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The Impossibility of Us

The Impossibility of Us

by Katy Upperman


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Beautifully written, utterly compelling, and ultimately hopeful, this young adult novel by the author of Kissing Max Holden, asks—how brave can you be when your relationship is questioned by everyone you love?

The last thing Elise wants is to start over in a new town. But after her brother’s death in Afghanistan, she and her mother move to a sleepy coastal village to be closer to Elise’s sister-in-law and niece.

When Elise meets Mati during a beachside walk, they quickly discover how much they have in common. Mati is new to town, too. Over the course of the summer, their relationship begins to blossom, and what starts out as a friendship becomes so much more.

But as Elise and Mati grow closer, her family becomes more and more uncomfortable with their relationship, and their concerns all center on one fact—Mati is Afghan.

Praise for The Impossibility of Us:

"The Impossibility of Us runs the gamut, from laughs to swoons, from goosebumps to tears. It’s a soaring, beautiful romance, for sure, but there are also so many powerful messages about loss, desertion, racism, tolerance, love, equality, selflessness, friendship, family, and kindness. Touching, well written, and impressively honest, The Impossibility of Us is not to be missed." —Marci Lyn Curtis, author of The One Thing and The Leading Edge of Now

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250309181
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 08/06/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 693,471
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Katy Upperman is a graduate of Washington State University, a former elementary school teacher, and an insatiable reader. When not writing for young adults, Katy can be found whipping up batches of chocolate chip cookies, or exploring the country with her husband and daughter. The Impossibility of Us is her second novel, following Kissing Max Holden.

Read an Excerpt



On May 1, a week after my seventeenth birthday, my mother makes an announcement that sends my world spinning.

"We're leaving San Francisco," she says while we sit in the breakfast nook of our Pacific Heights condo, the home in which I've lived for the last fifteen years. She splashes cream into her coffee, then eyes me, charily, over the top of her reading glasses. My jaw might as well be resting on the tabletop. She winces, then a slew of words comes rushing out of her mouth. "Oh, Elise. Before you get upset, let me explain."

"I don't need you to explain," I say, my voice lifting in both volume and pitch. Because I'm already upset — I'm extremely upset. "We can't leave San Francisco. Junior year's almost done, and next year — next year's my senior year!"

"I know. And I understand — I do. But, Lissy ... Audrey and Janie. They need us."

Audrey, my sister-in-law, and Janie, her three-year-old daughter. The list of things I wouldn't do for them is very short.

"Audrey would never ask for help," Mom goes on. "She's too strong. Too proud. But let me tell you: Single parenthood's not easy. Work and school and Janie ... She's got so much on her plate, and I miss her. I miss them both, so much."

My icy heart thaws, just a little. "I miss them, too."

"They're only a couple of hours south," she reminds me, spreading cream cheese over her bagel, then mine. Cleverly, she's stretching out the quiet, allowing time for the space behind my ribs to continue warming with sympathy. After another few moments, she says, "Of course you can come back to visit, to see your Pacific Heights friends. And after your senior year, you'll be back in the city anyway, at the San Francisco Art Institute."

Her declarations are flawed at best. Yes, Audrey and Janie live a few hours south, in a tiny coastal village called Cypress Beach, but they might as well be on Saturn — that's how different their town is from my city. Also, my mom knows good and well that I don't have much in the way of Pacific Heights friends; I did a superb job of isolating myself three years ago, after my big brother died. And anyway, I haven't even applied to the San Francisco Art Institute yet, let alone gotten in. What if I don't? What if I never make it back to this city I love?

None of that matters, though. Nor do my absolutely opposing feelings on the subject of changing high schools a year before graduation.

If Audrey and Janie need us in Cypress Beach, we have to go.

I sigh, a resigned sound, and bite into my bagel.

It tastes like cream-cheese-slathered cardboard.

* * *

During the next couple of weeks, Mom advertises our condo as available for sublet, collects a mountain of empty boxes from the neighborhood grocery store, and begins to fill them with our earthly treasures. I finish my junior year in a haze of packing paper and Bubble Wrap, dreading the day we're slated to leave.

I love my sister-in-law and niece with astonishing intensity, but I do not want to move.

I was born in Manhattan, but we left when I was two, immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11. My dad was (and still is) a workaholic, so consumed by his finance career he was apparently immune to the rising fear that seized New York City after the Twin Towers fell. Mom was not. But they were married and we were a family, so we made the cross-country move as a quartet: Dad, Mom, Nick, and me. Turns out, my dad isn't a fan of the West Coast. He bailed on California (and us) after less than a year.

For me, San Francisco has always been home. It's the city where my brother and I spent countless hours exploring steeply pitched streets, and where I mastered the fundamentals of photography. I conquered public transportation here and came to appreciate the quiet beauty of art museums and to crave soup served in crusty sourdough bowls. I had my first kiss in Lafayette Park.

San Francisco is the city of my heart.

As far as I know, Cypress Beach doesn't have public transportation. It doesn't have art museums. It doesn't have high-rises, or all-night Thai restaurants, or Fisherman's Wharf and its rich chowder, ladled into warm, hollowed-out bread. It doesn't have bustle and midnight sirens and air scented like exhaust and garlic and, sometimes, sewage. It certainly doesn't have memories of Nick.

But Cypress Beach has Audrey and Janie, and so it will have Mom and me.

We roll out of town the day after school lets out.



Aside from the predictable mundaneness of driving down the California coast, house hunting, and unpacking, the last several weeks can only be described as a loneliness-infused shit storm. Without verbalizing an objection or complaint (this move isn't about me — that's been made perfectly clear — so why bother?), I've plummeted through the first three stages of uproot-induced grief (denial, anger, bargaining) and bottomed out at depression, where I'm currently wallowing like a duck in a waning pond.

In an effort to catapult me into that final, glorious, elusive phase of acceptance, my mom let me pick paint for my new bedroom — any color on the spectrum. She was less than pleased with my chosen shade, Obsidian, which rolled onto the walls and ceiling like thick tar. Though the silent protest felt good initially, sitting in my deep-space bedroom now isn't doing much to improve my bleak mood.

Here's the thing: Cypress Beach repels teenagers the way citronella repels mosquitoes. After a month, I've made one acquaintance, Iris Higgins, who lives in the cottage next door to ours and is half a century beyond my age bracket. She's into gardening — like, obsessively into gardening — and she's bananas, in a good way.

My mom worries. She wants me to make friends before school starts (in a month and a half ... God). She's been begging me to attend the New Student Orientation at Cypress Valley High, scheduled for a few weeks from now, and she's constantly dropping not-so-subtle hints about my needing to spend more time in town, at the coffee shop or the one-screen movie theater or the library, because those are places cool kids hang out, apparently.

Two weeks ago, in a last-ditch effort if ever there was one, she surprised me with a corkscrew-haired mess of a pup who gallops around our cottage on feet she's yet to grow into and chews table legs like they're made of rawhide.

Her name is Bambi, and I love her.

She's the reason I'm out now, at the crack of dawn, trudging down the dog-friendly beach that runs parallel to our dog-friendly town, holding a slobber-soaked tennis ball between two fingers. She's tearing around up ahead, a honey-colored ball of fluff, scaring seagulls with her ferocious woof, woof!


She skids to a halt, kicking up sand, swishing her tail like it's a whip. She looks at me with big cocoa eyes, trusting and adoring and expectant. I chuck her ball into the waves, exactly as she wants, and she leaps after it, crashing into the cold water like it's her job — which I guess it is. She's a goldendoodle, a golden retriever crossed with a standard poodle, a designer dog my mom undoubtedly paid too much for because the newest member of the Parker clan had to be hypoallergenic. Bambi has hair, not fur, because my niece, Janie, inherited allergies from her mama. Janie's the one who branded my dog with her name, actually, a nod to the clumsy Disney deer.

She springs out of the Pacific, neon ball clamped between her jaws, and dashes at me, sailing over mounds of slippery, stinky kelp that have washed onto the beach with the tide. She pulls to a halt just short of my shins, dropping her disgusting ball at my feet. She shakes, a slo-mo, full-body convulsion, and I scramble to block my camera from the drops of water that go flying. I should be annoyed — I'm wet now, and the morning is gray and windy, not exactly summer-balmy — but it's impossible to be frustrated with Bambi. She is at all times obliviously joyful.

I bend to scratch her wet head, and she paws the sand with an ungainly puppy paw. "Again?" I ask in the falsetto I reserve for her and Janie.

We go through the motions another dozen times. Me, hurling the drool-drenched ball into the surf. Bambi, chasing and swimming and splashing, coming to me time and again to seek a pat and another throw.

We've got the beach pretty much to ourselves. Central California doesn't get much of a summer — not on the coast, anyway. We're lucky if the fog burns off in time to catch the sunset. Thanks to so many years spent in San Francisco, I'm used to the dreariness, but somehow it was more tolerable there, haze hovering over asphalt and structures of steel and glass. Here, where building code dictates no property should rise above three stories, the constant mist feels thick and oppressive, like a damp wool blanket.

Bambi and I walk farther down the stretch of sand, playing our endless game. As much as I hate getting up early, and as much as I dislike living in tiny Cypress Beach, I've come to look forward to these mornings with my new dog. So much so, I bring my Nikon to photograph the waves and the gulls and her. It's risky, what with her shake-off showers, but worth it. I'm snapping yet another picture, Bambi bouncing over a knoll, when movement up ahead catches my attention.

I lower my camera, letting it hang from the woven strap around my neck. Absently, I toss the tennis ball, not so far this time, because I'm watching a tall figure move down the beach. He's a ways south, but I can tell he's somewhere near my age — a small miracle in this town. He's wearing dark track pants and a hooded sweatshirt, and his hair's black, standing out in sharp contrast to the pale sand.

He strides into the surf, fully clothed.

The air is cool and crisp, and the ocean is frigid. He's up to his knees when a white-capped wave breaks hard against his middle, driving him back a few steps. I expect him to wade out, back to the beach, but he presses forward, undeterred, immersing his lower half completely. He uses his hands against the surging breakers like he thinks he can control them, like he's unaware of the water's absolute power.

I'm no fearmonger — that's more in keeping with my mom's personality — but the Pacific's scary along this strip of the coast. I've seen surfers in dry suits, but unless you've got a board, this isn't a swimming beach. Thanks to the California Current, the water's bitter cold and the undertows are unreal. There are sharks, too. Big ones, which normally feed on harbor seals and sea lions, but are probably ravenous for breakfast at the moment and would likely settle for a nice big bite of boy.

"Hey!" I call as he moves farther into the swells. Stupid, because there's no way he can hear me over the wind and the waves.

What he's doing ... It's so unsafe.

Without a second thought, I take off in his direction, clutching my camera so it doesn't knock against my chest. Bambi chases me, nipping at my heels.

He's up to his shoulders when I reach the dragging footsteps he left in the sand. I watch him jump as waves distend, then advance beyond him in a race for the beach. His head bobs the way Bambi's ball does after landing in the surf. If he goes any deeper, he could be sucked out to sea.

"Hey!" I scream again, waving my arms.

He doesn't hear me, or doesn't want to, because he pushes off and paddles farther out.

He's an adrenaline-seeking dumbass, or he's suicidal.

I keep my eyes on his dark hair and peel off my sweatshirt, trying not to strangle myself with my camera's strap in the process. I toss it into the sand and take half a second to wrap my Nikon in its fabric, praying my beloved camera doesn't get stolen or lost to an aggressive wave.

Then I bolt into the ocean.



I lose my breath immediately.

The water is millions of sharp pins sinking into my flesh. The breakers are powerful, but I battle them, keeping my eyes trained on the boy. Distantly, I hear Bambi's distressed barking. I spare a quick glance over my shoulder as I slog through the deepening water; she's still on the shore, hopping around. Silly dog will follow her ball into the water, but not me.

Again, I shout at the boy.

Again, no response.

Death wish, I think. And then: Me, too.

By the time I reach him, a good thirty yards offshore, I'm numb. My teeth are chattering and I'm not calling out anymore because my tongue's immovable. Treading to keep my head above water, I make a grab for his shoulder. He wrenches his head around and I realize, too late, that I've startled him. He jerks out of my grip.

"I'm trying to help you!" My voice is scratchy and my throat feels raked over.

He shakes his head. No.

"You can't be out here — it's dangerous!"

As if to illustrate my point, a rogue wave crashes over our heads. The current yanks me deeper ... deeper ... deeper. I'm blinded by salt water and so disoriented my arms flail outward. My hands grapple for something solid, something to help me right myself. I'm panicking — I'm a millisecond from opening my mouth to a deep breath of cold water — but then my feet touch the seafloor. My toes curl into the murky sand. I bend my knees and shove off.

My head breaks the surface and I gasp for air. I'm choking, coughing, sputtering, and my eyes sting. I blink to clear the salt from them, and then I'm searching, kicking to keep my head above water.

He's ... nowhere.

I whip around, terrified I've lost him, this stranger I never had in the first place.

My heart turns over when his head surfaces to my left and just out of reach. I lunge for his sleeve, and my fingers close around a handful of cotton. I yank him close, then grab for his submerged hand. It wraps around mine. He uses his other to swipe water from his face, retching and hacking, pulling in air.

"We have to get back to the beach!"

He looks at me, confused and afraid and lost. His raven hair is plastered to his forehead, and his skin is olive, clear with the exception of a few days of dark stubble. His eyes are arresting, fiery amber, contrary to his darkness. He appears ... not Californian. Maybe not American. God, what if he doesn't speak English?

I gesture to the beach, treading hard to keep my head from slipping beneath the waves. "Safe-ty," I holler, enunciating the syllables in a way that might be offensive, whether he's foreign or not.

He nods, still clinging to my hand.

I force my tired legs to kick, towing him along with me. He's kicking, too, but our progress is frustratingly slow. I try not to think about rip currents and sharks. I try not to think about hypothermia. I try not to think about the stranger who's hanging on to my hand — who he is or where he came from or what the hell he was thinking when he traipsed into the ocean.

I try not to think about how I nearly drowned attempting to help him.

I focus on Bambi, running back and forth where the waves kiss the beach, woofing and howling and carrying on. When I'm shallow enough to put my feet down and tug my hand free of the boy's, she comes paddling out to swim happy circles around me. As soon as I'm clear of the surf, she takes off, jaunting down the beach, probably in search of her ball now that I'm available to throw it again.

I drag myself to the place where I left my camera and sweatshirt. My muscles are weak and my mouth tastes brackish. Years ago, my brother dumped table salt in my apple juice, just to see how I'd react; I threw up, which is exactly what I want to do now. I'm tired deep in my bones, and residually horrified. I've never been so close to dying.

How would Mom get by without me?

I shake off a torrent of sadness and turn to look for Bambi, to call her back so we can go home, where I'll shower off the salt and crawl into bed, where I'll sleep the day away beneath my soft patchwork quilt.

When I wake, this morning will be a distant memory.

I turn to find Bambi, but instead I find the boy — the idiot boy who wandered into the ocean fully clothed. He's an arm's length away, towering over me, water dripping from his coal- black hair, wildfire eyes searching my face.

I look at him, and I can't look away.


Excerpted from "The Impossibility of Us"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Katy Upperman.
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

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Chapter 1: Elise,
Chapter 2: Elise,
Chapter 3: Elise,
Chapter 4: Mati,
Chapter 5: Elise,
Chapter 6: Elise,
Chapter 7: Mati,
Chapter 8: Elise,
Chapter 9: Elise,
Chapter 10: Mati,
Chapter 11: Elise,
Chapter 12: Elise,
Chapter 13: Mati,
Chapter 14: Elise,
Chapter 15: Elise,
Chapter 16: Mati,
Chapter 17: Elise,
Chapter 18: Elise,
Chapter 19: Mati,
Chapter 20: Elise,
Chapter 21: Elise,
Chapter 22: Mati,
Chapter 23: Elise,
Chapter 24: Elise,
Chapter 25: Mati,
Chapter 26: Elise,
Chapter 27: Elise,
Chapter 28: Mati,
Chapter 29: Elise,
Chapter 30: Elise,
Chapter 31: Mati,
Chapter 32: Elise,
Chapter 33: Elise,
Chapter 34: Mati,
Chapter 35: Elise,
Chapter 36: Elise,
Chapter 37: Mati,
Chapter 38: Elise,
Chapter 39: Elise,
Chapter 40: Mati,
Chapter 41: Elise,
Chapter 42: Elise,
Chapter 43: Elise,
Chapter 44: Mati,
Chapter 45: Elise,
Chapter 46: Elise,
Chapter 47: Mati,
Chapter 48: Elise,
Chapter 49: Elise,
Chapter 50: Elise,
Chapter 51: Mati,
Chapter 52: Elise,
Chapter 53: Elise,
Chapter 54: Elise,
Chapter 55: Mati,
Chapter 56: Elise,
Chapter 57: Elise,
Chapter 58: Elise,
Chapter 59: Mati,
Chapter 60: Elise,
Chapter 61: Elise,
Chapter 62: Elise,
Chapter 63: Elise,
Chapter 64: Elise,
Chapter 65: Mati,
Chapter 66: Elise,
Chapter 67: Mati,
Chapter 68: Elise,
Chapter 69: Elise,
Chapter 70: Elise,
Chapter 71: Mati,
Chapter 72: Elise,
About the Author,

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