointing down the street at Aunt Bets's hand-painted sign and the bright red storefront with the weather vane on top.
"No way. If she gets one look at me, I'll be in there polishing the display cases all afternoon."
Cayden sighs. He never had a bizcochito cookie before he moved here, and now he's addicted to their spicy flavor.
"We could hit the co-op," says Raymond. One of his moms is probably in there volunteering, but Raymond's moms are pretty free-range, so he won't get roped into anything like I would. He's kidding, though. I'm banned for life, a consequence of my feud with Scoby, the big kombucha sponge who sits in a jar at the register. He's one of the town's oldest residents, so he's basically running the place, the slimy fungus. Being banned doesn't stop me from getting in there when I need to do something really important, like put tarantulas in the bulk bins, but it's not worth the risk just for a snack.
"Let's go to Bodega Bodega," I say, and Raymond smirks at me but doesn't call me out.
We stop in front of the peeling pink stucco building. You'd think people would learn that the site of a failed bodega is a bad place to open a bodega, but I guess anyone who can't manage to nail up a new sign that fully covers the old one is not the sharpest pencil in the box to begin with. Bodega Bodega survives mostly because us kids spend all our money on junk food and sushi-shaped erasers in there. For me, it offers the bonus of not being Greeley's. I'd beg for Dad and Aunt Bets to get all our stuff here if we could. I reach up to tap the patched-together signs for luck as we go in.
The bell bangs the dusty glass door. Old Joe's behind the counter, which I guess means that his Curtis Clone, Young Joe, is off making deliveries. I browse my way down the dingy aisles as the boys head for the cooler for drinks.
I go for the gummy peach rings, but just as I get there, a squid-chinned alien in a pinstriped suit grabs the last bag.
"Hey!" I protest, but it looks at me with one round yellow eye and walks to the counter to pay, tearing open the bag just to make its point, I guess. Its chin tentacles start fishing out gummy rings and depositing them in its mouth.
Grumbling, I take a bag of gummy cacti instead, slapping my money down in front of Old Joe and joining the boys outside.
We eat while we walk. Lucky for me, Aunt Bets is too short these days to see me as I pass, but we wave at Raymond's mom, who's hanging a FREE-RANGE JACKALOPE sign in the window of the co-op. It's about time to plan another after-hours raid on the place, so Scoby doesn't get too relaxed. I can't take Cayden along, though. Last time, he set off the bear horn Scoby mounted on the wall where the door handle hits. Total rookie move.
I spot my mountain of a father across the street.
"Hey, Daddy," I call. His dark, bald head shines in the sun. He's hauling a centipede twice as long as he is out of an open manhole cover with one of his special capture nooses. That's at least the third one this week.
"Hey, baby girl," he says. He's sweating through his brown uniform.
"Home for dinner?" I ask, keeping a safe distance.
He gives another great heave, getting about half of the scrambling centipede out of the manhole, then shakes his head.
"Sorry, baby. Gotta ... uh, I gotta work late."
That did not sound super convincing.
"Oh ... no big. Love you!" I say. I've been trying to be cool about him working so many extra hours. Somebody has to make ends meet. I get it. But the way Mama's been acting since Pearl left, I need him more than ever. Sure, I've got Aunt Bets and Mason to eat with, but they mostly moved in to help us keep it together, and that's hard to forget when I have no parent types at the dinner table.
Is he fibbing to me about what he's doing when he's not home?
I'm distracted from my worries by Cayden hitching his backpack up higher. I roll my eyes.
"You need to think a little harder about how you hold that thing," I say. "You carry it on one shoulder like that, it's going to slow you down if you have to run."
"I figured I could drop it easier if it was only half on."
"Maybe," I say, "but isn't there anything in there you need? I keep waterproof matches in mine, a water bottle, some food. One of those foil emergency blankets NASA traded to the aliens they met on the moon."
He gives me a strange look, and now I feel like he's the one about to roll his eyes.
"I never thought about carrying that stuff. I keep my cell in my pocket."
I had to tell him that, too. His last school made him keep it in his locker. I can't believe that. I know we lose signal during time slips, but ...
Adults are always asking what you want to be when you grow up, like it's a legitimate question. First of all, there's no guarantee you will grow up, so why borrow trouble? Second, I kind of dismiss the question on the grounds that I don't have enough information to answer it. After all, it's not like I know what people actually do at most grown-up jobs anyway. But the more I watch all of Cayden's missteps as he learns to navigate Oddity, the more I'm sure of one thing:
When I grow up, I want to be scary.
I want people to cross the street when they see me coming. Step one: refuse to cross for anyone else. Even if it's a member of the Protection Committee. Starting right now.
Mr. Whanslaw steps toward us, clicking as he comes. The long, red brocade overcoat he wears can't completely conceal the unnatural rhythm of his movements — as if the brilliant blue hue of his face and hands weren't enough of a clue. Strings brush and part in the air above his white hair as he walks, and above those is the wooden control bar, held in gloved hands by the dark-suited, sunglasses-wearing puppeteer behind him.
Excerpted from "Oddity"
Copyright © 2017 Sarah Cannon.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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
Chapter 1. Safety Drill,
Chapter 2. Scary,
Chapter 3. Tagalong,
Chapter 4. The Sunset Six,
Chapter 5. Crash,
Chapter 6. Close Shaves,
Chapter 7. Sweepstakes Time,
Chapter 8. Pole Sitting,
Chapter 9. Punkball,
Chapter 10. Signal Boost,
Chapter 11. Hunting,
Chapter 12. Flamed,
Chapter 13. Butterfly Wings,
Chapter 14. The Queen of Shenanigans,
Chapter 15. Unwanted Guest,
Chapter 16. Zombie Rabbits,
Chapter 17. Schnoz,
Chapter 18. Shiny,
Chapter 19. Who's Fooling Who?,
Chapter 20. Hide-and-Shack,
Chapter 21. Night, Gunnar,
Chapter 22. Spang in the Middle of It,
Chapter 23. The Pits,
Chapter 24. Pearl,
Chapter 25. Flight,
Chapter 26. Fist Bumps,
Chapter 27. Faults,
Chapter 28. Deserter,
Chapter 29. Party Crasher,
Chapter 30. Scoby,
Chapter 31. Plotting,
Chapter 32. Outburst,
Chapter 33. Inevitable Betrayal,
Chapter 34. Mama,
Chapter 35. Cavalry,
Chapter 36. I Hate Puppets,
Chapter 37. Venting,
Chapter 38. Splinters,
Chapter 39. In One Piece,
About the Author,