Read An Excerpt

by Janet Gurtler

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult, Young Adult

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A crowd gathers for the funeral. The church walls seem to strain to accommodate the bodies, but there isn’t enough space for everyone. People cram together, squished thigh to thigh in the pews, shoulder to shoulder in aisles. The back is standing room only.

Not surprisingly, I don’t hear anyone complain. I hardly hear any sound at all except the occasional whisper, cough, or sniffle. Everyone wears dark colors, even kids who don’t usually follow rules or social customs. I guess it’s like that when someone young is snatched from the earth. It’s wrong on so many levels that thinking about it makes my already sad heart ache even harder.

Dad says parents shouldn’t have to bury their children. He says a lost child leaves a hole in the heart of the parents, a hole hacked out with a dull knife. The heart can function with the wound, but it never entirely heals.


No matter how much I don’t want to care, it’s not easy being stranded all alone in the middle of a crowded room, like the ugliest dog at the animal shelter. Kristina shoved me into her shiny red Toyota like she’s my fairy godmother, insisting I do the party “for my own good.” But other than a few heys and disinterested stares, no one notices that I’m there. Before long, even Kristina forgets about me. Swept up by her friends and admirers, Kristina leaves me bathing in my own flop sweat.

I begin plotting my escape just as a drunk guy plunks down on the couch beside me and leans against me for support. Smoke and alcohol fumes waft off him and he blocks me, pinning me in place.

Wrinkling my nose, I elbow him in the side, trying to move him.

He hacks up the equivalent of a human fur ball, focuses his eyes on me, and then grins the carefree smile of the intoxicated. He leans closer, giving me an up-close view of the angry red pimples on his shiny skin.

“Hey, Freshie. You’re Kristina’s little sister aren’t you?” He whistles through his teeth. “She’s seriously hot.”

He’s implying that I’m not and, honestly, I’d be okay with his observation if he’d get out of my way.