Wrong in All the Right Ways: A Novel

Wrong in All the Right Ways: A Novel

by Tiffany Brownlee

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250130532
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 07/17/2018
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 163,366
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Tiffany Brownlee is a middle school English teacher in the New Orleans area. Wrong in All the Right Ways, a young adult retelling of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Let me be clear: I am not the biggest fan of small children. Now, I don't dislike all of them — the cute ones are hard to hate, and my seven-year-old brother is sort of awesome, too — but most of them I actually do loathe. They're obnoxious, they're messy, and they have not yet acquired the level of self-discipline I think is necessary to function in this world. Like I said, I hate them. So when my parents told me they were thinking of fostering a young kid, I wasn't exactly overflowing with joy.

And rightfully so. I mean, they already have two lovely and highly intelligent children. Do they really need another one? No, they don't. But it's not my place to tell them that.

Why not? Well, because I'm a people pleaser. I believe that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who live to make others happy, and those who live to make themselves happy. You can't be both; you have to choose one. Because let's face it: you can't please everyone and yourself at the same time. It's impossible. If that was in the realm of possibilities, we would all be living in a problem-free world, and God knows that's never going to happen.

I fall into the first category, which brings me back to square one: I'm a people pleaser. Actually, let me correct that: I'm a parent pleaser. I like to make my parents happy, and my acquiescing, being compliant, makes them happy. So even though my insides completely object to their decision to foster some wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid, I wear a smile as if everything is okay, because it's what I'm supposed to do. It's what they expect me to do.

"Time to wake up, Emma," my mom says on the intercom system that is hooked up in my room. When my parents first told me that they were fostering a kid, I volunteered to give up my room for him or her. I didn't want anyone else to have to sacrifice one of their rooms. My dad would die if he had to give up his socially primitive man cave, and my mom and I didn't want Matthew to have to give up his playroom. According to my mom, "a playroom is essential to the growth of cognitive and motor skills in a child, and blah blah blah ..." So I relocated to the pool house. I told them that it would free up a room so they could keep an eye on my new sibling, and that because I'd be moving out of the house for college soon, this arrangement would make the transition easier on them, and on me. That's what I told them, anyway. Truth is, I don't want to be anywhere near the kid who is replacing me in their hearts, and twenty feet of distance is going to achieve just that.

"I'm getting up now," I lie as I pull the covers back over my head to block out the sunlight. This is the point in my day that I love the most, and I'm not going to let her wake-up call ruin it.

According to Folgers, the best part of waking up is having their coffee in your cup, but I beg to differ. It's actually the stage right before we wake up, or the Middle, as I like to call it. To me, it's as if my mind has registered that I've lived to see another day but it's not ready to pull away from its dreamland yet. It's the overlapping of waking and dream states, and every day, I take a few minutes to relish this moment.

I use this time to do my deepest thinking. It's usually something nonsensical or philosophical, like how many stars are in the sky, or why glue doesn't stick to the inside of the bottle. I never really answer these questions, but they wake my mind up just enough to get my day started.

Today's Middle topic is death. People die every day, and we all will die one day. It's an inevitable truth that we have to overlook if we want to live a happy life. I mean, think about it: the world would be a morbid place to live in if all we ever thought about was death and when it was coming and how it would happen. I'm not really scared of dying, but I'm kind of afraid of what happens after that; it's the only unknown that humans will never be able to figure out. I believe that death will come when it's supposed to, but I just want it to come after I've experienced a few life-changing moments — well, one in particular.

I want to fall in love. Who doesn't? In movies, it's made out to be a defining moment in our lives. Girl meets boy, and they share a season of love. He does something stupid to lose her, then wins her back with a grand gesture at the end so they can live happily ever after. Now, I'm not so naïve as to think this actually happens in real life. I know it doesn't. Somewhere between the first kiss and falling in love, life happens. Messy entanglements ensue, summer flings end, hearts break, et cetera, et cetera. That's just the way it is. Falling in love sounds agonizing, but if it means I find the other half of my heart in the end, I think it's worth it.

I roll over and look at the calendar on my wall. It's Monday, September 3. This day marks not only my last first day of high school, but also the day that I'll get to meet my possible new foster brother or sister. My parents are going to bring them to live with us for a while, and if all goes well, the courts will make them an official member of our family ... well, eventually. Apparently, getting parents to sign over their rights can be a long process.

It will be nice for Matthew to have someone to keep him company, but having another sibling — technically — around is only going to force my parents to divide their attention even more. I don't want to come off as selfish, but aside from my brother, my parents are all I have, and I don't want some ungrateful brat coming in here to take them away from me. Especially not when I only have this year left with them before I leave for college.

I drag myself out of bed and saunter over to my closet. "What to wear?" I ask myself as I place my hands on my waist. I was supposed to figure this out last night, but I got distracted by the book I'm reading. A love story, if it's compelling enough, has the ability to make you forget that you have a life outside its fictitious world. And that's exactly what happened to me last night. I got lost between the pages of a story with a messy love triangle. So much so that I forgot all about today being the first day of school.

Figuring out what to wear is an impossible decision today. What you wear on the first day of school can make or break your year. At least, that's what most teen magazines preach to their readers. You are what you wear, they say. Wear too much black and you're a gothic freak. Show too much skin and you're a slut. To be popular, you have to find the perfect blend of casual and cool — with a hint of sexy and sassy — and I've gotten it wrong every year.

Now, I'm not drop-dead gorgeous, but I'm not completely unfortunate-looking either (thank you, Mom and Dad). I'm stuck in the plain-Jane middle of the spectrum, and most of the time I'm okay with that, except when it comes to one aspect of my life: boys.

Even though I'm decent-looking, I still haven't been able to land a boyfriend. I want that to be because I'm brilliant and my intelligence intimidates the boys at school — I skipped two grades in middle school (which just screams socially well-adjusted) — but I know it's not. It's more likely because I'm the "freaky genius girl" who cares more about my grades than how many points the football team scored in their last game. It's the things I care about, like intelligence and individuality, that make me invisible to them. All of them.

"I'm ready," I say as I enter the kitchen through the back door. My mom is waiting with a Polaroid camera in her hand, just as I expect her to be. We've done first-day-of-school photos for as long as I can remember. When she spots me, she pulls the camera away from her eye, and I see her thin lips press into a tight, straight line.

"Jeans and a T-shirt?" she asks. Her eyebrows are raised so high that they disappear behind her low-cut blond bangs. "I thought you were gonna wear that dress you bought last weekend. You know, the one that brings out your eyes?" As she says that, I pull my glasses out of my bag and slip them onto my face. "No contacts today either, huh?"

Well, it's not like I have anyone to impress. "Nope." I don't mean it, but it comes out in a moodier tone than I intended. "Sorry," I say as her eyes drop to the floor. "The first day of school always stresses me out." I grab an apple and swing my bag over my shoulder. It has only a notebook, a pen, and my wallet inside it, but it feels heavier than usual, because I'm not looking forward to going to school today. Not because I don't like school — I actually love learning — but because I don't really have any friends right now. Most of the girl cliques at school have already been established, and I don't think they're looking to add anyone else to their unwritten roster, which means I have to sit at the loner table at lunch. Yay me.

"Well, it's nice to know the hundreds of dollars your father and I spent on your corrective contact lenses are getting put to good use." I fold my arms across my chest and sigh. I've heard this speech so many times that I can probably recite it verbatim. "I don't get it. You beg us for contacts, and then you never wear them."

I didn't beg you for them. You decided to buy them all on your own. "They itch my eyes, so I'm going for recreational use only."

But that was a lie. My contacts don't bother my eyes at all. I just feel more comfortable wearing my glasses at school. They give me something to hide behind.

"Well, excuse me," she says, pointing the camera at me once again to take my picture. The flash temporarily blinds me, and it isn't until I see her fanning herself with the photo that my vision returns to normal. "Are you happy with this?" she says, showing me the photograph.

I don't have to look at the photo to know that I don't look good enough for the first day of school. I never have and never will. That's just the way it is. I take another look at my mom's camera in her hands and sigh. This is our last first day together; I can't disappoint her.

"On second thought, I'll go change." I come back ten minutes later in a white button-down blouse and a pair of black shorts. I almost never wear shorts in public — they are so revealing! — and putting them on to appease my mother kills me. "Better?" I ask upon returning. After receiving a nod of approval from my mom, I reach for my keys on the wall. As I do, I spot an old picture of my dad hoisting me in the air at the end of one of my softball games. I used to be really into softball, but that was only because my dad wanted me to be. "Did Dad leave for his morning run already?"

My father used to play professional baseball back when I was younger, but he had to retire early after he hurt his back sliding into home plate during a World Series game. So now he's the coach of an unstoppable junior baseball team in the neighborhood, and when he's not focused on that, he's trying his best to be a father to my brother and me.

"No, he skipped it. He's upstairs getting ready for our meeting with the group home." I see my mother tighten her ponytail, which can mean only one thing: she's worried that the kid won't like her. Why that would be, I have no clue. To me, she's pretty awesome — aside from the unspoken-pressure-to-pleaseher thing. "We don't get to choose, but we told them that we're looking for a child between the ages of eight and sixteen, so hopefully he or she is on the younger side of that spectrum."

"That'll be good for Matthew," I say. "He'll have someone to play with when I leave for college." I look over at my little brother. He's at the table eating a bowl of oatmeal. I imagine he's devising an elaborate plan to get out of having to go to school today. He says he hates it there, but the Fulton Academy of Advanced Math and Science is the only school in our area that will challenge him. Last year, when we were informed that he was gifted in mathematics, we were advised to send him there. I know this is what's best for him, but I can't help wondering if he misses being a normal kid sometimes. I know that I missed being normal when I skipped two grades four years ago.

"You sure you're okay with this?" my mom asks, tucking a couplestrands of my hair behind my ear. I get almost all of my physical features from her: hair color, eye color, and height, just to name a few. From my father I get my intelligence, and that's about it. "I know the idea of having another sibling probably has you feeling unwanted, but I need you to know that that's not the case at all. Your dad and I will still love you just as much as we do right now."

"I'm fine, Mom, really. This is a good thing." It's not exactly a lie, but it's not exactly the truth, either. I'm happy that they're going to give a kid with a troubled past a second chance at what their life should have been. But at the same time, I don't want this new family member to replace me. After all, I was here first. "I'm gonna be late. Give Dad a hug for me."

I don't breathe until I escape out the front door. The only reason they're fostering this kid is because of my early graduation, and that kind of makes me ineligible for righteous birth-child indignation. No, I refuse to lose it in front of her. I'm the one who's leaving the nest two years ahead of schedule, prompting them to refill it as quickly as possible. This is basically my fault, but we're in too deep with the fostering process for me to beg her not to go through with it now. We're in too deep for me to break her heart with a confession.

After fighting for a good parking space at school, I get out to see tons of other students smiling and laughing with their friends. There are girls running across the courtyard, flinging their arms around each other, and guys fist-bumping buddies that they haven't seen all summer. The sight of their giddy reunions unfolding before me puts a bitter taste in my mouth; I've never been able to do any of those things on the first day of school.

Instead of reuniting with the friends I wish I had, I head to the counselor's office. From down the hall, I can see the white pieces of paper taped to the inside of the glass window on the door. Two big, bold words typed across the top of it come into view as I creep closer to the window: CLASS RANKINGS. I don't have to search for too long before I find my name. It's sitting at the top of the list, next to the number one. Top in my class. That should make Dad happy. He hates it when others beat me out. The warning bell rings, signaling that I should begin to make my way to class, and as I do, a proud smile creeps its way across my face. I'm number one. Valedictorian, here I come.

The school day is very uneventful. It's the same as every other first day in high school: the teacher introduces him- or herself, goes over the syllabus with us, distributes the class books, and then opens up the floor so that we can say a few things about who we are. Name, favorite pastime, and something interesting about ourselves. After third period, I'm so sick of this monotonous routine that I instinctively cringe when it starts all over again.

"I'm Emma Ellenburg," I mumble when it's my turn, adjusting my glasses. "I like writing and going to school." I get crickets from my classmates, but a nod of approval from my teacher. "Anyways, um, an interesting fact about me is that I'm the daughter of the youngest record-holding retired baseball player in America, Daniel Ellenburg."

There are times when I wish I had a different factoid to share about myself — something that is actually about me — but this is all I have.

My statement usually sparks a conversation about baseball, which I have no interest in anymore, and ends with a sports-obsessed boy jumping in to tell the class about an upcoming football or basketball game and why everyone in the entire school should attend. The jocks here are always looking for an opportunity to promote their sports teams, but I don't blame them. I would probably do the same thing if I were in their position.

The day drags on in this boring and repetitive cycle. But things change at lunch when a girl I have never spoken to sets her lunch tray down beside me. She doesn't have any food on her tray, but she does have a rather large stack of papers.

"Hey." She smiles at me, her dark green eyes glowing. She's too peppy for my liking, and before she speaks again, I almost leave the table to finish reading my book in peace. But I don't. That would be rude, and my parents taught me better than that.

"Hi." I don't mean for it to come out as flat as it does, but I can't help it.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Wrong in All the Right Ways"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Tiffany Brownlee.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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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