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The Truth According to Blue
By Eve Yohalem
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 12, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Thirteen-year-old Blue Broen is on the hunt for a legendary ship of gold, lost centuries ago when her ancestors sailed to New York. Blue knows her overprotective parents won’t approve of her mission to find their family’s long-lost fortune, so she keeps it a secret from everyone except her constant companion, Otis, an 80-pound diabetic alert dog. But it’s hard to keep things quiet with rival treasure hunters on the loose, and with Blue’s reputation as the local poster child for a type 1 diabetes fundraiser.
Blue’s quest gets even harder when she’s forced to befriend Jules, the brainy but bratty daughter of a vacationing movie star who arrives on the scene and won’t leave Blue alone. While Blue initially resents getting stuck with this spoiled seventh grade stranger, Jules soon proves Blue’s not the only one who knows about secrets — and adventure.
Will Blue unravel a three hundred year-old family mystery, learn to stand up for herself, and find the missing treasure? Or is she destined to be nothing more than “diabetes girl” forever?
True Fact: Hundreds of years ago, a wooden ship with square sails and a cargo of gold sank near a tiny island off New York. It’s still there today. (From True Facts, a journal by Blue Broen)
A long tongue licked my cheek. I smooshed my face into my pillow, simultaneously drying the slime and hiding from another lick. Foiled. The long tongue swiped my ear.
“Go away, Otis. School’s out.”
But Otis didn’t go away. I knew because I could feel him panting on my neck.
I rolled over and patted the blanket, which is my way of hitting the snooze button, and eighty pounds of German shepherd catapulted onto the bed. Otis draped his entire self across me, his chin strategically positioned on my shoulder so I could scratch behind his ears with both hands.
“Five more minutes…,” I mumbled.
I finger-combed Otis’s super-soft ear fur, lost in the orange glow of the insides of my eyelids and the dream I’d been having about an octopus that couldn’t hide because its ink was gold instead of black and—
Poof! Morning brain fog evaporated. I bolted upright and four hairy dog limbs scrambled to the floor.
“The hunt, Otis! The hunt begins today!”
Wake-up mission accomplished, Otis retrieved the little pouch of diabetes supplies from my desk and dropped it on my lap before trotting out of the room. By the time I finished testing my blood sugar and entering the number of carbs I was about to eat into my pump so it would know how much insulin to give me, Otis was back, carrying a low-carb bagel with cream cheese and a mini milk carton in the basket that my mom leaves for us in the mornings. Otis and I are big fans of breakfast in bed.
I unscrewed the bagel top and offered Otis a piece, which he refused.
“Go on,” I said. “You love bagels.”
I scooped a big glob of cream cheese off my side and spread it on his so he’d have double. He gulped it down whole.
“Get excited, Oats Magoats. We’re about to change the course of history, you and me.”
Otis was already excited. I could tell by the thwack of his tail and the lift of his nose. And it wasn’t just because today was the first day of vacation. This summer we had big plans.
This summer, we were going treasure hunting.
I scarfed down the rest of the bagel as fast as I could.
“Clothes, please, Otis. Underwear, T-shirt, shorts.”
Otis went to my closet, pulled what I was going to wear today off the shelves, and brought the whole clump back to me. Yes, my dog picks my outfits for me. It’s not that I’m lazy or anything; it’s that Otis loves having a job to do. Plus, okay, I’m kind of lazy, especially in the mornings. But as long as I don’t care about always having to wear whichever clothes are on top of the stacks, the system works for both of us.
Dressed, bagel scarfed, and ready to go, we headed downstairs. I could smell peonies—Mom’s second-favorite flower—before I got to the kitchen. While they’re in season she puts vases of them everywhere: on the counter, the table, even on top of the fridge. I grabbed the supplies I needed from various drawers and stuffed them into a backpack: water bottle for me, water dish for Otis, phone for me, bone for Otis, notebook, pen, sunscreen, diabetes kit, underwater-view bucket.
Otis loped off to the laundry / Mom’s gardening supply / Dad’s tool / my old baby gear room.
“Why do you need a towel?” Mom said, coming in while I was emptying a box of individually wrapped packs of cashews into my bag. She opened the freezer and took out a chilled water bottle, her “outdoor AC.”
“Science project. Why are you still home?”
Summer is my parents’ busy season, and they’re usually out of the house by seven in the morning, seven days a week. My dad builds houses, and my mom is a gardener. But because we live in Sag Harbor, which is part of the Hamptons (yes, those Hamptons, the New York beach resorts where rich people and celebrities go for summer vacations but also where regular families like mine live and have jobs and go to school), my dad is a “general contractor” and my mom is a “landscape designer.”
The reason I had homework even though it was summer was because I got an Incomplete in school this year and had to do a makeup project. Turns out when you read The Treasure Hunter’s Bible and Scouring the Seas instead of filling out Blah Blah Weather Data worksheets, it’s hard to pass Earth Science. My project involved collecting water samples all around the harbor to show how the ocean affects the weather. Or possibly how the weather affects the ocean, I couldn’t remember which. My parents knew about the makeup project, which worked as an excellent cover-up, because they didn’t know about the treasure hunt. Nobody—especially my parents—knew about the hunt except Otis and my best friend, Nora.
Nora. Who was leaving tomorrow for seven weeks at theater camp. Which I was trying very hard not to think about.
Mom grabbed an apple from a bowl on the counter and stuck it in her tote bag. “We’re going to Edward Buttersby’s house, remember? For the planning meeting?”
Aha. Now I understood the floaty tunic-y thing Mom had on over her faded work jeans and T-shirt and why she had sent Otis to wake me up when I didn’t have school. And, yes, she meant that Edward Buttersby, the movie star, a.k.a. Command Pilot Jasper Jones from Space Voyager. He also happened to be this year’s host for the annual Cure Juvenile Diabetes Foundation fund-raiser. Since I was the poster child (literally) for the local CJDF chapter, I had to go to the party and give a speech.
You might think it would be super exciting to hang out with someone like Edward Buttersby at his house, but I’ve been doing these fund-raisers for a long time, and I’ve learned otherwise.
“That meeting’s not for another week,” I insisted, willing it to be true.
Otis dropped a beach towel at my feet, and I started cramming it into the backpack.
“It’s this morning.” Mom sighed. “I told you about it a week ago.”
It’s possible she was right about that. I crammed faster so I could make my escape.
“I’m sorry. I can’t go. I have plans.”
Mom checked her watch. “Get in the truck, Blue.”
“You don’t need me there anyway. Why do I have to go?”
“You’re thirteen. Thirteen is plenty old enough to get more involved in community service, which is what this is.”
I gave up on the towel and swung the backpack over my shoulder. “Mom, my science project is important. It’s homework.”
“Get in the truck, Blue.” Mom put her hand on the small of my back and gently steered me toward the front door.
“Otis hates boring meetings. He’ll throw up.”
“Get in the truck, Blue.” She grabbed her floppy sun hat from the hall table.
“Come, Otis…,” Mom said.
We got in the truck.
True Fact: Famous people, when you meet them in person, turn out one of two ways: Either they’re completely normal, like they could be someone’s mom or dad, or they’re completely weird and full of themselves, and you’re glad they can’t remember your name and you’ll never see them again after the party.
Edward Buttersby had rented a house in East Hampton for the summer. Or more like he’d rented an entire estate. From the road all we could see was a mile-high hedge (privet, according to Mom) that stretched across a property at least three times as wide as any other property on the street, and a driveway so long you couldn’t see the end of it.
“Three biscuits says he’s a weirdo,” I whispered into Otis’s ear. I was sitting in the passenger seat, and Otis was in his favorite spot in the middle of the back seat, where he could see out the front and breathe on my neck at the same time.
“I heard that,” Mom said.
Her pickup truck crunched along the driveway, trailing mud on the pearly white pebbles.
“Dramatic dogwoods,” she said.
“Astounding azaleas,” I said.
“Such an elegant English plane,” I said.
“You knew that was an English plane tree?”
“Mom, please. I’m your daughter.”
And then we were there. At the circular part of the driveway in front of what looked more like a beach club than a private house. It had gray shingles and white shutters and was huge. Humongously so. Ancient weeping willows drooped across the front lawn, making shaggy-dog shadows on weed-free grass.
Mom rang the bell, and the three of us waited for someone to answer it.
“Please don’t do anything embarrassing,” I said.
“What are you talking about?” Mom said.
“When you meet Edward Buttersby. Please don’t do that thing where your voice gets really high.”
Before Space Voyager, Edward Buttersby starred in a miniseries based on one of those nineteenth-century English romance novels, which Mom may have watched two or ten or a hundred times.
“I have no idea what you mean,” Mom said, smoothing her hair in the reflection of the window next to the front door. “Just make sure you don’t do anything embarrassing either.”
“When have I ever done anything embarrassing?” I protested.
Mom smiled and smoothed my hair. “Never,” she said.
The door swung open. Instead of Edward Buttersby, it was my friend Robin’s mom, wearing a white chef’s uniform.
“Hey, Mrs. Alvarado, how are you?” I said.
Mom and Mrs. Alvarado kissed hello. Over their shoulders I could see a white floor with a white rug, white walls, and white furniture. I looked down at my fuzzy black dog and pointed to the mat.
“Wipe, Otis,” I said.
Otis wiped his paws, and we went inside.
World-famous actor Edward Buttersby emerged from the whiteness. His feet were bare; he had on jeans that were frayed at the bottom and a denim shirt that had one more button undone than any dad I know would wear.
“I’m Ed. You must be Emily and Blue.” He stuck out a hand for Mom and then me to shake. “And who’s this?”
It felt wrong seeing Command Pilot Jasper Jones out of uniform and wearing a leather necklace with a bead on it. I couldn’t decide whether to thank him for saving humanity from mutant alien fungus or tell him that Nora got the same necklace at the surf shop in town.
“Blue?” my mother said.
“Sorry,” I said, praying I hadn’t been staring, or if I had that no one had noticed. “Otis, meet Mr. Buttersby.”
Otis stuck out a paw, which Edward Buttersby shook. Otis has excellent manners.
“He’s a diabetic-alert dog,” Mom explained in a Minnie Mouse squeak. “He can smell blood sugar that’s too high or too low. I hope you don’t mind him inside the house. We can always leave him out—”
“No, no,” Ed said, leading us into a snowy-white living room with a wall of windows and a view of what everyone calls the most beautiful beach in America. “Jules and I love animals, right, Jules?”
I turned away from the ocean and buried all thoughts of boats and treasure. Lounging on the couch was a supermodel, scrolling on her phone with a piece of long gummy candy hanging out of her mouth. She was so into her phone she didn’t hear the question.
“How old are you, Blue?” Ed asked.
“She just finished seventh grade,” Mom said.
“My daughter, Jules, just finished seventh grade too,” Ed said. “We got here a couple of days ago, and she doesn’t know a soul. This is perfect. Isn’t it perfect, Jules?”
Jules, who I guess wasn’t a supermodel after all—or maybe she was, if it’s possible for middle schoolers to be supermodels—dragged her eyes up from her phone. “Perfect.” She held out a fresh piece of dangly candy. “Worm?”
“Jules!” Ed said. “Blue has diabetes, remember? She doesn’t eat candy.”
Actually, I eat candy every day, but I didn’t think Mom would want me to give Ed a blood sugar management lesson two minutes after saying hello.
“Sorry,” Jules said, twisting the worm around her finger.
“Hey, why don’t you two go hang out while Emily and I work on the boring party stuff,” Ed said, like he’d just been struck by the most brilliant idea ever.
There was a long awkward pause while Jules went back to scrolling and I sent my mom a look of misery and she gave me back a look of helplessness and Otis licked the fluffy white rug.
“Jules?” said Ed.
“What? Oh. You wanna go outside or something?” Jules asked me.
I pictured grabbing Otis and making a run for it out the door, down the driveway—and then nine miles home, where I’d collapse from exhaustion and low blood sugar.
“Sure,” I said to Jules. “Let’s go outside. Come, Otis.”
Jules and Otis and I went through one of many sets of sliding doors to a giant deck with an infinity pool that looked out over the ocean. We sat on white lounge chairs under white umbrellas for another long, awkward pause.
This one was even longer and more awkward than the first. It went on and on and on and on and—
“Aren’t you supposed to be fat?”
“What?” I said.
“You know. Because you have diabetes. Isn’t diabetes a thing that happens to fat people?”
I get this all the time. Lots of people think you get diabetes because you eat too much sugar or you don’t exercise, and if you just lose weight and choke down a bottle of cinnamon every day, it’ll go away. Lots of people are wrong.
“It’s not like that,” I said.
“Oh. Cool.” Jules flung her sheet of shiny blond hair over one shoulder. “It’s hot. You wanna go swimming?”
It was really hot, but I’d have to test and deal with my blood sugar if I wanted to swim. Exercise would bring my sugar down, which would be fine if my blood sugar was already high, but if it was normal or low I’d have to eat something to get my sugar up, and then wait fifteen minutes and check it again to make sure it was in a good range, and then if it wasn’t I’d have to eat some more, wait fifteen more minutes, and test again, which would mean we’d stay here even longer, which would mean waiting even longer to start the hunt. So…
“No thanks. But you go ahead.”
I looked down at Otis, who was using my foot as a chin pillow. Save me, I mouthed. But Otis just snorted.
Otis and I proceeded to have a totally fantastic and not at all awkward time. He lay under a glass table pretending to be a rug, and I watched Jules do laps in the pool like she was training for the Olympics instead of killing time while her dad made her hang out with me. When Mom and Ed finally came out, it was past noon and I was ready to explode. By the time we got home and had lunch, it’d be too late to take the boat out and do any real work. First day of the treasure hunt, totally wasted.
“How’s the water?” Ed said.
“Cold,” Jules said, even though she’d been in it by choice for almost an hour. “You forgot to turn on the heat.”
“Sorry, kiddo. Blue, you didn’t want to swim?”
“I didn’t bring my suit.”
“Well, you’ll have to bring it next time. Or borrow one of Jules’s. She’s got tons, right, Jules?”
Jules dove down and breaststroked to the deep end without answering. Mom’s eyes got big for a split second. Let’s just say if I ever ignored my parents like that, they’d never let me go swimming again. Plus, we don’t have a pool. Plus, if we did, it wouldn’t have heat.
But Ed didn’t seem to notice any of it. I guessed this was normal for them, because he was watching Jules swim with a grin so wide it belonged on a World’s Proudest Dad mug.
“Hey, Blue, it’s really great the way you and Jules have hit it off. Like I said, she doesn’t know anyone here, and I bet you’ve got millions of friends. You wouldn’t mind taking Jules with you to the beach or something tomorrow, would you?”
I opened my mouth to tell Ed that I was really sorry but I wasn’t going to the beach tomorrow—and probably not any other day—because I had a school project to do and there was no possible way Jules could come with me because it had to be done completely alone (except for Otis, of course).
But before I could get a word out, Mom cut in and said, “What a great idea, Ed. Blue would love to take Jules to the beach tomorrow.”
Blue would not love to take Jules to the beach tomorrow! I need to start treasure hunting tomorrow! But I couldn’t say that to Mom, even if Ed and Jules hadn’t been standing in front of us.
Back in the truck, Mom turned up the volume on “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King, which she calls her “jam.”
“How could you do that to me!” I yelled over the music. “Jules is totally obnoxious—Otis, get your tongue out of my ear; you owe me three biscuits! I one hundred percent refuse to take her to the beach. I’ve already wasted a whole morning of my life; I’m not wasting another minute on some rich movie star’s spoiled kid.”
Mom looked over at me while she was driving. I hate it when she does that.
“Ed pledged half a million dollars to the Cure Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and he’s inviting two hundred people to the party and bringing in a camera crew to film the event.”
Game over. Nothing I could say would change Mom’s mind, not when all that money and all those people could maybe possibly help find a cure for diabetes. Which I understood, and even agreed with. But it does feel sometimes like diabetes sucks the fun out of every single thing I ever want to do.
I looked away from Mom and stared out the window. “Fine. I’ll go with Jules tomorrow, but that’s it. I’m not babysitting her the whole summer.”
“Deal,” Mom said.
True Fact: Best friends are called “best” for a reason. (TF supplied by a throw pillow in the sale bin at Kmart.)
As if the morning hadn’t been bad enough, that night was Nora’s last night home before leaving for theater camp. This would be our first summer apart since we met in kindergarten. No biking to the wildlife sanctuary, no bonfires and s’mores on the beach, no epic rainy-day TV marathons. We decided to go to our happy place.
Island Bowl has been around forever. My grandparents bowled there, my parents bowled there, my friends and I bowl there. Outside, the green, yellow, and orange ISLAND BOWL sign was missing its B. Inside wafted the sounds of pop hits from the fifties and the aroma of sixty years of foot odor and onion rings.
Nora, Otis, and I were in lane twelve, which has been Otis’s favorite ever since he spotted a mouse running along the wall. That was two years ago, but Otis is an optimist—he’s still on the alert for another. Island Bowl doesn’t allow animals, but since Otis is a service dog, he gets to go everywhere I go.
Nora eyed the four pins standing at the end of the lane, blew on her lucky green ball, and—
“Inspiration break!” She spun around to face me and Otis at the scoring desk. “What if we just take however many points we need depending on how we’re feeling instead of how many pins we knock down?”
Nora is a big believer in finding new ways to express herself. But sadness-based scoring wasn’t going to make me feel any better about us being apart for seven weeks. I forced a smile. “Go for it,” I said. “But I think I’ll stick to the usual methods.”
“As you wish.” She swung the ball between her legs granny-style and let it go. Spare.
Back in elementary school, Nora and I used to play for the Gutter Girls, the Island Bowl youth league team that won the state championship three years straight. Let’s just say granny-style wasn’t always Nora’s bowling technique.
She stepped carefully over Otis, who was at his mouse-duty station on the floor between the desk and the wall, to slide in next to me. “I’m feeling pretty good right now, so I don’t need the whole ten points. Just give me three.”
I marked Nora’s score on the score sheet and went to the ball return for my yellow nine-pounder. Lined it up, released, and…
“Another strike for Blue!” Nora cheered.
She swiveled to face Otis and picked up his paws to make him dance with her. Otis tolerated the indignity because he loves Nora. “Phoebe and Sophia asked if we wanted to hang out tonight, but I told them we were having Special Blue and Nora Time,” she said to me.
Last fall Nora got a part in the middle school musical and “discovered the theater.” For three months she had rehearsals every day after school and sometimes even on weekends. When it’s just us, we’re still as close as ever, but now Nora has a bunch of new friends to hang out with too. She invites me to do things with them, but whenever I go, I feel weird and awkward, like I’m standing in the wings watching them put on a show. It’s been even worse since February, when my grandfather Pop Pop died.
I took my seat at the desk again. “You didn’t have to do that,” I said, even though I was relieved that she had. “They could have come.”
“Well, I did want to have Special Blue and Nora Time.”
I did too.
We played through the end of the game, both of us getting sadder and sadder, until Nora finally rolled a gutter ball and said, “Give me a thousand.”
She plopped down on the chair next to me. Otis whined softly and put his head in her lap. “What if everyone hates me and I don’t make a single friend and then I catch tuberculosis and no one visits me in the infirmary?” she said.
“Not possible,” I said. “Anyone who hates you is a moron and you wouldn’t want to be friends with them anyway. And if you get tuberculosis, Otis and I will hitchhike to camp and visit you.”
Nora kneaded one of Otis’s super-soft ears between two fingers. “What if I’m so bad that I don’t get cast in a single show and I have to spend the whole time sweeping the floors and shining all the actors’ shoes instead?”
“Also not possible. I’ve seen you act and you’re incredible. And I’ve seen you clean…” I bumped her shoulder with mine. “And you’re terrible.”
Nora planted her forehead on the desktop, smooshing Otis’s head in her lap. Not that he cared. “What if Jules becomes your new best friend, and you forget I ever existed and move to LA and star in a reality TV show?”
I fake-gagged. “Definitely not possible. I’m not even going to see her again after tomorrow.”
Nora sighed and sat up. “Is she really that bad?”
I pictured Jules ignoring me while she swam laps, Jules ignoring her dad when he tried to talk to her, Jules ignoring Otis. “Put it this way,” I said, outrage building. “She didn’t say a single word to Otis the entire time we were there. She didn’t even try to pet him.”
Nora’s eyes narrowed. “A dog-hater,” she said. “The lowest form of life.”
Her phone chirped. Nora checked it. “My mom’s on her way. She said to meet her in the parking lot.”
But we didn’t move. Even Otis stayed perfectly still, like he wanted to freeze time as much as Nora and I did.
Suddenly, Nora said, “Wait, I almost forgot!”
“I have a going-away present for you.” She lifted Otis’s head from her lap and slid out from behind the desk. “Hang on, I know it’s here somewhere.” She rummaged through her bag, taking out a knotted ball of rainbow yarn (Nora was learning to knit), a half-eaten roll of cherry Life Savers (for me, when my blood sugar gets low), black socks (no clue), and, finally, a decrepit copy of her favorite book, Whitman’s Jolly Limericks.
Nora flipped through the pages. “It’s right… here.” She pulled out an envelope. “A new True Fact for your journal.”
I’ve been keeping a True Facts journal since I was nine, which was around the same time I started understanding diabetes. I don’t mean understanding all the day-to-day stuff—I’d been dealing with the highs and lows and everything that went with them since I got diagnosed when I was two. I mean the other stuff. Like how I was the only kid I knew who had to have her parents come on every school field trip, or who had to miss the third-grade triathlon to prick her finger and drink juice in the nurse’s office, or who had never been on a sleepover at someone else’s house.
I’d stay awake half the night worrying about how there was no cure for diabetes, which meant that I was going to have this disease for the rest of my life. My parents tried to help, but nothing made any difference until one day Mom finally said, “Blue, feelings and facts are both important, but they’re not the same thing. You feel sad because you may go blind one day, but the fact is, you’re not blind today. Try to stick to the facts.”
After that, instead of worrying about what was going to happen in the future, I’d stay up making lists in my head of all the facts that were true today: True Fact: I’ve never had a stroke. True Fact: My kidneys work. True Fact: I don’t have any sores on my body that won’t heal. Then I started writing down my True Facts, and after that I started sleeping better.
I got up and took the envelope from Nora. Inside was a square of pale blue paper that Nora had illustrated with musical notes, a boat, a quill, and a rabbit poking out of a top hat. In the center of the paper, Nora’s loopy, swirly handwriting said:
True Fact: Matthias Buchinger was an artist, a magician, a cardsharp, a musician, and a sharpshooter, and he liked to build ships in bottles. Also, he was twenty-nine inches tall and was born without hands or feet.
“He reminds me of you,” Nora said, reading over my shoulder.
“Because… I’m twenty-nine inches tall?”
- Praise for The Truth According to Blue:
- On Sale
- May 12, 2020
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers