By turns harrowing and heartbreaking, this middle-grade novel tells a story of a family of nine kids and one very dark secret.
Fifth grader Annie is just like every other girl in her small suburban town. Except she’s starting to realize that she isn’t.
Annie is the youngest of nine children. Instead of being condemned to the bottom of the pecking order, she wants to carve out place for herself in the world. But it’s hard to find your destiny when the only thing you’re good at is being cheerful. Annie is learning that it’s difficult to be Annie, period, and not just because her clothes are worn-out hand-me-downs, and she suffers from a crippling case of dyslexia, but also because there are secrets in her life no one in her family is willing to face.
In Snow Lane, Josie Angelini presents a story about a resilient girl who, in spite of many hardships, can still find light in the darkest of places.
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Josie Angelini is the internationally bestselling author of the Worldwalker trilogy and the Starcrossed series. She is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in theater, with a focus on the classics. Originally from Massachusetts, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and two ancient shelter cats.
Read an Excerpt
My name is Antoinette Elizabeth Bianchi.
My name is longer than I am, or at least that's what my sisters say. Mostly, they call me Annie or Shrimpy, on account of the fact that I'm the youngest and the littlest and they're all super tall and they have tons of hair and big white teeth and they all talk with their hands a lot.
I'm not really small compared to other kids my age, it's just my sisters are larger than normal people. My eldest sister, Miriam, is only nineteen and she's been going to college for three years already because she skipped a grade. She's wicked smart. Miri does a lot of math — the kind that's all funny shapes and squiggly lines. I guess some people are so smart they don't need to use regular numbers like the rest of us.
I like my name, even if it was an accident. See, my mom was convinced I was going to be a boy and she wanted to name me Antony, but I came out a girl, so she just worked with what she had. My mom never throws anything away.
I live at 17 Snow Lane in Ashcroft, Massachusetts, I'm ten years old, and I'm the youngest of nine kids. I have seven big sisters and one big brother, which right now in 1985 is pretty rare, although my dad told me once that about a hundred years ago everyone had big families like we do. People often say that it must be so nice to have such a big family, and then they ask if it's fun to always have someone to play with.
I don't know what the hell (five Hail Marys) would give them that idea. Someone to play with? When you're the youngest of nine kids, you aren't a player. You're the ball.
My morning starts at six a.m. in midair. I don't mean I'm dreaming I'm flying. No, what I mean is that my sister Eleanor makes me sleep on the top bunk, even though I'm so skinny I sometimes slip between the mattress and the guardrail.
Our bunk bed is pushed up against the wall on one side. Our mom tells me to turn the other way when I go to sleep so I won't fall, but that doesn't help either. I end up sliding between the wall and the bed frame. Eleanor (she's the second youngest, and two whole years older than me; we call her Nora) has to yank on my arm and leg to get me unstuck, and I usually get wall-burn on the side of my face as she tugs. It actually sucks (five Hail Marys) more than just falling, so I don't sleep facing the wall anymore.
Our mom is just terrible at giving advice. Like throwing fire on gasoline. That's supposed to be the other way around, isn't it? Gas on a fire? I always get stuff like that mixed up. I'm dyslexic, my mom says, but my sister Fay says that's just a fancy way of saying I'm retarded.
Anyway, my mom doesn't give good advice, mostly because she doesn't listen. With nine kids she can hardly hear over all of us yelling, let alone listen to any one of us at a time, and I can understand that. But that doesn't make it easier. Because there are times I really need her to listen to me.
Like last year when I told her about ten times that my head was itchy and I probably had dandruff like in a TV commercial. She told me I didn't have dandruff without even checking me, and then the school nurse checked everyone in my school and it turned out I had lice, like, wicked bad. All my sisters and my brother were called out of classes and Aurora started crying on the car ride home and she said she'd never been so humiliated in all her life because now everyone thought we were dirty.
My mom doesn't really have much time for any of us kids. Miri told me once she wasn't always like that. Must've been nice.
I hit the ground with a whump.
"Ooh," I groan. The sound comes out creaky and uneven, like I'm a thousand years old. Nora squints at me from the bottom bunk.
"Hey, you landed on your back this time," she mumbles, still sleepy. "At least you won't have a black eye like last week."
"Uuummn," I wheeze. Something's wrong with my lungs. I can't seem to catch enough of a breath to do anything more than make weird noises. This is bad.
"Mom!" Nora yells, starting to worry about me. Normally, I would have picked myself up off the floor already, but for some reason I can't move.
Between the gray spots that are making everything fuzzy, I see my sister Virginia's face hanging next to Nora's above me. Virginia, who we call Gina, shares the room with us, even though she's fifteen and going to be a sophomore in high school when school starts up in a few weeks. Gina says she prefers rooming with us to rooming with Fay or Bridget, who are the next two down from her in age. I don't blame her. Fay and Bridget are mean. I'm glad I'm not stuck with them.
"Is she breathing?" Gina asks.
"Only kind of," Nora answers. She shifts from foot to foot anxiously. "Mom!" she calls out again, even though we all know it's useless.
Our mother isn't coming.
My sister Evangeline joins the upside-down circle of faces above mine. All their hair is dangling over me like ribbons in different shades of brown. Some curly, some straight. Gina's got a ton of split ends. She stopped doing her hair a few months ago when she got a pair of big shiny black boots and a ton of black T-shirts. She started wearing a lot of eyeliner, too. Most of my sisters wear eyeliner, except me and Nora. We aren't allowed to wear makeup or get our ears pierced yet. At twelve years old, Nora's almost old enough. I'm so jealous.
"Help me pick her up, Gina," Evangeline says urgently. Evangeline reaches for me, but Gina smacks her hands away.
"No, don't touch her!" Gina snaps.
Evangeline shakes out her precious hands, scowling at Gina. Evangeline's a pianist. She's only sixteen, but she's already played at Tanglewood (which is a place way the heck out in western Massachusetts, where people go to listen to fancy music outdoors). I like Tanglewood because you can run around while classical music is playing (which you totally can't do anywhere else), and even though the last time we went I got stung by a bee on my lip and Fay made fun of me, I didn't care because my dad bought me a snocone and sat next to me the whole time, which never happens because my dad works three jobs and never has time to sit down. I remember being there on the grass with my cherry snocone melting on my fat lip, the quiet shape of my dad, and how pretty Evangeline played.
"Pick her up," Evangeline orders in her serious voice. She's a year older than Gina, so that makes her the boss of the room right now.
The eldest is always the boss in my family. That means I'm not even the boss of the cat, Geronimo. He's older than my dad, practically, and I don't think anyone has ever tried to boss him about anything. I think about someone trying to boss that big old tomcat and start giggling. Or at least I try. I can't really laugh with no air.
"Why is she making that noise?" Nora asks.
Wow, it's like I'm thinking all these things and they're going so fast in my head, they just keep whooshing along, and things are starting to go a little dark around the edges. Maybe I should just go back to sleep.
"Don't move her! What if she's broken her neck?" Gina says, scowling.
I'm suddenly wide awake. Don't people with broken necks end up in wheelchairs? I saw this old movie once where a guy jumps into a pool but it's not filled up enough with water, so he hits his head on the bottom of the pool and almost drowns, and when he wakes up in the hospital he can't move and when the doctor comes in he says that it's because the guy broke his neck. I don't jump into pools now. Not that we have a pool or anything, because only rich people have pools.
It'd be nice to have a pool.
I try to wiggle something, but I can't tell if it works or not.
"Uuuunnng," I wheeze. I'm starting to feel really anxious, and there's nothing to count but sisters and I already know how many of them I've got. Counting calms me down when I'm nervous, even if they all call me Crazy when I do it.
"Oh no, oh no, oh no," Nora says. She's hopping around now and flapping her hands. "Mom!" she screams again. It looks like she's going to cry.
I don't know why, but if I see Nora crying I start to cry too, even if I'm not sad. Once Nora tried to shave her legs, but she did it wrong and she ended up cutting herself really bad and there was blood all over the sink (she tried to shave her legs in the sink, which I think was her big mistake), and when she saw the blood she started crying and then I started crying and Mom heard, so we got in so much trouble because we're not old enough to shave our legs yet, even though all the other girls Nora's age do it. Twelve-year-olds get to do everything. But we're Catholic, so we're not allowed to do much of anything. I look away from Nora so her crying doesn't get me started.
My sister Aurora glides into the room. She glides everywhere. She's a ballerina, but a real ballerina, not just someone who wants to be. She's part of the company at the Boston Ballet. She does The Nutcracker every winter, and I love it because I get to go backstage with her sometimes, and if the stage manager isn't looking, I can climb up into the rigging. It's so warm and secret up there. I love the smell of the ropes and the velvet curtains and the sound of the lights humming, and I love watching everyone dancing through the metal grating of the catwalk while I lie there facedown. Just floating over it all.
"What's going on?" Aurora says. She's seventeen, and the second eldest. She's only thirteen months younger than Miri, so that makes her boss of the room now.
"The baby fell," Gina says.
"Why did you leave her on the floor?" Aurora scolds. Gina drops her head and scowls, inching back. She mumbles something about a broken neck, but Aurora brushes it off like that's ridiculous. Aurora's good at waving a hand and making everyone else seem silly.
I can't see anything now except fuzzy gray shapes, but I can smell Aurora's long black hair. Spicy and warm. She's so beautiful.
"She just got the wind knocked out of her. She'll catch her breath in a second," Aurora declares. "It's okay, Littlebit. Take slow breaths."
I love it when she calls me Littlebit. Way better than Shrimpy. And way, way better than my other nickname, Pukatrid, which is like puke and putrid put together.
Fay came up with Pukatrid when I went through what Mom called a "bad patch" when I was eight and I would puke over pretty much anything. And I mean anything. I'd puke if I ran too fast, or if my milk was a teensy bit too warm, but mostly I'd puke when someone was yelling, which someone always is around here. My mom said it was just because I have a delicate Constitution, but I don't know what puking has to do with John Hancock and all those guys in white wigs and silky pants. Or maybe that was the Declaration of Independence. I get them mixed up.
"Breathe slow and deep," Aurora says again, and she shows me how by doing it along with me.
It kind of works. I actually get some air in, and the lights turn on again.
"Nora, stop bouncing. Annie's going to be fine," Aurora says sharply. Nora's nerves annoy Aurora, which makes Nora extra nervous.
Nora goes and hides from Aurora behind Gina, because she's the biggest one in the room — she may not be the eldest, but Gina outweighs Aurora by, like, two Auroras.
It's not that Gina's fat. Well, not really fat. It's more like she's got better padding than the rest of us, but only because the rest of us would fit nice in a box of toothpicks. Except for my brother, JP, of course, but he's different because he's a boy. But Gina's got the prettiest skin and the bluest eyes. I wish I had eyes that blue. Mine are the color of pea soup, and no one's ever said pea soup was pretty.
Aurora scoops me up and smiles at me. Her face looks like a flower opening when she smiles. I put my head on her shoulder and wrap my legs around her waist like a monkey. She carries me into the hallway, and then downstairs to the kitchen. I can hear the dryer going in the basement. My mom is down there, doing laundry. I know she heard Nora calling her.
"How about a treat?" Aurora asks.
I shrug. I don't feel much like eating. I'm picturing my mom down in the basement, staring at the piles of clothes she's got to fold instead of coming upstairs to see what happened.
Aurora puts me down in a chair at our giant kitchen table, which used to be a lab table at my dad's work. My dad's a chemist during the day, and at night he teaches math to grown-ups at the local college. On weekends he's a farmer, but mostly he's a chemist. He brought one of the lab tables home for us to use because a lab table is the only thing long enough to fit all ten of us (counting Miri when she's home) at dinnertime. I guess I should say eleven, including my dad, but he's always working. Usually I sit on the pew on the inside of the table. We call it the inside on account of the fact that you sometimes have to climb under the table to get to it, unless you're sitting on the end, like I always do.
I have to sit at the end next to my dad because he has to cut my meat for me. I'm not allowed to use steak knives after that one time I slipped and stabbed myself in the palm of my other hand. Went right through. Bled like crazy. Every time my heart beat, blood shot out, but we didn't go to the hospital or anything because my sister Fay managed to squeeze it hard enough to make it stop. That really hurt, but it stopped. I've still got the scar and it looks just like the hole Jesus has in his hand, but I'm not supposed to say that because that's blasphemy. I still think it, though, every day. My Jesus Hole.
My mom got the pew from the parish when they were giving old stuff away, and she came home with a bunch of churchy things that are now all over the house and the yard. My mom's a church organist and my parents are super Catholic, so it makes sense that we have a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi in our bushes and a church pew in our kitchen.
All the little kids sit on the pew on the inside between the table and the wall because we don't need as much room as the bigger kids do. They sit in regular chairs on the outside, where I am now. It's weird to be on the outside of the kitchen table. I don't think I've ever sat here before.
Aurora opens the fridge and goes to her special drawer. She's the only one of us who has her own drawer, because she's got to take extra care of her figure, being a ballerina and all. If she has even one little pinch of fat over all that muscle she's got, she says she won't get good parts anymore, but personally, I think she's too skinny. Her food has to stay separate from our stuff so she knows exactly how much she's eaten, and the little kids aren't allowed to even look in there. She takes out a pomegranate. I know what it is because I asked her last time she was eating it, but she didn't give me any.
"Want to try?" she asks.
I nod again. I hold still so I don't wreck my chance to finally taste it. Mom won't buy pomegranates for the rest of us kids because she says they're too expensive and wouldn't fill us up anyhow. Aurora peels open the rind and wiggles a section of juicy red seeds out of their white insides. I put them in my mouth and chew.
They taste exactly like I imagine rubies would taste. But better than the taste is knowing they're special.
"Good?" Aurora asks. I nod. "Now go upstairs and get changed."
I do what she tells me without even thinking of trying to get around it. When Aurora wants to be nice, she's the nicest. Especially to me. But when she's not feeling like being nice, you'd better watch out. She's like Mom that way.
Nora knows more about how scary Aurora can be than I do, though, because Aurora hates her. Which is weird, because when Nora was a baby, Aurora took care of her like Miri took care of me. All the older kids took care of us younger kids from Bridget down, because Miri told me by her fifth kid Mom couldn't do it anymore. I asked Miri why Mom kept having kids if she couldn't take care of us, and Miri said because we're Catholic. Catholics have to keep on having babies until God tells them they can stop or they go to hell.
There's a lot of ways to go to hell when you're Catholic, so I've spent a lot of time thinking about what it must be like. I've decided it must be like waiting for the bathroom in the morning.
There are only three bathrooms in our house. Mom and Dad have one in their room that we're not allowed to use, ever. The one downstairs is just for Aurora and Evangeline in the morning. It's only a sink and toilet, but it's enough room for the two of them to do their hair and makeup. The upstairs bathroom is the biggest. It has two sinks and a big mirror, a shower and a tub and a toilet, of course. This is the bathroom the rest of us use in the morning. My brother John Paul (JP for short) gets the big bathroom first, because he's fastest and he's the only boy. He also gets his own bedroom, but no one can really argue about that.
Excerpted from "Snow Lane"
Copyright © 2018 Josephine Angelini.
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.
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