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The Story of Us
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The Story of Us

4.1 25
by Deb Caletti

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Sometimes choices—like change—can’t be avoided. A bittersweet story of love and family from National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti.

Cricket has a very long week ahead of her. Her entire family has come together for her mom’s wedding, and it’s supposed to be a time for celebration. But for Cricket, the timing couldn’t


Sometimes choices—like change—can’t be avoided. A bittersweet story of love and family from National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti.

Cricket has a very long week ahead of her. Her entire family has come together for her mom’s wedding, and it’s supposed to be a time for celebration. But for Cricket, the timing couldn’t be worse.

For years Cricket’s been half of the perfect couple, destined to be together forever. Now, because of what she’s done—something she would give anything to take back—Janssen has walked away. Maybe for good.

Cricket has always panicked in the face of change. Now she is forced to face her fears and decide once and for all what she wants, and how she’s going to get it. For over the course of the week, secrets will be revealed, bonds will be tested, and Cricket’s confusion—and her desires—may very well send her spiraling down a path she never thought she’d take...with no idea where it will lead her.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Eighteen-year-old Cricket’s mother has left a trail of broken relationships behind her, but this time she’s found a “good guy.” Cricket, however, fears that her mother won’t go through with her marriage plans. Indeed, the week leading up to the wedding, as family and friends arrive at a large coastal inn, is fraught with spoiled soon-to-be stepsisters, fighting dogs, and the sudden divorce of the groom’s parents. And Cricket has her own romantic problem: she and her long-term boyfriend, Janssen, are “taking a break” so she can sort out what she really wants (something that grows murkier when she meets the innkeepers’ son). Some readers may tire of offbeat secondary characters and the accelerating chaos, but they will savor Cricket’s thoughtful and poetic observations about love—her letters to Janssen, in which she writes about her dog, Jupiter, and what dogs reveal about love, are quite moving (“Their goodness is goodness, and their love is love... and nothing you do seems to change that”). Caletti’s (Stay) ninth novel is a rewarding story of a girl’s struggle to live and love in a world of constant change. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
* "Caletti’s latest Pacific Northwest romance is a stunner, with depth and ambiguity that respects and
challenges the reader.... One of Caletti’s best, this is a title to reread and savor." —Booklist, starred review

"Thoughtful and poetic... quite moving... a rewarding story of a girl's struggle to live and love in a world of constant change." —Publishers Weekly

"Caletti tosses readers into a story that is fast paced from the get-go. Cricket is very appealing. Her concerns about life’s changes feel real; her relationships with her mom and brother are loving and honest... A thoughtful and enjoyable book..." —School Library Journal

"There is a crowd of characters with a nice variety of simple to complex backstories, all of whom... to have a valid part to play." —VOYA

"Smart, likable Cricket is supported by a surfeit of colorful characters and plenty of action.... Caletti [has] exceptional insight into and compassion for her characters..." —Kirkus Reviews

"Caletti's talent for creating interesting, complex characters and relationships that remind readers of their own families shines through in this novel.... a beautiful, emotion-driven story. This is yet another excellent, family-oriented novel." —thecompulsivereader.com

"One thing I could not stress enough is how real this book felt through the way characters acted and interacted with each other. This could be any family. The specific memories made it theirs, but the human interaction that came out through the novel could belong to anyone.... I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and would recommend it for anyone who enjoys thinking about how we communicate and interact with others, and what it means to grow up." —darkfaerietales.com

"The story is driven by meticulously delineated and authentically imperfect characters—even Jupiter, Cricket’s elderly beagle, has a personality all her own—and sharp, clever Gilmore Girls-esque dialogue. Cricket’s first-person narration is mature and...self-aware; her observations about the nature of family, friendship, and the canine/human connection ring true." —The Horn Book

“Caletti’s writing possesses both vigor and perceptivity, with characters brought to vivid life in a quick turn of phrase. Readers uncertain about their own upcoming big moves into adulthood may relate to Cricket’s anxiety and applaud her negotiation of a difficult transition." —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

VOYA - Stacey Hayman
Cricket Shine; her older brother, Ben; their mom, Daisy; and faithful dog, Jupiter, are headed toward one more adventure together, but this will be the Shines' last adventure as a small family. They are waiting at Bluff House in Bishop Rock, on the Washington coastline, for Dan Jax; his two teen daughters, Hailey and Amy; plus the family dog, Cruiser, to arrive from Seattle. The two immediate families, plus canine companions, plus the slowly arriving extended family and friends, are attempting to spend quality time together before Dan and Daisy's wedding, and it is nothing but chaos. Making the situation more stressful for Cricket is her struggle to make a decision about her own long-term relationship with Janssen, literally the boy next door. Is it better to love what you know or to try something new? There is a crowd of characters with a nice variety of simple to complex backstories, all of whom seem to have a valid part to play. The second plotline is focused on Cricket's reflections on her personal history and, in particular, her relationship with her boyfriend of five years. These quiet chapters, written as letters to Janssen, follow the more chaotic family chapters, creating the feeling of a distinct division between Cricket's past and future. Dog owners will quickly bond with Jupiter, the family pet, but should also be warned they may want a tissue handy toward the end of the book. Reviewer: Stacey Hayman
Kirkus Reviews
Cricket accepts that life is transient and change is inevitable; she just needs a survival guide for getting through it. Ready or not, change happens. It's time to choose a college (home or away?) and decide what to do about Janssen, her longtime boyfriend. Having initiated a tentative breakup, Cricket's unsure where to go next. Jupiter, the family's aging, beloved dog, is slowing down. Cricket welcomes her mother Daisy's imminent remarriage. But as friends and family--including former spouses--gather on an island off the Washington coast, tensions arise. Fractured relationships have jagged edges. Change is Daisy's refuge, and Cricket worries that she's looking for an escape route. Smart, likable Cricket is supported by a surfeit of colorful characters and plenty of action. Still, this is a contemplative romance (think chicklit for eggheads). It has a slow, elegiac feel even as it covers a lot of ground--canine-human bonds and loyalty, courage and crutches, the nexus of love and desire. Timid plotting, an insensitive sexual-orientation subplot and the awkward, semi–high-concept narrative device--Cricket's letters to Janssen telling him "their" story--are weak points. Still, Caletti's exceptional insight into and compassion for her characters more than compensate. Adrift in a world where only impermanence is permanent, they remain hopeful, loving what they know can't last. (Fiction. 12 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—As her family gathers at an isolated bed-and-breakfast to celebrate her mom's marriage, Cricket has a lot on her mind. Her mother is not known for sticking with relationships; will she make it to the altar? The teen has been accepted to two colleges, one close, one far away; which to choose? And, weighing most heavily on her, she did something terrible to her longtime love, Janssen. This may mean the end of their steady, sturdy, wonderful relationship. As wacky wedding high jinks ensue, Cricket writes emails to Janssen, trying to sort through her feelings and determine whether getting back together is what she wants after all. Caletti tosses readers into a story that is fast paced from the get-go, trusting that they can keep up. Cricket is very appealing. Her concerns about life's changes feel real; her relationships with her mom and brother are loving and honest; and her memories of her abusive father are scary, but now held at a safe distance. Caletti shows how a rough childhood made Cricket who she is today, but the novel focuses on other, more present concerns. The week leading up to the wedding speeds along, and, in the aftermath, when the narrative suddenly covers months, readers may feel whiplash from the change of pace. But the center holds, and the author makes readers care about Cricket and her family. A thoughtful and enjoyable book with a bit more meat than many other relationship stories.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
HL660L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


I found out something about myself as all those boxes piled up: I hated change. Hated it, and was bad at it. I suppose I got my feelings about change through some genetic line, because my mother, Daisy Shine, had left two husbands-to-be at the Sea-Tac Airport in order to avoid it. Imagine the spinning baggage carousel going round and round, the roaring liftoff of planes. The landings. The comings and goings. And some guy with his dreams in a suitcase, and my mother nowhere in sight.

Far as I knew, there were no airports on Bishop Rock, which was a lucky thing for Dan Jax. For all of us. I loved Dan, and this was one wedding that I … Well, I hoped she married the guy, I really did. The other ones were assholes, and she was right to leave them. But you got to wondering. You know, if she could do it. Maybe some people just had trouble with forever.

Outside, Ben beeped the horn of his truck. My brother was always on time. And, change? Whatever. He was fine with it. Jupiter—her, too. She’d see her leash and your car keys in hand, and her little butt would start swiveling in circles of joy. She didn’t know if she was going to Gram’s or to Taco Time, or if she’d land at the vet getting shots, but still there was the hopping around and the yay, yay, yay dog dance. She loved the ride anyway, no matter where she ended up.

But not me. What’s to love about uncertainty? Nothing. It’s scary—a big black hole of possible outcomes. Change requires bravery, and I don’t even like to walk into creepy basements alone. Sometimes I’ve even wished there was a human pause button, where you could choose some point in your life where you could stay always. Here’s the time I’d pick: my sophomore year of high school, when Janssen and I were crazy in love and my stupid brother still lived at home, and we’d all have those breakfasts on Sunday. Janssen would walk down the road and knock on the door, and Mom would be up early, and we’d have bacon and French toast, and Jupiter would sit by the table being her best self for a dropped crust. Sure, maybe things could get better than that, but things could get worse, too. I’d take it because I knew where I was then. I knew where home was. Things were sure.

Obviously I have my own troubles with forever, and what I did to Janssen proved that.

I heard my mother breathing hard, her suitcase bashing and banging into the walls as she brought it down the stairs. I could just see it—my mother, tripping and tumbling, broken leg, broken arm, no wedding. I listened for the crash. Janssen once said I was always listening for the crash.

“Be careful!” I called, but she was already safe. The bag thudded to the floor, and she sighed. She must not have heard me because a second later she was yelling up the stairwell.

“Cricket! Ready?”

Ready? I guess that was the question. Were either of us ready? For the last few weeks our house was a maze of cardboard cartons and mixed emotions. You could barely walk in there, and every stupid thing was a memory. Boxes were stacked up wherever you looked; stacked up and labeled in fat, black pen (or crayon or eyeliner or whatever was closest). KITCHEN. ATTIC. BEN’S STUFF. FRAGILE! Clumps of newspaper were strewn around, and so were the odd piles of things no one knew what to do with. A CD that belonged to one of Mom’s friends and needed returning, manuals to varied appliances, mystery keys.

What do you keep hold of? What is meant to go? One thing was clear—I’d had a childhood marked by Disney movies. Cricket, you want to keep your and Ben’s old Lion King game? How about these Princess Jasmine slippers? Cricket, look what I found in the garage. Remember this? Beauty and the Beast magic-mirror-slash-squirt-gun Happy Meal toy. You loved this.

When you were moving, every little object was a decision. That seventh-grade report on the Industrial Revolution—keep or toss? Christmas sweater knit by Great-Grandma Shine? On one hand—obviously I’d never wear it. On the other—she was dead, and putting it in the Goodwill bag made me feel like she’d be looking down, getting her feelings hurt. I couldn’t break hearts in heaven, I just couldn’t. Here on earth was bad enough.

My mother was worse than I was about all that stuff. Of course, she was happy, too. Really happy. Whenever Dan Jax would call or come over with a homemade something (Dan Jax was a great cook), she was giddy. I’d never seen her like that. But then came the sorting and the packing of our old baby clothes, tiny shirts yellowed with spit-up, miniature sweatshirts with trains and bears that she was supposed to be getting rid of, but that she only solemnly folded back up and returned to the box. She did better with our baby toys, but she was still weepy and sullen with each teething ring and stack of plastic doughnuts (largest to smallest, in rainbow colors) that she decided to part with.

“You can be happy and sad, too,” I had told her, which was a joke between all of us, because that was a line in Monkey M. Monkey Goes on Vacation, one of her most popular kiddie books. “Monkey M. Monkey was happy to go, but sad, too. He knew he would miss Otto and Willa and the others.”

“Do you want this for college?” she had answered, holding up a plastic yellow toy telephone. When I was four, I’d swung that at Ben once and gave him a bloody nose.

“Ha,” I’d said. “If I ever need to call home …”

Finally she found a solution—she kept a few of the toys and then spread the rest out on the floor and took photos of them. She even crouched for close-ups. My crib-side Busy Box got more poses than I did for my senior pictures. Hopefully she’d order wallet sizes so it could pass some to its friends, the shape sorter and the Fisher-Price garage.

Was that what I should have done with everything that was mine and Janssen’s too? Taken pictures, so that I could leave it all behind, if leaving it behind was what I was going to do? Hundreds of pictures, it would be. Dried flowers and stacks of sweet notes and the scarf he tried to knit me once but which ended up about two inches long. Pictures of pictures, too, I’d have to take. That one of him on Moon Point, where his hair is catching the sun and it’s a curly mess, and he’s grinning like mad, his arms out, as if he’s trying to hug the moment. He’s the cutest, he is. God. That’s a great picture of him.

Mom was down there with her bag, and in the driveway outside Ben leaned on the horn. He was ready a long time ago. He had this enviable ability not to linger over feelings. Get a move on, let’s go. I loved that. Maybe it was a guy thing. I wished I had it.

“Bus is leaving!” Mom yelled.

“Coming!” I yelled back.

“Jupiter!” Mom called.

From the doorway of my room, I could see Jupiter get up from her pillow. She stretched one thin beagle leg out behind her and then the other—oh, the old girl had to get the kinks out lately, before she could get the whole body moving. She clomped down the stairs, front paws and then back end, in a little hop. She’d already had a big day. A bath that morning, where she’d sat, miserable, in the tub with flat, drenched hair, until she was finally out and free to roll around on the carpet, smelling like strawberry shampoo and wet dog. Now she was fluffy as she made her way down. Some dogs—they’re just sweet; you can feel their kindness in their soulful eyes, and that was Jupiter. I snagged her bed and her favorite ragged blankie, too, and Rabbit, that flat stuffed-animal roadkill she loved.

“Don’t forget these,” I said to Mom.

“Thanks. Stinky dog bed … check. Deflated old Easter bunny.”

“This was one of ours?” We used to get a stuffed rabbit every year in our baskets.

“Yours, I think. Didn’t you give it to her?”

I felt a pang of something sad and bittersweet as I looked at that dreary, matted used-to-be fur. Even a stupid smelly dog toy had its stories. Stuffed toy glory days, long gone, but still, Jupiter kept on loving that flat old rabbit. It kind of choked me up. God! That, right there—that was evidence of the mess, the knotted, impossible, stuck mess I was in. Sentimental feelings about something that disgusting … I don’t know. That thing stank.

We hauled the gathered luggage to the porch. Ben hopped out of his truck, headed over to help with the bags. Jupiter had already tangled herself on her leash around the front hedge. Mom shut the front door and then locked it. The door seemed huge all of a sudden. Years and years huge. We’d moved to that house when I was ten years old and Ben was twelve, after our parents got divorced.

“Well,” my mom said. Her voice was wavery.

“I know,” I said.

“It’s not the last time. We’ll be back. We’ll have to check to see if the movers left anything behind …,” Ben said.

“Still,” I said. “Let’s hurry.”

“Good idea,” Mom said. “I hate good-byes.”

But we didn’t exactly hurry. Even Ben didn’t. He set down the bags he held. We all stood on that wide, wide lawn in front of our old Victorian house in Nine Mile Falls, my mother’s arm around our waists, mine and Ben’s. Behind that door—no, wait, on that lawn and up that drive and behind that door and everywhere else on that property—there was what felt like a lifetime full of memories. Middle school angst and Christmases, the huge blanket of maple leaves every fall, our creek out back, the sound of it—soft and trickling, or rushing with too much rain as the boulders tumbled underneath. My father with his car idling out front, picking us up for the weekend; Jon Jakes and his rotten kids who lived under our roof for two years; Ben and me—fighting and laughing and more laughing. Ben and me and Mom and Jupiter.


And Janssen, of course. My very own Janssen Tucker. Who right then did not belong either to my past or my future, which was all my stupid doing. I’d put him in some waiting place of in-between, and he’d just made it clear he wasn’t going to stay there much longer. Could you blame him? Me and my Janssen, our clock was ticking. You gotta figure this one out on your own, he told me. You gotta decide. I loved, love, that boy. That’s the first part of this story that you need to know.

“Smell,” Mom said.

“What?” Ben said.

“Blackberries ripening. Along the creek. Smells like summer.”

“It does,” I said.

“Summer was great here,” Ben said. “Except for cutting this goddamn lawn.”

“How many lawn mowers did this lawn kill?” I asked. The lawn was huge. The first cut of the spring—the grass was ankle high and so thick and hard to mow that it took a couple of days to do the job. I fought the lawn, and the … lawn won, Mom would sing, after taking a long drink of water out of the hose.

“Three,” Mom said.

“Two Weedwackers,” Ben said.

“And what about winter,” Mom said.

“Yeah,” I said. The wind would blow so hard that tree branches would crack loose, and the power would go out for days.

“Here …,” she said. Her voice was soft.

“What?” I asked.

“So much of our story is here.”

I didn’t want to cry. I hated to cry. All three of us were the same that way. She kissed the tops of our heads. Ben cleared his throat.

“Look at that crazy dog,” Mom said.

We did. She had about four inches of leash left and was now bound tight to the lilac bush. She had given up. Lain down right there and set her chin on her paws. She sighed through her nose.

It was great comic timing. That’s part of what made them so great, right? The mess, the barking, the trouble—one reason you put up with it all was for the relief of ridiculous dogs during big moments. Ben laughed. “Oh, poor you,” Mom said to her. “Poor defeated baby.”

I went to untangle her leash. Ben picked the bags back up, and Mom put her house key in the pocket of her jeans. All this past and all this future and all this unknowing, and there was only one thing we could do about it. One choice, and so we did it. We got into Ben’s truck to see what would happen next.

Meet the Author

Deb Caletti is an award-winning author and National Book Award finalist. Her many books for young adults include Stay; The Nature of Jade; and Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, winner of the Washington State Book Award and the PNBA Best Book Award, and a finalist for the PEN USA Award. Her books for adults include He’s Gone and her latest release, The Secrets She Keeps. She lives with her family in Seattle.

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The Story of Us 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so real. I absolutely loved it! I consider it a must-read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever ! So much meaning about life , life lessons , love and everything else . So good this has too be one of Deb's best books. I hope her future books will be justbas good as this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book given it took me a little bit to get into was amazing.... it had a lot of good factors in it including a big move and a big step into a new family.. there was a little bit of love, friendship, pain, and simply just life as we know it. I diid cry at one point but I loved this book and hope others by this author are just as good!! Highly reccomended(=
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is there a way someone can lend this to me? Im not allowed to buy it... -rebecca
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is pretty good... i have not finished it yet but its okay. Yes it does move kinda slow... but its ok.. ish
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read it and had to force myself to finish it. Boring and had no twist to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheAutumnReview More than 1 year ago
I felt like the story moved very slow. I had trouble identifying with Cricket. I keep starting the book, then I'd get bored. I felt very unsatisfied with the ending. While this book wasn't for me, I can see the appeal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The cover may be enticing but the story is far from how good the cover looks. I guess if youre into the whole explicit details thing then yeah okay not too bad. But if youre a teenager with a short attention span this is not the book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
aleenmah14 More than 1 year ago
Alright, so i was a little iffy on reading thiss book and i must say, it was slow at first. this is a total summer read (or a place that's quiet). it did take a lot of constraition(Spelling??) to finish because i got confuse on many parts and would have to read a littl eback to find my spot. :p in the end it was pleasing and i love the art cover. the letters to Jassen were boreding...): but overall the book is not that bad(:
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At lola esult one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books i've ever read. It relates so much to stuff that happens in real life to everyone who has had problems, crazys families and even just the love of a dog. I would recommend this book to everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Um and yeah those who are against this book im with you it sucked . This book was sooooo sweet i love it.!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*moans hummping hard cumming more*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mmmmm.....watches her legs spread wide and she pumped a dil.do in and out quickly. There u go hu.mp. harder beyatch!!