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David Judy knows what it’s like to be bullied. Shy and gentle, with a soft voice and “a girl’s name for a last name,” he is a prime target. Thankfully, there’s one girl David feels at ease with — Valerie, the girl who’s been dating his neighbor and sometimes-friend, Nick. Valerie is kind to David and pulls him into their circle of outcast friends, where he finally feels like he (sort of) belongs. So when David starts to suspect that Nick and his friend Jeremy are planning a revenge plot against their tormentors, he wrestles with whether or not to tell someone. By the time he finally works up the courage to say something…it’s too late.
David tries to put what he knows behind him — to forget and move on — but that’s hard to do as senior year starts and he watches his old friend, Valerie, struggle in a deep, dark place of guilt and confusion. It’s time to speak up. David may not be able to end bullying, but by standing up, he might just make a difference. And that’s what matters.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Hate List
A Sneak Peek of Torn Away
About the Author
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Summer hadn't been long enough. Of course it hadn't been long enough. It could have gone on for a millennium—and there were days when my parents were staring at me across the kitchen table, waiting for my posttraumatic whatever to set in, that it felt like it had—and still summer would not have been long enough.
People—pretty much everyone—walking around behind dark sunglasses.
TV cameras pointing at us constantly.
And teddy bears. So many teddy bears, the air stank when it rained, their moldy fur making them look like rotting corpses, like the battle-maimed miniatures in my dad's warscapes.
I never went back over summer break. I heard that some kids did—hung out on the front steps and the bleachers "to remember." But not me. After that final bell on that final day, I practically left skid marks on the steps trying to beat feet out of there. Junior year, you sucked. Don't let the door hit you in the ass.
Besides, I had already replayed every second of that morning in my head a million times. I remembered, whether I wanted to or not. Why they all wanted to hang on to it was beyond me. I was doing everything I could to forget. What I saw, what I heard, what I knew. If I let myself remember all the things I knew, all the things I wasn't telling, the guilt would eat me up. Let those other morbid sons of bitches remember—just give me blank space.
But now summer was over and senior year was here, and I had no choice but to go back. I sat at the table in my empty kitchen, trying to talk myself into not hating the idea of another year at Garvin High.
I heard Dad's slow and steady boot steps coming up the basement stairs, and I could smell the paint thinner he always used to rub the model paint off his hands when he was done tinkering with a battle scene. Dad was a huge war buff and had spent most of his life creating, destroying, and re-creating miniature battle scenes—his warscapes—on an old Ping-Pong table in our basement, building up papier-mâché hills and Popsicle-stick buildings. It was awesome. I'd spent more hours than I could count down there, watching him painstakingly dab blues and browns on uniforms with a toothpick, imagining the chaos and sulfuric smells of battle.
Now I knew the chaos firsthand.
Now I couldn't get the sulfuric smell out of my nose. Why couldn't summer at least be long enough for me to get the smell out of my nose?
"First day," Dad said, announcing the obvious as he rinsed his hands off in the sink. "Senior year. Where does the time go?"
I sat in front of my cereal bowl, watching tiny milk bubbles form as the cereal soaked it up. I made a noncommittal noise.
Dad dried his hands and poured coffee into the travel mug Mom always left out for him before heading to her job at the school bus lot. "You nervous?"
Again I made a meaningless noise, this time accompanied by a shrug. What kind of question was that? Of course I was nervous. I was crazy nervous.
Dad set his mug on the table—little tendrils of steam snaking out the holes on top—and put his hand on my shoulder. "Just try to have the best day you can, bud," he said.
"I will," I managed, and somehow even forced myself to take a limp bite of my mushy cereal. "It'll be fine."
Dad left, and not long after, I heard Mason's footsteps pounding up the walk. He opened the front door without knocking.
"Yo, David, you ready to go?" he asked. He wiped sweat off his forehead with his arm. "It's hotter than a strip club out there already." He bent to flutter his fingers along the side of the aquarium in the living room, scaring the fish.
I picked up my bowl and dumped it in the sink, grinding cereal dregs down the disposal. "Like you'd know," I said.
"Dude, you have no idea what Duce and I been up to this summer. All locked up in your house like Mother Superior."
"Whatever," I said, heading to my bedroom to grab my backpack. "I know you haven't been to any strip clubs. Stacey would kill you both. Duce for going, and you for taking him."
We left the house and plunged out onto the sidewalk. Mason immediately lit a cigarette.
He took a long drag and blew the smoke through the side of his mouth. "What Stacey doesn't know about her faithful little Ducey-poo won't kill her," he said. "He's dating her, not married to her. A dude's got needs."
I chuckled. "You've got needs, all right. Special needs."
Mason punched me in the arm and took another drag off his cigarette. A bus groaned past us, and we heard chatter spill out its open windows. It was weird how normal the noise sounded. Like any other first day of school. Definitely not like the first day of a new school year after the infamous Garvin High Massacre, courtesy of one sick bastard, my friend Nick Levil.
"No, seriously," Mason said after the engine rumble had died down. "Where you been, man? Feel like I haven't seen you in forever."
"Home, mostly," I answered. "My parents basically wigged out on me all summer."
"Awww, did wittle baybee stay home wif Mommy all summer? How sweet," he said. He reached over to pat my head. I ducked, knocking his hand away with my forearm.
"No," I said. "Besides, Sara was home. So."
"Oh, the sexy coed back for summer break. She get boobs yet?"
"Gross. I don't know."
"Dude, when you gonna go through puberty?"
"Never, when it comes to looking at my sister's boobs. You're a freak. Does your sister, Amy, know what kind of a freak you are? Somebody should warn her."
He stopped, looked at me earnestly. "It's okay, Friar Tuck. I'll still be your friend even if you never discover girls."
"Fuck off," I said, socking him in the shoulder. He meant it as a joke, but the truth was it was the last thing I found funny.
How many times had I been called those things, and worse? How many times had Chris Summers punched me in the chest, smacked a cap off my head, wrenched my skin between his fingers? Oh, don't cry about it, fag. It's just a joke. Can't you take a joke? I thought gays were supposed to have a good sense of humor. David Judy—that your real last name?—you even got a girl's name for a last name. What's the matter, are your ovaries hurting? You're acting exceptionally PMS-y today. Maybe your boyfriend will make it all better.…
I tried to shrug off the memory of Chris Summers saying or doing anything. He wasn't calling anyone a fag now. He was dead.
Mason rubbed his shoulder where I'd hit him. "Dang, man, just kidding."
"Sorry," I mumbled.
We walked in silence for a few minutes, then I asked, "You think there's gonna be a bunch of… I don't know… assemblies or something? About it?" I asked.
Mason took a last long draw off his smoke and flicked the butt ahead of us onto the gravel. Four steps later, I ground it out with my shoe, without missing a beat.
"Nah, I think they wanna move on. Pretend it didn't happen. Bridget said her dad's one of the contractors, and they've painted and remodeled everything. Doesn't even look like the same place anymore."
We turned the corner of Starling and stepped onto the soccer field, still crunchy from summer neglect. The school loomed ahead of us, a hive of energy and activity—buses rumbling idle at the curb as freshmen in stiff new clothes tumbled out; cars stopping short, honking, dancing around one another for spaces; Mr. Angerson standing on the sidewalk, waving students around. Immediately I remembered Nick and Val, how they used to imitate him. Boys and girls, make smart choices today. Garvin students, let's show our school spirit by conducting ourselves as ladies and gentlemen.
"Duce and Stacey," Mason said, pointing toward a couple making out on the bleachers. They were in our usual area on the end farthest away from the school, in Angerson's blind spot. Liz and Rebecca sat nearby. Normally, all our friends would meet there. But this year some of our crew was missing.
Nick was dead.
Valerie was… well, nobody really knew what was up with Valerie these days.
We hustled across the field, Mason making loud, obscene moaning noises as we got to the bleachers and began to climb up.
"Oh, Duce," he called in a falsetto. "Oh, Duce, you make me so hot! You make me have naughty thoughts!"
Duce and Stacey separated, Stacey using one hand to wipe smeared lip gloss from around her mouth. She flipped Mason off with her other hand.
"Is that an offer?" Mason asked, and Stacey rolled her eyes.
"Hi, David," Stacey said, and Duce acknowledged me with a curt head tip.
"Hey," I replied, and then we all sat around kind of awkwardly. I knew why. All of them had been getting together all summer, having a good time, and I'd been at home, alone, reliving May 2nd over and over in my mind. Watching the news and knowing they were looking for information that I had and was too afraid to give.
"Got your hair buzzed," Stacey said, running her palm over my head.
"You look like a drill sergeant," Duce said, getting up and pushing past me, leading the group down the bleachers. When he reached the sidewalk, he turned and flicked me a salute. "Sir, yes, sir!"
"Funny," I murmured, following behind. Duce and Nick had been best friends, tight. Yet today Duce was joking around like Nick was just ditching again, no big deal. Meanwhile, I had a gut full of dread that was getting heavier with every step I took closer to those double doors.
Maybe Chris Summers had been right about me. Maybe I was too sensitive. Maybe I was girlish.
Duce was talking as we walked, and I was tuning him out, when all of a sudden Stacey took in a sharp breath.
"No way," she gasped. "Val?"
I looked up to see Stacey's best friend, Valerie Leftman, standing on the sidewalk, looking lost and afraid. Well, they used to be best friends, anyway. Before.
"Hey," Valerie said sheepishly, and for a second my stomach did the jump-and-lurch thing it always did when I saw her. I stepped past Stacey and hugged Val, but everything felt stiff, everyone felt angry, and I quickly let go and stepped back, dropping my eyes to the ground.
I barely heard Stacey asking Val about her leg, and Val answering. And then Duce grilled her about Nick's grave, and my stomach dropped even further.
His voice was hard and cynical, thick with blame.
Nick. She should have known about Nick. That was what everyone thought. That was what everyone blamed her for.
She should have known.
She swore she didn't.
But someone else did.
Someone else knew and didn't say a word.
1. Algebra—you can't add letters and numbers together!!!
2. Christy Bruter
3. My parents' stupid problems. You married her. Learn to deal with her.
5. Ginny Baker
Val witnessed one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
I was new to Garvin, having just moved in over the summer. If you ask me, the worst thing you can do to your kid is make him start at a new school at the beginning of junior year, especially if he's a kid like me—quiet, shy, skittish. The chances that I was going to be jumping into any popularity circles were slim to none.
Praise for Hate List:* "Startling, powerful, and poignant."—School Library Journal, starred review
- * "Riveting."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
- * "Spellbinding."—VOYA, starred review
- On Sale
- Jan 7, 2014
- Page Count
- 76 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers